Over the last five years, sales organizations have hit their revenue targets, even though individual sellers’ metrics declined. Our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study showed that lead conversion and quota attainment were both down by double digits (13% and 10%, respectively). Deals were also becoming more complex, with an average of more than 6.4 decision makers involved in a deal and the sales cycle stretching beyond 5 months.
The numbers reflect serious changes in the relationship between buyers and sellers. Our 2018 Buyer Preferences Study showed that less than a third of sellers exceed buyer expectations. Respondents ranked sellers near the bottom—ninth out of ten—in a list of the resources they’d turn to when they needed to solve a business problem. As a result, buyers engage sellers later in the sales process, after they’ve already identified their needs and narrowed their options to a solution. When buyers finally do engage sellers, it’s too late in the cycle for sellers to offer meaningful differentiation, and buyers remain unimpressed, forming a cycle that we call the buyer apathy loop.
The apathy loop is difficult to break in ordinary times; add in the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, with social distancing and virtual selling, and it may seem like an insurmountable hurdle. But 90% of buyers said they’d be willing to engage sellers earlier in the buying cycle if they faced a challenge that was new, risky or complex.
That’s just the sort of situation that the coronavirus offers—and perspective is the tool that will help sellers engage customers and prospects earlier in the buying cycle.
What Is Perspective?
When sellers deliver perspective, they share valuable insights that help buyers make better decisions and set a clear vision for success. Perspective also positions sellers as problem solvers and industry experts who are well-versed in best practices and market trends.
Sellers deliver perspective in four ways.
- An unrecognized problem: They help buyers understand a problem they didn’t see coming or think about a problem in a different light. With COVID-19, a seller might anticipate new issues that will arise if their buyer must adapt their workplace to social distancing initiatives.
- An unanticipated solution: They share a new, creative solution to a problem or offer different insights into the solution that the buyer has already selected. A seller could create workarounds if an obstacle arises in a supply chain that threatens to limit access to goods because of the pandemic.
- An unseen opportunity: They share how a product or service fills a need they didn’t know they could satisfy or otherwise improves their ability to serve their customers or conduct their business. With the vast changes afoot during the pandemic, a seller might help a buyer see how they could fulfill a new need in the market, such as providing masks or other personal protective equipment.
- A broker of capabilities: They bring in someone, such as a third-party expert or another member of their organization, who can provide greater value by helping the buyer solve problems. A seller might fill the gap in their capabilities by obtaining the assistance of a third-party solution provider to keep the buyer’s costs low.
Given our current situation, it’s likely that sellers will need to reassess every opportunity in their pipeline. As they consider how to move opportunities forward, they should evaluate the perspective they can offer and how they can tailor it to their buyer.
Four Tips to Tailoring Your Perspective
1. Subject Matter
During the pandemic, the perspective you share should reflect the highest-priority issues that you’re seeing for your customers, whether they involve finances, organizational strategy, employee safety, employee engagement, digital transformation, restructuring or brand reputation.
Next, assess the role that your buying influence—each stakeholder who has a potentially positive or negative impact on your opportunity—plays in the decision-making process. There are four types of buying influences:
- Economic buying influence: The person focused on the product or solution’s ROI and impact on the organization
- User buying influence: The person using the product or service and managing its implementation
- Technical buying influence: The person charged with reducing risk by ensuring that the product or solutions meets the required criteria
- Coach: The person who wants to provide the guidance and help you need to succeed
Anticipate the questions that each buying influence will have and ensure you have the information you need to answer them.
3. Buyer Persona
Then consider the buying influence’s buyer persona, which reflects their decision-making style. Our research shows that there are five types of decision-making styles:
- Charismatics: These larger-than-life personalities want to know that your solution will help them achieve the next big idea
- Thinkers: These cautious, precise leaders are guarded, intellectual and methodical and want to understand your processes and the numbers
- Skeptics: These leaders want credible, reliable answers to their questions
- Followers: These disciplined leaders are risk-averse, which means they prefer tried-and-true approaches that align with their past experiences
- Controllers: These self-reliant micromanagers and perfectionists are driven by a fear of failure and want to feel ownership of ideas
Finally, consider which vehicle you will use to deliver the chosen perspective: whether in a phone or in-person conversation, by email, on social media or through a videoconference or webinar. Your choice depends on your relationship with the buying influence and their preferences as well as the status of the deal.
Learn the Skills That Move Deals Forward During the Pandemic
Delivering perspective is a nuanced skill, but you can learn how to deliver it effectively. To discover more about how perspective can move deals forward and how to tailor perspective to your buying influence, watch our Selling in the New Normal webinars on Staying Relevant to Customers in Crisis and Using Perspective to Move the Deal.