The low value perception is the reason buyers to shun sellers. The expectation that the B2B sales experience will be unpleasant, time-wasting and disrespectful causes buyers to start the buying process without involving a seller.
Unfortunately, buyers who proceed without sellers often misunderstand product features, service and brand differentiation, and value. That's why they commoditize similar offerings and focus primarily on price when they finally do take a meeting with a seller.
It's why so few sales advance or even get opened. It's why buyers want sellers to change their behaviors. Buyer want sellers to behave more like leaders and less like sellers.
In last week's CONNECT2Sell Blog post, we presented the research with B2B buyers that explains why it's so important to Stop Selling & Start Leading® if you want to advance the sale. This continuation of that post explains how to do this so the B2B sales experience leads your buyer from open to close.
Enhance the B2B Sales Experience by Managing the Experience
Every touch point with a buyer impacts the overall customer experience. The total experience should be seamless and consistent. When sellers engage, what a customer saw online should match what a seller describes, for example.
Typically, the seller is held accountable for the customer experience. However, sellers often don't understand the inner workings of the other departments that interact with buyers. Billing, shipping, service, QA, marketing. tech support, service lines and even production can influence the overall customer experience. If a seller is not managing the interactions and/or does not have the business acumen to understand and explain what's happening, buyers may feel let down.
To enhance the B2B sales experience and customer experience:
- Put yourself in the buyer's shoes. Walk through the entire buying and fulfillment process so you know what your buyer will experience.
- Spend time in the departments that interact with your customers. Learn what they need from you in order to deliver on time and as expected
- Take charge (or hand the account off to someone who will). Manage the account and the experience before, during and after the close.
- DWYSYWD. Do What You Say You Will Do. Keep your promises. This is one of buyers' chief complaints in our research study with 530 B2B buyers.
- Anticipate your buyers' needs. Be proactive in troubleshooting and preventing issues from arising. Respond quickly when they do.
Enhance the B2B Sales Experience by Involving the Buyer
This is a surprising find. Of all the behaviors we asked buyers about, the ones most preferred related to buyer enablement. That's not something we talk often about in sales. Maybe it should be.
Instead, we spend far too much time on sales enablement. A lot of money is spent on equipping sellers to do things for buyers and to know things about buyers.
The problem is that sales enablement leaves buyers out in the cold. They don't feel involved and, therefore, they are not engaged. Even if it makes the purchase easier, buyers may resist sales activities and technologies that sideline them.
To enable your buyers, involve them in these ways:
- Ask dialogic instead of purely diagnostic questions. Your needs assessment can be used for more than qualifying the buyer. Purposeful questions can create value out of thin air, stimulate thinking about new solutions, build trust between buyer and seller, and get the buyer excited about new possibilities. Not sure how to ask questions that do all that? Be sure to read DISCOVER Questions Get You Connected, the bestseller based on buyer research.
- Co-create insights with buyer. Don't do all that research and insight-formulating on your own. No matter how impressive that may be, it's your insight and not the buyer's. When buyers participate in generating insights, they become emotionally invested. When you facilitate self-discovery about what matters most, you get buy-in at the deepest levels.
- Dignify the buyer's own ideas and decisions. Collaborate to build from and expand on those decisions and ideas.
Enhance the B2B Sales Experience by Creating Value through Leadership
Leaders inspire, enable, encourage, challenge and model. These behaviors are the essence of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leaders®, an evidence-based framework for leadership from Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner.
Sellers aren't typically seen as demonstrating these behaviors. Instead of inspiring, they're pitching. Instead of challenging, they're transacting. Instead of leading, they're selling.
Buyers don't see value in time spent with sellers. They do see value in time spent with sales professionals who demonstrate leadership behaviors more frequently.
To create value and show up as a leader with your buyers, make deliberate choices to do what leaders do:
- Model the Way. Leaders clarify their values and set the example by aligning actions with values.
- Inspire a Shared Vision. Leaders envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities. They enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations.
- Challenge the Process. Leaders search for opportunities by seizing the initiative and by looking outward for innovative ways to improve. They experiment and take risks, learning from experience.
- Enable Others to Act.Leaders foster collaboration by building trust and facilitating relationships. They strengthen others by increasing self-determination and developing competence.
- Encourage the Heart. Leaders recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence, and they celebrate victories by creating a spirit of community.
These choices earn high marks from buyers. They differentiate sellers in ways that advance the sale faster. They create value and deliver a B2B sales experience that is positive for buyers.
Next Steps to Improve the B2B Sales Experience and to Join the Stop Selling & Start Leading® Movement:
- Participate in our seller-side research. Tell us your Personal Best story and be entered into a prize drawing. We might feature your story in future publications.
- Learn more about our research with buyers and the Stop Selling & Start Leading® movement.
- Book a call to discuss how our speaking, coaching, training and consulting services will improve your sales productivity and effectiveness.
The award-winning CONNECT2Sell Blog is for professional sellers who believe, as we do, that Every Sale Starts with a Connection. Our 2017 emphasis will be on reporting buyer-side research and how sellers can connect with buyers and sell more effectively by adopting the behaviors of leaders. The Stop Selling & Start Leading® movement is all about the future state of sales and your success as a Sales Professional.
Deb Calvert, “DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected” author and Top 50 Sales Influencer, is President of People First Productivity Solutions, a UC Berkeley instructor, and a former Sales/Training Director of a Fortune 500 media company. She speaks and writes about the Stop Selling & Start Leading® movement and offers sales training, coaching and consulting as well as leadership development programs. She is certified as an executive and sales coach by the ICF and is a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge®. Deb has worked in every sector and in 14 countries to build leadership capacity, team effectiveness and sales productivity with a “people first” approach.