Every year, Richardson Sales Training surveys sales professionals to learn about the central challenges they face.
This year we learned that, to be an effective seller in 2019, professionals need more than just a range of skills. They need to know how and when to use each of those skills. They also need to be able to shift from one capability to another – sometimes in the span of a single conversation.
Here, we look at the specific challenges sales professionals expect to face in 2019. We also offer insights on how to meet those challenges and advance the sale.
Creating Value for the Customer Is a Challenge
The Challenge: Sales professionals continue to struggle in their drive to bring original and meaningful value to the customer. More solutions are becoming commoditized. Yielding customer insights that resonate requires a dialogue. However, initiating these discussions is difficult amid the customer’s competing internal priorities and shifting needs. In fact, the customer’s needs change so frequently throughout the buying process that they often obscure the true underlying issue. For this reason, many of the sales professionals we surveyed cited “overcoming buyers’ misperceptions of what they need” as a central challenge to selling in 2019.
The Solution: Sales professionals need to triangulate the customer’s key challenge by engaging all stakeholders involved in the decision process. They need to understand how each person perceives the business challenge and how they each define the problem. With this information, the sales professional can create insights that relate to the specifics of the challenge. They can connect the nuanced value of their solution to the details of their business needs.
Negotiations Risk Profitability
The Challenge: Customers have become more skilled at negotiating. They’re aware of the many options available to them and how to leverage their position for the best possible price. Sales professionals also face existing solution providers who are often prepared to make price concessions to retain the business. Consider that 15 percent of respondents cited “working with clients who continue to reopen the negotiation/more concessions” as a key challenge.
The Solution: Maintaining profitability is about controlling the negotiation process. To do so, sales professionals must learn to convert the customer’s demands to needs. A demand is inflexible, whereas a need can be served in a variety of ways. Engaging the customer’s demands without exploring the underlying need will often lead to concessions. Converting demands to needs requires careful questioning. In the heat of a negotiation, it’s easy to jump ahead and agree to a demand in an effort to push the sale forward. However, doing so only reduces the scale of the sale.
Managing Accounts Requires Balance
The Challenge: Sales professionals are eager to grow existing relationships and expand selling opportunities. However, as competition escalates, it’s becoming more difficult to find ways to grow into the customer’s white space. Changes within the customer’s business make it challenging to track where the solution capabilities can be helpful. This constantly-changing picture explains why 16 percent of survey respondents indicated that “becoming a trusted advisor” is the top challenge to managing accounts and expanding relationships. Sales professionals also struggle to balance sales and relationship management. Sales professionals must provide ongoing solution support while also seeking avenues for growth within the customer’s business.
The Solution: Becoming a trusted advisor means accessing the hidden dialogues within the customer’s business. These hidden dialogues are the internal discussions that often unfold without the sales professional present. These conversations are important because they reveal how the sales professional can find the overlap between the customer’s strategic initiative and the solution capabilities. Balancing this process with account management means letting the support teams perform follow-up while remaining close enough to ensure all is well.
The Bottom Line
Business strategies are changing at an accelerated rate. Effective sales professionals are agile enough to trace this twisting path. They do so by executing the right skills at the right time. Even when they’ve completed a sale, they know that expanding the business means tracking the customer’s changing course.