As promised in the previous article, let’s discuss the 4-step strategy for the frictionless selling process in more detail.
What is your intention when you step into a sales conversation? Is it to hit your quota or to empower your customer?
Sellers must step into a sales conversation to empower the customer to overcome an issue rather than sell a product; it will set the tone of the ongoing discussion. Frictionless selling is when customer-centric sales professionals are willing to walk away from a deal that is not in the customer’s best interest or if they cannot empower the customer’s organisation to make the necessary changes to obtain the required results. Using the sales professional’s expertise and honest know-how, buyers benefit when you have a guiding influence through an outcome-focused path or an efficient process to solve their particular problem.
Daniel H Pink, in his book, To Sell is Human, states that salespeople benefit from asking two crucial questions:
Will the purchase improve the buyer’s life?
Will the world be a better place following your interaction?
Suppose the answer to either of these questions is NO! Daniel Pink says you are not embodying a customer-centric approach to sales.
Even in a B2B environment, it is a human-to-human experience and decision. Buyers must solve problems that create personal stress, frustration, and friction, so does your solution solve or reduce these personal drivers?
- Enabling buyers to buy through customer-first selling with the strategic intent of customer-centricity.
- Enabling sales professionals to spend more time selling, focusing on key customers.
- Aligning your selling process with your customer’s buying journey to improve service excellence.
- Transforming your sales revenue through a customer-centric leadership and ecosystem.
Let’s get started on the 4-step strategy for frictionless selling.
Enabling buyers to buy through customer-first selling with the strategic intent of customer-centricity.
Scale Your Sales Attraction Framework is to Engage, Educate and Elevate. This aligns with the strategic intent of differentiating value customer outcomes with excellent experiences and relevant revenue-generating activities. When you prioritise the entire service experience from prospect, buyer, and customer experience, you can integrate sales with every aspect within the supply company, from customer-centric marketing to product development and sales enablement and customer support.
Instead of upselling a customer, Pink says, instead up-serve the buyer. Do not increase what they can do for you but elevate what you can do for them.
A customer-centric company creates products, processes, policies, and a culture designed to engage buyers and customers with a great experience from discovery to purchase and acceleration.
Too often, we think of customer experience starts when the customer is already a customer. The experience you create begins long before and is an essential part of the buyer’s journey. It is critical to connect the company culture to the expected customer experience and customer outcomes. Employees are motivated by customer-centric policies and practices, seeing that their actions create happy customer experiences and business outcomes.
Enabling sales professionals to spend more time selling, focusing on key customers.
The Scale Your Sales Productivity Framework helps you focus on the customers that provide the greatest return in value, tracking your customer lifetime value. You can spend more time selling relevant value that allows your buyers to move seamlessly forward in their buying journey and to their stated customer outcomes.
Buyer’s today are not actually spending their time buying! The Gartner research pre-pandemic survey of 750 B2B customer stakeholders involved in complex “solutions” purchases reported that only 17% of their total buying time interacting directly with supplier sales teams. Their purchasing time is spent on independent learning online (27%), independent learning offline (18%), and building consensus across a wide range of internal 22% and partner 11% stakeholders.
In today’s typical B2B buying journey, there is very little surface time for supplier sales teams and actual selling.
The suppliers have forced this situation on buyers, who are tired of sellers wasting their time with inconsequential solutions. Buyers now must research the supplier and negotiate the purchasing operation. They simply do not have time to waste and cannot trust a seller without cross-checking the information.
Consequently, the typical B2B buying journey leaves suppliers’ sales teams with less than 5% of buyer surface time across all solution providers.
Speed of response creates a first-mover advantage and opportunity!
B2B buyers say the bulk of their research, outreach, and evaluation involved in purchasing occurs during the first three months of the sales cycle. In addition, 41% say their companies frequently accelerate or hold off purchases due to rapidly changing business priorities. The reality is it’s a go-no-go scenario.
Still, two-thirds of B2B buyers say the timeliness of a supplier’s response to inquiries is critical in buying. Even if prospective customers are dragging their feet, you must be on message with content tailored to each buyer’s needs, industry, preferences, and challenges.
The best way to cultivate more customer value is to create a relentless focus on your most valued and key customers as individuals. You need to be close enough and understand your key customer to anticipate market challenges and opportunities.
Aligning your selling process with your customer’s buying journey to improve service excellence.
Scale Your Sales Framework helps you map the buyer journey and retrofit your sales process to your key and most valued customer preferences.
The Demand Gen Report, B2B Buyers Survey revealed between 1 and 6 stakeholder buyers involved in the purchase process at 79% of surveyed companies. And 44% had formal buying committees; hence, the B2B sales cycle is lengthening.
The B2B buying process is not a linear journey but a dynamic journey conducted by many stakeholders with different perspectives on their current and future situations. If you approach the buying process as linear, you will appropriately hit one but miss the other five stakeholders. A 20% conversion rate is not high enough to get traction within the buying committee to gain consensus.
Within the buying committee, some opinions matter more than others; the virtual and remote work teams, the market and legislative changes and the great resignation; hence, the friction within the buying operation has increased.
B2B buyers now rely on digital information to progress throughout their buying journey. In a survey of over 1,000 B2B buyers engaged in a complex purchase, respondents reported using digital channels, particularly the supplier’s website, as much as the supplier’s sales reps, to gather the necessary information to complete a range of buying jobs across the business the entire buying journey.
Information is readily available online; sales professionals are no longer the channel to customers but are one of many channels to customers. It is the buying job that needs to be done, and how easy it is to do it through the company or competitor website or the sales rep that must be better aligned.
How easy can you make your buyers experience a better learning process?
Like water finds the easiest route, your buyer will too. Make the sales rep’s selling route the most effortless experience, the most relevant and pleasurable experience for the buyer; make it the experience they prefer to take.
Transforming your sales revenue through a customer-centric leadership and ecosystem.
The selling process must become a guiding and coordinating process through an interchangeable digital and sales rep ecosystem that helps the customer to understand the difference and nuances often lost on digital alone. This intelligent ecosystem critically coordinates individual junctures that lead to better decision-making.
Gearing your frictionless selling ecosystem to the buyer experience and customer preferences is not a sales function; it is a fundamental customer-centric organisational requirement.
I will explore this subject further in the following article because this is a subject, I believe enterprising companies must lean into, which I will further elaborate on.
I recently keynoted at a conference presenting: How to Scale Your Sales with Frictionless Selling. Scale Your Sales with Frictionless Selling is an approach that removes barriers to buyers’ buying. In a complex world, your ability to develop simplicity and ease are your benchmarks for success.
It is necessary to stand in your buyers’ shoes to create a frictionless experience for your buyers. To understand and anticipate a need, you must understand the drivers of the need and the outcome the buyer and the business want to achieve.
The problem is seller jump into solution mode long before first understanding the buyer’s perspective and secondly understanding the business drivers of the need. This creates frustration for the buyer which creates friction.
One of the examples I gave to help put my audience of the sellers, in the buyers’ shoes was the experience of needing to solve a problem and speaking to a suppler service rep to explain the problem and then being transferred to another in-company specialist and having to explain the problem all over again. How frustrating is that! The audience agreed and nodded that they too had experienced this many times.
So, what happens if you ask a buyer a question that, had you conducted your research, they expect you to know? I asked my audience if this was a similar frustration to the one they had endured.
What if the buyer had conducted their research into a solution and wanted a specific piece of information and you gave them your extensive product information and features, so now they had to wade through to find one specific thing. I asked my audience, whether this be equally frustrating?
What if the buyer asked about performance and you returned with ROI, however, the buyer was fielding a request from the tech team and not finance, what they really wanted was about integration performance? Would it be frustrating for the buyer to have to come back with a request for more information or to go to another for this data?
3 Reasons your Current Process Creates Friction and Barriers to Buyers’ Buying.
First, buyers are no longer willing or interested in spending time with sellers answering questions that lead you to the supplier’s solution. Buyers know most of the answers and do not want to waste their limited time bringing you up to speed with little known pay-off.
Second, Most B2B sales and marketing teams work with a linear process, and the serial manner has been outdated for many years and remains relatively unchallenged. With marketing and digital engagement, then the sales and targeted seller interaction. This interaction has centred on progressing the buyer along this journey. The only update in the sequential selling process has been to align metrics and data. Even incentives and reporting structures to handoff from digital to human selling are not as efficient as many buyer self-service alternatives. The handoff is cumbersome and not personalised enough to satisfy the human need for connection.
Third, the pandemic has fractured established supply chains and increased economic volatility; companies are risk-averse and consequently have bigger and slower decision-making units. The process has not adapted to meet the need of the variety of stakeholders that are at different stages of the buying process.
Suppliers are not engaging and selling the way many buyers and customers prefer to buy, which creates friction. Modern sales professionals and teams must adapt by enabling seamless customers experiences.
To do this you must understand your buyers so well to be able to stand in their shoes and see the world from their perspective. According to research by Scott Berinato’s Harvard Business Review article, this is not as easy as you might think.
Berinato’s tests show, the more empathetic you are the more, the more you project your own preferences and will ignore objective data and find data to support your views.
The article recommends awareness of your bias and a collaborative approach, to gain feedback from others to test your objectivity.
Through quantitative business and market sensing research, discovery questions and answers, and qualitative objective testing with colleagues, and external stakeholders, you are in the best position to apply the frictionless selling process.
In my Keynote, I went on to talk about the 4-Step Strategy to Frictionless Selling:
- Enabling buyers to buy through a customer-first selling and strategic intent to customer-centricity.
- Enabling sales professionals and teams to spend more time selling, focusing on key customers.
- Aligning your selling process with your customer’s buying journey to improve service excellence.
- Transforming your sales revenue through a customer-centric leadership and ecosystem.
In my next article, I will elaborate on each of the 4-steps to frictionless selling.
Do you agree with Berinato’s observations?
Can you add more barriers to buyer buying?
The global pandemic shift towards a digital business landscape has accelerated rapidly, from business face to face to digital platforms, we review what buyers want from sellers and how some suppliers are adapting.
The Sales Innovation Expo (SIE) was held at ExCeL London from 16-17 November. The organizers prepared the event with extra safety measures, and it was well attended. With many exhibition booths and keynote speakers, all providing their specialized insights into various aspects of sales and marketing.
Customer Experience Keynote Speech
Janice B Gordon presented her keynote speech, providing insight into the buyer experience and why investing in the buyer’s journey modernizes the sales process and yields higher revenues.
In her keynote speech, she talked about the shifting mindset required from channel-centric to being more personalized and buyer-centric. To achieve this, you need to know what your customers want from their buying journey. According to Scott Albro, Buyers want five key things:
- Simplicity: Buyers are 86% more likely to buy during a simple experience.
- Relevance: 64% of buyers cite that “understanding the customer” is crucial.
- Information: 64% of buyers cite that “understanding the customer” is essential.
- Low risk: “Reduced financial risk” is a vital factor by 54% of buyers.
- Contro: 70% of the buyer experience is completed before interacting with the supplier.
And Janice added a sixth critical element that buyers want:
- Speed: According to McKinsey, the number one B2B pain point is lack of speed. 66% of those surveyed want a faster turnaround of quotes, orders, and billing.
These six steps will ensure that your customers feel well served if you follow these six steps. According to Janice B Gordon, the customer growth expert, you will increase your revenue two-fold compared to your competitors, who provide average buyer experiences.
Sales Innovation Expo Exhibitors
There are many ways companies are helping to optimize sales and marketing strategies. Here are a few examples presented at the Expo:
Shortlist Marketing is an agency based in Nottingham that focuses primarily on B2B lead generation. They aim to create intelligent marketing campaigns which produce tangible results and a substantially greater ROI. They started as a telemarketing agency, and now, while they still view the telephone as central to everything they do, they don’t use it in such an aggressive way. In their words, they “no longer use it as a sledgehammer but instead more like a scalpel, with several activities warming leads up we will then carefully select those we engage with to ensure we get (you) the best results possible.”
Shortlist Marketing aim to generate leads for companies and increase sales conversions through several warming activities. Moving from cold calling to social selling is a prime example of how companies adapt to the digital world.
Cognism is an international organization that utilizes data for prospecting. Their data comes from an extensive database of 5.6 billion data points, including 400 million business profiles and 15 million companies. Using Cognism’s data, you can filter your correct target accounts and discover direct dials and emails of key decision-makers to focus on your top possible prospects. You can also track their online behaviour to identify when they are in buying mode. According to Cognism, “69% of their users see ROI in 6 months or less.”
Cognism can identify the correct accounts to engage with now by tracking online data. Comparing Cognism to Shortlist Marketing, Cognism utilizes the digital world to a greater degree, using data instead of conventional telemarketing.
Red Flag Alert
Red Flag Alert are another company like Cognism that uses data to leverage revenue growth. They capture hundreds of data points daily and provide turnover insights using their AI-powered algorithm.
Using their software, you can find your ideal prospect, filtering by many categories such as industry, company size, and location to monitor significant changes and opportunities to reach out using GDPR compliant email addresses and their LinkedIn integration.
Red Flag Alert, similar to Shortlist Marketing, are about finding the ideal prospect and turning them into leads and then a buyer. However, they go about generating leads through data analysis, much like Cognism.
These 3 are just a few examples of how companies engage with prospective buyers. In my keynote speech, I talked about what buyers want. Even B2B buyers want to be treated as individuals, talking to another individual on the other end. These three companies are examples of different engagement methods. However, these three companies are not at the same point in the buyer’s journey. Shortlist Marketing and Red Flag Alert focus on lead generation, and Cognism focuses on engagement.
Are Expos Becoming Redundant?
At the beginning of this article, I touched on the concept of the global shift toward a digital sales environment.
Over the recent pandemic, companies have had to rely on digital marketing strategies more than ever to ensure their success. With physical, face-to-face business returning, companies face a big question. What will be the future balance of digital and face to face engagement? Where do I need to continue to invest to prospect, engage and expand the customers base?
Expos such as the SIE used to be a primary method of generating and engaging and reconnecting with customers for B2B companies. Digital marketing is now what many buyers prefer. Companies need to adapt to this shift, whether as simple as creating a social media presence or as complex as devising successful online marketing strategies to generate more leads. Adaptability is key. Suppose your industry has standardized face-to-face meetings to conduct business. In that case, this could open doors for companies in terms of opportunities to get ahead of the competition, adopt new digital channels, and create those connections over social media, for example.
According to a McKinsey study, consumption patterns of countries in the recovery phase will be uneven and unlikely to return to pre-COVID-19 levels any time soon. The window of opportunity to adapt to the digital world is slowly but surely closing. If you see the benefits that come with digital marketing, it must become part of your long-term marketing strategy.
This article was written by Alex Jang, executive assistant to Janice B Gordon, the Customer Growth Expert and founder of Scale Your Sales.
On International Women’s Day (IWD) 8th March 2022, Scale Your Sales celebrate and profile a sampling of the many influential and often unsung shero women in sales.
Today’s world has started to inch towards a more gender-equal and diverse world. We still have a long way to create a world without bias, stereotypes, or prejudice. This is why we celebrate the achievements of women and campaign for a world where we can all #BreakTheBias.
The IWD 2022 pose is a cross of arms in an ‘X’ to show solidarity against bias and discrimination.
Here at Scale Your Sales and through the podcast, we believe it is important to highlight that women and diverse groups are still underrepresented in sales and campaigns for parity.
According to the report “Gaining the Talent Advantage: The Case for Gender Diversity in Sales” by CEB:
- 35% of sales managers said they could not find qualified candidates for open positions, yet women are underrepresented in sales as a whole. Only 19% of women in sales are in leadership positions— (the sales industry has the second most significant gender equity gap).
- A slightly higher percentage of women in sales (70%) make quota over men (67%), and women are paid less than men.
- Women typically stay in their roles longer than men (one year longer).
- Companies with greater gender diversity outperform their counterparts.
It is a myth that men are better at sales, while the statistics show that women are more successful in sales and often outperform men. A 2019 study by incentive solution provider Xactly reported that 86% of women achieved quota, compared to 78% of men. The B2B sales landscape is shifting towards women in sales roles. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a step-change in this trend, but organisations still need to step up.
Britta Lorenz said: “We have the power to change the way we live, work and engage with each other. All people must be given equal opportunities in a modern workplace and society. Individually, we are responsible for our thoughts and actions, and we can collectively #BreakTheBias by lifting each other’s potential and be human.”
When we asked Shruti Kapoor how she is trying to #BreakTheBias, she said: “Sales makes the world go round 🙂 I realised that the most successful bankers weren’t the geeky folks winning because of complex analysis – but because they were the best salespeople (backed by a strong brand). I also realised that sales weren’t just the traditional context of a company and a buyer. Sales extend to many other interactions, e.g. selling your idea at a meeting or your spouse. As an investment banker and founder, every aspect of my job is about selling – to co-founders, future employees, prospects, investors, analysts and reporters. Now let me sell my son on healthy eating! ?”
Marlen von Roth said, “We are all guilty of unconscious bias and must be open to the idea. We need to be consciously aware of it and address it. Drowning out voices, belittling opinions, excluding people from meetings can all be traits of unconscious bias. How do we acknowledge bias in ourselves and others versus thought-through commercial decision making and process? Let’s all start by analysing our behaviour and decision-making processes and #BreaktheBias.”
“I believe in the possibility of #breakingthebias TOGETHER. By living deliberately, crafting circumstances, forging alliances, magnetising players and working tirelessly to create a world where we love without limit and embrace differences!” says Toni Portmann.
No one believed that a 327-pound black woman could make it in sales, and I did not “look” the part. Yet, this full-figured diva took the business world by storm and won BIG! Being incredible in Sales allowed me to write my own paycheck and show other sisters that they can too! Let us all #BreaktheBias.” said Precious L. Williams.
Leslie Venetz says, “Remember that the vast majority of sales scripts were not written by women or for women. Remember that almost all sales processes were created without considering women’s unique strengths like empathy and curiosity. This sales profession was not created for women, but it’s time we start taking up more space as sales professionals. You have a unique perspective and your voice matters, and it’s time to use it.”
Meshell Baker says: “I believe sales is a noble and wonderful profession that is the lifeblood of every business. Imagine a marketplace where sellers worked with buyers to deliver experiences that inspired more possibility! Amazing always begins with #confidence.”
Janice B Gordon, founder of Scale Your Sales, also provided a quote on how to #BreakTheBias: “Selling is the oldest profession – people must trade to live, it touches everyone, everywhere. What would happen if we lifted up every human with full access to equality if we served with great dignity and unbiased humility. I want to live in that world: –) Let us all #BreaktheBias.”
According to The Pipeline’s Women Count 2021 report, Companies and the UK miss out on £ billion in pre-tax profit. An additional £123 billion in profits would be gained if companies with less than 33% women on their executive committee performed as well as those with 33% or more. Demonstrating that having more women in your workforce is essential to help scale your sales.
The Economist noted: If the gender gaps in participation, hours worked, and productivity were all bridged, the world economy would be $28.4 trillion (or 26%) richer.
A recent McKinsey study conducted in 2021 showed that women at all levels of the corporate ladder have slowly gained more representation, but more work is needed.
According to the McKinsey study, women leaders were twice as likely to spend significant time on Diversity Equity and Inclusion, which falls outside their formal job responsibilities. This includes supporting employee resource groups, organising events, and recruiting employees from underrepresented groups. Women are also more likely than men to create allyship in mentoring women of colour, advocating for new opportunities, and actively confronting discrimination.
My view is that this is a clear leadership advantage.
Following the pandemic, World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report, the gender gap grew by 36 years in 12 months. I do not want to wait 135.6 years to gain gender parity or more for inclusivity; I am demanding it now, not for me but us all.
Many of these contributors also contributed to the book Heels to Deals: How Women are Dominating in Business-to-Business Sales documents how dozens of diverse women around the globe shattered the glass ceiling to become leaders in the field of professional sales. Their stories are reminders for young women that they can not only work in sales but also be front-runners.
Let us know how you will #BreakTheBias in your comments.
This article was compiled by Alex Jang executive assistant to Janice B Gordon – Scale Your Sales