Mike Schultz is the co-president of RAIN Group, which offers sales coaching and sales training. Mike is also co-author of Rainmaking Conversations: How to Influence, Persuade, and Sell in Any Situation.
With the Great Recession, intensification of competition, commoditization of many products and services, and the role of the Internet, buying has changed dramatically in the last several years. Buyers are more informed and often know what they want, they’ve been burned in the past and are more cautious than ever, and they are reaching out to potential providers later in the decision making process — after they’ve done their research.
The dynamics of how buyers buy has changed and if you want to win more sales, your sales approach must change along with it.
To find out exactly what influences a buyer to choose one provider over another, at RAIN Group, we recently surveyed more than 700 buyers, asking them all about the purchase decision-making process. Among the results, we found that the winners not only sell differently, they sell radically differently from the second-place finishers.
We published the results in our newest report, What Sales Winners Do Differently and found that the factors that put the winners over the top fall into three categories:
They Connect. Sales winners connect on two levels. They build relationships with buyers and connect with them on a personal level. Buyers want to feel like they are being listened to and they value the relationship with the seller.
Sales winners also do a better job of connecting buyer needs to company solutions. Buyers cited that the winners are much more likely to understand needs and craft compelling solutions. Note that it was much less important to buyers that sellers were able to diagnose needs. Buyers generally have a good idea of what they want and they are looking for sellers who “get it.”
They Convince. Persuasion and influence skills are at the heart of convince. You need show the ROI of your solution, reduce the perception of risk, and persuade buyers that you are the best choice. Specifically:
Maximize return: Sales winners do a better job of persuading buyers they will achieve results. They share a compelling and believable ROI case.
Minimize risk: This is one that few salespeople focus on, but its importance cannot be overstated. Sales winners come across as professional, trustworthy, experienced, and confidence inspiring. All of these factors minimize the buyer’s perception of risk. As the old saying goes, “No one ever got fired for buying IBM.”
Demonstrate they are the best choice: Sales winners differentiate their products and services and show an overall superior value in their solution. While the seller does not build the product or service, they are the lens through which the buyer sees it and it is essential that they differentiate in the selling process.
Finally, they Collaborate. The one factor that most separates sales winners from second-place finishers is the winners’ focus on collaborating with buyers. Winners were perceived to be easy to buy from, proactive, and responsive. They educated buyers with new ideas and perspectives. And buyers perceived them to be collaborative in the true sense of the word: working together to achieve mutually shared goals. Sales winners work closely with buyers and become essential to them. Through collaboration the buyer becomes a partner in the sales process and owns moving the sale forward as much as the seller.
If you want to win more sales, emulate what winners do: connect, convince, and collaborate.