Today’s business-to-business customers aren’t procuring products and services the same way they did 20 years ago. A CEB survey of 1,400 B2B customers found these respondents complete 60 percent of purchasing decisions themselves – before speaking with a salesperson. Customers have the resources to research providers, compare prices and more, so they head into sales meetings with very different information than they once did. Instead of relying on a strategy that pushes product – an approach that worked years ago but no longer delivers results – today’s successful sales teams focus on delivering insight.
By working to define areas of need unrecognized by the customer’s organization, sales reps can offer real value to customers. Here’s how sales reps are embracing the new B2B standard and moving away from solution selling to insight selling:
Identify the right target.
Sales teams aligned on an insight-selling strategy walk into meetings ready to pitch more than just a product; they’re pitching disruptive ideas, so they need to find the customer target that’s most receptive to these ideas and able to enact a change. Typically, mid-level employees use technology that’s already available to execute strategies defined by upper management. While mid-level employees are the day-to-day users of these products, they’re content with evaluating and choosing solutions without relying on sales reps. These employees also aren’t the ideal target for insight sellers, as they don’t have the authority to make decisions about more significant purchases that will change the company’s business model. Rather, insight sales pros should focus on C-level decision-makers, who are traditionally most receptive and able to reprioritize initiatives and budgets to pursue these ideas.
Identify and address the problem.
Whereas solution selling is focused on influencing the criteria for a planned decision, insight sales pros identify a problem that hasn’t yet been discussed and then go on to say how solving it will improve the business. A customer involved in a solution-selling process tries to even the vendor playing field using a criteria matrix, and often uses price to close the deal. Moving far beyond this, the insight-sales approach creates a demand that wasn’t yet defined by the customer, creates a criteria matrix for the customer, establishes a compelling event, and sets the price point. Once the customer recognizes all of the above and the clear need, the deal is often closed without even negotiating price.
Demonstrate the strategic value.
Selling a shift to the way an organization does business – rather than just a new product or solution – means that insight sellers must be able to demonstrate strategic value in order to be successful. C-level execs respond well to a clearly demonstrated return on investment (ROI), and sales pros offering solutions rather than products should remember that ROI needs to be even more compelling, as purchasing decisions go beyond monetary or product matters. To make a sale, the target customer must become a change agent in the organization, so do your part by showing the ROI and including the strategic imperative that links to company goals and strategy.
Here’s how it works.
First, evaluate the organization and decide who the best decision-maker is internally. When our sales staff introduced our smart video advertising solution for customer-centric brands, we also introduced a need to shift from brand advertising, which measures time spent by a relevant audience watching a video ad, to performance advertising, which delivers a measurable increase in orders and revenue. Our message is, “We will outperform your brand advertising while out-branding your performance advertising.” Because such a shift in an organization requires input, collaboration and agreement from both the brand advertising team and the performance advertising team, we knew it would be a more difficult sale in front of either of these targets. But, if we instead approach the C-suite and target the chief marketing officer, he can drive his organization to pursue this approach.
Second, define the problem you’re addressing and how you will do so. For example, we address a known business problem in the telecommunications vertical – too many billing-related phone calls – by offering a smart video bill that delivers a personalized explanation of the bill, thereby reducing calls. We target the business problem and only introduce the solution to the C-level execs in the context of the problem they’ve prioritized as critical.
Third, be ready to demonstrate ROI and the strategic value. For one of our large customers that uses the video bill solution to reduce inbound calls, we used three points to demonstrate this:
- A control group study to prove that video drove a seven-figure annual reduction in costs associated with billing calls;
- The ability to drive adoption of value-added services – for example self-serve tools and paperless billing – via calls-to-action embedded within the videos; and
- The ability to assess customer experience via a survey appended to the video.
Because this company is using quality of customer experience as a competitive differentiator, the C-level sponsor clearly understood the value of the investment and that it would pay for itself in the reduced calls to the call center.
Sales teams need to reevaluate their selling strategies and begin the shift away from solution selling to insight selling.
Jim Dicso is president and chief revenue officer of SundaySky, the creator of SmartVideo. At SundaySky, Jim drives the go-to-market strategy, sales execution, business development and revenue growth for SundaySky to support the growing market demand for the company’s solution.