How well do your salespeople know today’s customers?
Think of your biggest customers and prospects and ask yourself these questions:
- Do you know why they continue to do business with you?
- Do you know specifically what problems you’re helping them solve or avoid?
- Do your customers understand why your company can uniquely service them?
The answers to these questions may give an indication of how well you’re responding to changing behaviors in customers and prospects.
A recent study pinpointed critical areas in which customers are changing:
- 77% find buyers are increasingly putting a higher priority on ROI.
- 67% say buyers are finding it increasingly difficult to differentiate the value of the products and services they purchase.
- 69% of buyers are deferring their purchasing decisions, resulting in longer sales cycles
- 42% of survey respondents agree their sales organization focuses on selling the features and functions of their products rather than value and differentiation.
- 59% said that “no decision” rates are escalating and becoming more of a barrier to increasing business with existing accounts and acquiring new customers.
- 69% agree that compared to last year, customers are deferring their purchasing decisions, resulting in longer sales cycles.
Why the changes?
Economic conditions impact buyer behaviors. Poor corporate performance leads to restricted budgets and more disciplined spending habits.
The Internet’s ability to quickly provide prospects and customers with product information means that customers expect salespeople to do more than simply recite product knowledge.
Differentiation is becoming blurred
From the customer’s perspective, differentiation between competing products and services is becoming blurred. It’s difficult to find unique value.
Vendor proposals sound the same, use the same language and pitch the same benefits. When that happens the one thing to differentiate is price.
The result: Salespeople push product, while customers push them to discount.
Old ways aren’t working
It’s clear the old ways of selling often aren’t working. Good salespeople no longer push new products the way they used to. They create solutions to the business challenges of their customers.
Differentiation must reside in the salesperson’s ability to build meaningful relations with prospects and existing customers. Salespeople must educate, provide good information and connect new innovations in the marketplace with customer issues and challenges.
Generating qualified prospects
The survey shows that low performing salespeople lack the ability to effectively prospect. They fail to identify their new best prospects and to separate them from the ones who will prove liabilities.
Judging your customers and prospects against an Ideal Customer Profile will keep those bad orders to a minimum.
Make up your own Ideal Customer Profile by analyzing the characteristics common to your current and past good customers. Then use it to test opportunities with your current sales prospects.
It will leave you with a shorter list of prospects than the one you have now. But the shorter list will be real. It will allow you to focus on those objectives that can be achieved with a minimum amount of aggravation in the shortest period of time.