Creating differentiated, personalized customer experiences is a top business initiative for most organizations. Executives know that when exceptional experiences are delivered, they distance themselves from their competitors. The reverse is also true. When things don’t go well, the negative brand impact on your company has greater potential for damage that goes far beyond losing a sale or a current customer.
How would you rank the sales experience that your team delivers?
For sales leaders at all levels this is a question worthy of spending time figuring out the answer too. From my perspective, understanding the experience score your salespeople would earn from prospects - if you asked them for their opinion - is an opportunity overlooked most of the time.
Would your sellers earn a 10 ranking them the best or a 1 ranking them about as bad as it gets?
When responding to the pervasive problem that there are not enough leads in the pipeline, prevailing sales management wisdom says push salespeople to do more. But in a classic case of denial or insanity or both… it doesn’t seem to register that simply doing more of the same activity that already isn’t generating the right sales results is not the answer.
Buyers have choices. Lots of them. That’s not new news.
What is mind blowing to me is how resistant salespeople and managers are - in the face of hard facts - to changing their approach to engaging prospects. It is as if they are stuck in their own version of Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day, refusing to accept that prospects are done with self serving sales pitches that aren’t tough to see through.
More technology and more information does not solve the “people to people” selling problem.
More and more focus on the “tech stack” has been a thing for the last 5 years or so. Maybe longer. Pursuing some other new “app” that promises to fix or revive revenue and pipeline problems is a common default. There is nothing wrong with integrating technology into your sales process to ensure that reps have as much productive selling time as possible. The problem is that technology enables process but doesn’t do the B2B selling for your team. If that were true, then the so-called promise of what CRM could do to resolve sales quota challenges would have come true. It hasn’t. But, of course, how could that promise be true? CRM systems collect data. Data and reporting that is both accurate and acted on appropriately aids sellers in being more effective. Does the system take the place of human beings doing the selling? No.
And then there’s the information revolution.
As buyers began to find new and more creative ways to block salespeople, the rise of the use of content to engage buyers’ and align to their purchase decision making journey became a dominant strategy in marketing organizations and to some degree, sales. I’ve been an avid proponent of doing research and using educational, informative and relevant business information as a way to engage prospective buyers’ when other approaches didn’t work. There is also something to be said for the fact that too much of anything is not a good thing at all.
Forget for a moment that much of the content created is still little more than brochure-ware dressed up in prettier packages. There is just too much content available to people. Much of it with competing ideas and theories. It seems the pendulum has swung in the complete opposite direction with companies aimlessly cranking at more content, and at what cost to the overall goal, which is revenue?
Analyst reports indicate that buyers are inundated with so much content that the information overload is leading to the exact opposite reaction companies want. Rather than creating an experience that inspires buyers to more quickly engage with sales, they are opting to do nothing! Cue big red flag here for sales!
In a recent report from Gartner about how sellers can help buyers “make sense” of the overwhelming availability of high quality content; authors Neha Ahuja and Benjamin Hooker confirm that “when customers encounter too much information — even trustworthy, evidence-based information — they may stop learning. In such a scenario, customers reach a point of information saturation after which they can’t process new information.”
This leads to a point of diminishing return of the value that information has to purchasing decisions. Rather than decisions being based on “quality data”, decision making becomes reminiscent of the days before the internet with buyers’ making decisions based on best guesses and gut feelings as opposed to rational, fact-based choices.
Information overload is causing problems. But so are salespeople with their messaging and approach, whether meaning too or not. Your sales team members are typically the first human exposure that someone has with your company.
What do you know about the experience those interactions are creating?
Unless what you sell requires little more than an order taker to seal the deal, evaluating what’s happening throughout the selling cycle when those interpersonal - people to people - sales interactions are taking place is a must. Often your salespeople are losing out on sales opportunities with the message they convey in the first email they send or phone call they make. Message matters more than ever.
If too much information is overwhelming buyers to the point where they default even more strongly to status quo, what’s left?
How your salespeople are personally interacting with prospects through phone calls, emails, LinkedIn, video, in-person meet-ups. That’s what is left. And this is the inflection point where quality of message and sales approach truly matters but is typically sacrificed to the idea that “more activity” is THE answer to the problem.
Empty pipeline phobia puts more pressure on salespeople to surface new sales opportunities any way they can. Adequate training and coaching needed to help salespeople succeed falls by the wayside. Leaders own the fault here. When the default command is to do “more activity” to try and meet objectives, quality is bound to suffer and it does.
Banish magical thinking.
As I often do, I recently wrote another LinkedIn article about the need for salespeople and sales leaders to banish magical thinking and stop looking for short-cuts to engaging buyers. Cheap tricks in the form of subject lines, break up emails and other such nonsense simply reinforces that buyers don’t need sellers to help them in their purchasing decisions at all. There is a reason why 90% of the time buyers simply hit delete to rid themselves of the constant deluge of sales spam.
Transform the skills of your salespeople, change the messaging to focus on value to buyers, and stop insisting that reps should be managed against activity but ignore the downstream results of activity done poorly.
We are about to enter the 4th and final sales quarter of the year for most companies. I can guarantee that the “do more” mantra will reach a fevered pitch with the end result being largely the same. As it has been for the past decade, roughly half of all sales teams will still not meet quota goals. Same activity = same results.
Denial doesn’t change reality. When it comes to the interpersonal interactions between your sellers and target buyers, the only thing that will change your sales reality, whether you are an individual contributor or the manager of the sales team, is doing things differently. That will require investments in training, coaching and making a commitment to do the hard work but the results, I can promise you, will be worth it!