While there are multiple benefits of win loss analysis, winning back lost business from a competitor can be a sales rep’s sweet spot. So the sales deal got away from you. What now?
What is effective competitive intelligence?
Competitive intelligence is effective when it:
- Strengthens your company’s position
- Answers how is your value proposition perceived
- Tells you what is the competition is doing to win (or lose) sales
- Defines which industry-wide best practices truly apply
- Discovers new markets
- Develops new products/services/solutions
One of the biggest obstacles Read more
An August 23, 2017 newswire summarized the findings of a survey done by Pegasystems with 250 global financial services companies. Some of the results:
- 79% agree financial institutions will move from product-based selling to focus more on personal relationships in the next 5 years.
- Only 31% deploy relationship-based sales models to any degree and only 1% fully leverage them.
- 29% are mired in product-based selling.
As with changing the direction of a battleship going full steam ahead, getting your organization to migrate to relationship and buyer outcome selling is not something that can happen overnight.
When a software client grew frustrated with their dismal results from efforts to improve sales, they knew they needed to find out exactly what their buyers wanted. They were confident their clients liked the software, and that it was superior to the competition, but they couldn’t figure out why their win rate was not higher.
The client’s top executives and sales manager told us that they wanted to learn how to improve sales practices. They just didn’t understand where they succeeded and where they failed. The sales teams blamed the pricing or missing features, but none of them requested feedback from their buyers.
Once we started discussing sales opportunities with their buyers, the sales manager realized how much more relaxed buyers are when discussing the deals and how receptive they are to offering valuable feedback. The sales manager said, “You got to the real story and shared it back with us in a language that [we] can understand…that can feed into all of our decision making.”
Because of these improvements they have been able to maintain a 100 percent annual growth rate.
You, too, can have great success in closing more sales—including pre-empting a possible “no decision”— by applying the same principles this company used to your program.
Sometimes, it is interesting to try to classify different areas of research and intelligence to see how certain specialties have originated, evolved and grown into their own species, so to speak. This study of sales intelligence can provide intelligence practitioners with the ability to see how their efforts might support or interrelate with other disciplines.
Geoffrey Moore has written several books on product life cycles and when different types of companies are likely to buy.
- Early market buyers comprise about 15% of a buying population. These companies want to be on the cutting edge of technology and can endure product pitches, determine how they can use offerings and make quick decisions. They don’t need a long list of references, reassurance nor much help from sellers. They buy quickly. If offerings fail to meet expectations, they view it as a cost of doing business and are onto the next offering.
- 85% are mainstream market buyers comprised of the early majority, late majority and laggards. They buy only after offerings have received market acceptance. They are cautious in wanting to avoid making mistakes so that “no decision” is a common outcome of their long buying cycles. Unlike early market buyers, product pitches will fall on deaf ears. This amounts to inept sellers calling on buyers that don’t understand how offerings can be used
If your company uses market information to make decisions, you are almost certain to be familiar with the ‘Of these items, how important was or which of these would you consider to be first, second, and third most important?’ These questions result in a measurement of stated importance, or those things that are easily identified and verbalized as important.
How should sellers reply when they are not going to win a transaction but are asked for a “best and final” number? Some respond with the lowest possible price with the thought being they may be able to steal the business (unlikely) or at least make it a skinny deal for their competitors. It’s not a tactic I endorse.
I believe floating aggressive prices can come back to haunt sellers if and when the roles may be reversed in the future. It would be awkward if a seller’s customers got wind of pricing that was lower than what they paid.
My suggestion when asked for best and final pricing is to ask:
The quality of a salesperson’s life in pursing opportunities is highly dependent on their starting point in the organization. I hope you would agree that starting at Key Player or decision maker levels is likely to result in:
- higher win rates
- larger transactions
- shorter sales cycles
Why is understanding business needs so critical to B2B buyers?
When buyers feel confident the sales rep understands their pain points, they’re also reassured that the rep will find the best solution to address those pain points and fill a need. In fact, solving business needs is a high priority for B2B buyers. Sales professionals who understand these needs will solve fundamental business problems for their buyers and have a greater success at closing deals than their counterparts who choose not to listen at all.
However, gaining a deep understanding of these buyers requires significant effort, patience, and good listening skills. It’s a journey that can take quite some time to perfect. When you’re a sales rep and you’re selling a product or service to a business buyer, understanding the other person is critical to your career success. Among other items, you must discover:
A common ploy buyers use toward the end of buying cycles is having someone (often a non-Key Player) request a “best and final” pricing. Smart buyers with multiple vendors in the mix will negotiate with Column C to use their price against Column B, all in an attempt to get the best possible price from Column A, their vendor of choice. Some buyers may just fabricate pricing.
Some salespeople see this as an opportunity to win the business with aggressive pricing. In my experience, vendors selling non-commodity offerings can seldom discount their way into becoming Column A.
Henry Ford is credited with creating production lines allowing cars to be built consistently regardless of the staff that assembled them. I’ve worked with consulting companies that wanted to “cookie cutter” engagements because repetition makes people more competent and efficient. It provides the added benefit of being able to identify and share best practices.
That said, many people feel sales calls are like snowflakes in that no two are identical. While calls are never identical, there are ways organizations can make them more consistent by defining parameters to provide context.
In recent years, selling to the B2B market has presented new challenges for companies such as buyers’ growing tendency to vet vendors using online research and the interplay between the B2B and B2C buyer experience.
B2B buyers identifying and selecting their top tier of vendors for purchase evaluations—including the short list of contenders—often do so with very little or NO input from sales or company reps. Buyers also expect excellence from their vendors, based largely on their expectations from their experiences as consumers in B2C transactions.
So, what should companies selling to the B2B market know before they engage with their buyers?
Soon after starting my sales career I became aware there was a staggering list of things I needed to learn. The biggest challenge I faced was securing appointments with owners of small businesses. In retrospect I’m not proud to admit that my objective when making initial calls was to see if I could get a second call with prospects. My logic was that a follow-up probably meant the first call went reasonably well. I lacked the wisdom and experience to understand the difference between sales activities and progress. I had no concept or a sales process.
CRM is everywhere and yet there are some salespeople as inept as I was that are required to provide input into the system.
When some marketing professionals think about surveys, they generally think about close-ended feedback. Close-ended feedback, which is typically collected in online surveys, involves rating scales, “check boxes” of applicable categories, “yes/no” questions, and other data that is typically quantitative.
Close-ended feedback is usually efficient and straightforward for customers to answer, as well as straightforward for organizations to analyze. This type of customer feedback also provides the ability to easily compare different parts of the organization, different team member’s effectiveness, and overall customer experience from a quantitative, “temperature-taking” perspective.
In contrast, Read more
Initiating opportunities at high levels offers several potential advantages to salespeople:
Recently I was involved in a discussion about different types of questions sellers can ask during calls to have a buyer share goals (or problems) that can be achieved through the use of a seller’s offering.
We discussed the types of questions that can be asked and the pros/cons of each:
What are the chances you can win a B2B sales deal that’s priced higher than your competitors? As challenging as it may be, winning a competitive bid is not impossible.
How often do B2B buyers select the more expensive offering? In Primary Intelligence’s newest industry report, How to Win at a Higher Price, we examined nearly 900 B2B purchase decisions and competitive evaluations.
Our study discovered that 25% of wins sell at a higher price but selling at a higher price does pose a risk. Almost 50% of lost sales are priced higher than the competition.
That said, our research revealed that buyers will take into consideration the vendor’s product performance, company stability, customer support, and understanding of business needs and weigh the risk versus the value. If their evaluation shows high confidence in those areas, the higher priced vendor will win, but disadvantages in just one area may result in a lost sale. When vendors’ products show distinct similarities, buyers compare costs and frequently select the lower priced vendor.
Nonetheless, all is not lost. B2B sellers with the higher priced solution do close sales deals.
So how did a quarter of those wins in our study sell at a higher price?
Vendors and salespeople seem enamored with the word: “Solution.”
In my mind the term is vague, usually misused and a terrible waste of three syllables. Whether in marketing brochures, on websites or during sales calls, the phrase “We’ve/I’ve got the solution for you” seems presumptuous and self-serving.
How many buyers actually believe those statements to be true?
The recent CCS® Index showed that 53% of sellers are guilty of “winging” sales calls. Most everyone had been guilty of not doing their due diligence before going to make a sales call.
Activities that should be done as part of pre-call planning would be:
- Visit to the prospect’s website to get a sense for what type of company it is.
- If calling on an executive, check his or her bio on the website to understand their background and areas of responsibility.
- Check social media channels to learn more about the buyer.
When calling on a prospect for the first time, Read more