Sellers today face a huge challenge when engaging prospective buyers: apathy.
Most buyers—70%—wait to engage a seller until after they’ve finalized their needs and are ready to move forward with a solution. Buyers’ delayed engagement of sellers is the result of what we call the buyer apathy loop. The buyer apathy loop occurs because:
- The majority of buyers view sellers as meeting, but not exceeding, their expectations.
- They view sellers as purveyors of solutions, not solvers of business problems, and thus don’t feel the need to seek their advice or engage them early in the buying cycle.
- Buyers wait until they learn about a specific solution before they engage a seller.
Because buyers wait longer to meet with a seller, at this point, the seller has limited opportunity to demonstrate their value, differentiate their product or service and offer perspective.As a result, the seller simply meets the buyer’s expectation of offering a product or service, continuing the loop.
The average seller often struggles to break this loop, but there are pathways to do so. The key? Meaningful interactions. The 2018 Buyer Preferences Study from CSO Insights revealed that 90% of buyers are willing to engage earlier in the sales process when sellers exceed their expectations. To do so, sales professionals have to demonstrate the following four abilities as part of their customer experience strategies.
- Execute Top-Notch Interactions
Buyers’ expectations are higher than ever when it comes to seller interactions—and each interaction helps them form an impression about whether the seller exceeds their expectations. Therefore, sales professionals should view every call as a potentially defining moment that may make or break their buyer relationships.
Sellers must prepare diligently for every call by studying sales enablement materials and honing their conversational skills, including active listening, advanced questioning techniques, storytelling, social selling tactics and delivering perspective. They should then rehearse their conversations so every contact is tailored to individual buyer needs, delivered as crisply and concisely as possible. .
- Focus on Business Success
The buyer journey consists of three phases: awareness, buying and implementation. Sellers too often lock in on the second phase of the buyer’s journey and disappear after closing the deal. But the reality is, buyers focus the most on the implementation phase, because that’s when a partnership creates value for them.
The key for sellers is to keep the customer’s perspective in mind—to remember that their future relationship and reputation hinges on how well the solution works for their customers. Ensuring that the buyer has a positive experience post-sale—including their interactions with the service team—will build long-term relationships and ensure that the seller exceeds expectations. This is an essential element of customer experience best practices.
- Come Highly Prepared
It’s a no-brainer that sellers should prepare for calls with their prospects: understanding the buyer’s business is foundational to every buyer conversation. But buyer expectations for what that preparation should look like has never been higher. B2B buyers are also consumers who have grown accustomed to data-driven retailer websites offering goods tailored to their preferences. Their expectations are no different when it comes to B2B transactions: they won’t tolerate basic questions that sellers could answer if they looked online and did their homework.
To meet this expectation, sellers must come to the table with a wealth of knowledge about not only the buyer but also their industry and the problems they face. Sales enablement should assist buyers by offering content on common industry challenges, as well as specific information about buyer roles and their needs and goals. Sales managers need to coach sellers using sales training techniques like Conceptual Selling with Perspective to help them rehearse for early engagement calls.
- Provide Insights that Educate the Buyer
Sharing insights and perspective gives sellers the greatest opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition. Granted, it’s also the hardest of the four abilities to master, in part because it’s the sum of the previous three: it requires sellers to understand the buyer’s situation, deliver insights with excellent communication skills and connect the perspective to the buyers’ goals.
To prepare for conversations that will inspire buyers, sellers need confidence and creativity; they must be able to help buyers connect the dots between problems and solutions. Perspective that buyers often find valuable includes information that expands their vision of success, transforms their definition of problems and solutions, offers alternative ways to achieve their goals and validates their thinking. Whatever the perspective is, it must help the buyer move to the next step in their buying journey.
It’s Time to Break Out of the Apathy Loop
Now is the time to prepare your sellers with the customer experience best practices, customer experience strategies and sales training techniques they need to start having inspiring interactions with buyers. Take the Sales Conversation Metric to assess your opportunities to improve your sales conversations and start engaging with buyers earlier in the buying cycle.