It’s all too easy to see selling as an adversarial occupation, pitting the salesperson against the potential customer. Customers raise objections; salespeople come back with answers to address them. Salespeople mention prices; customers push back and try to get as big a discount as possible. Salesperson works for the up-sell; customers parry the offers in order to keep the price down.
It’s very back-and-forth, us vs. them, and ultimately win or lose.
But we all know that attitude must not be the predominant one any longer. Customers have finally gained the tools and the information needed to assert their power in the buyer/seller relationship, and now they want more from sales – more collaborative, more value-added, more personalized. They don’t have time to waste.
That means they already have something in common with salespeople, who face growing quotas and increasing pressure. The evolution of the customer is forcing an evolution in sales – and the two sides of the equation are evolving to become more like each other.
When you look at it from the right perspective, salespeople and their customers have similar goals, especially in a B2B selling situation. The salesperson wants to close the deal; the customer wants to get a problem solved. Everything else is details.
But those details are becoming more closely aligned all the time. Consider these three areas where the desires of sales and the people they sell to line up nearly perfectly:
1. They want the right content and they want it right away.
Customers today do a lot more research on their own than in the past. This has given rise to many estimates of how far along the buyer’s journey they get before engaging with sales, with percentages ranging from 57 percent to 67 percent to even 90 percent. Every customer is different, of course, but if you’re a customer that put in this kind of effort to understand your purchases, by the time you get to a salesperson you have a fairly good idea of what additional information you’ll need to help with your decision. That means you’ll ask some very specific questions of your sales rep – and you want the rep to deliver what you want, pronto.
If you’re the sales rep, you want access to that content – but doubly so. You want to be able to answer the customers’ questions with the right information and do so immediately. But you yourself will also have questions about your products that you want answered to improve your own selling skills.
In both cases, the solution to meeting these desires is a sales enablement system with an updated structure and a system for ranking and measuring content effectiveness. Sales enablement ends up being a tool that both the buyer and the seller benefit from.
2. They want deals done, as fast as possible.
Once sales and the customer get to “yes,” or at least a general agreement on the deal, they both want the next steps of formalizing the deal to proceed quickly. That means getting a clean and accurate quote, a contract generated, and signatures in the right places.
That isn’t always easy. With the product mix and sophistication of a typical company’s offerings on the rise, generating a quote can be a rather difficult thing to do without some assistance, with some complex quotes taking days to complete. Contracts present more opportunities for friction, especially when a customer wishes to insert its own specific language into the contract. And getting signatures on paper is at times difficult and can introduce more delays into the process. All of this turns salespeople away from selling and forces them to concentrate on what are essentially administrative tasks, while it delays customers who are eager to get the solutions they need.
The technological solutions available to help with these speed bumps in the process again benefit both buyers and sellers. Configure price quote (CPQ) allows quotes to be created rapidly, accurately, and without product configuration conflicts that could delay the delivery of customers’ solutions. Contract lifecycle management (CLM) enables sellers to put together contracts – even in cases where customers want to make major changes to the language – and do it in a quick and carefully-managed way so that contracts can get through legal review as fast as possible. And electronic signature technology makes signature gathering as easy as clicking through a .pdf file.
The advantages to both buyer and seller come in accelerating the deal. A sales team is more productive because it can switch its attention to the next deal. The buyer is more productive because he or she can switch his or her attention to the next business problem.
3. They want the next transaction to be even smoother than this one
Once the buyer and the seller put in the work to get a deal done, the end result is a relationship – ideally, a good relationship that leads to recurring business for the seller and an easier ability to buy for the customer. In a subscription economy, that recurring business can be predictable, pre-scheduled and, in many cases, automated. With a good CLM solution in place, sales can focus not on these recurring transactions but on building the relationship. The buyer can get what he or she needs automatically – especially in relationships that use the Internet of Things to identify customer needs for refills of consumable products and pre-emptive repairs to equipment. The buyer’s interactions with sales will be more relaxed and consultative, since they won’t be encumbered by calls about supply or maintenance problems and can be focused on addressing new business problems instead of rehashing conversations from the past.