B2B sellers often think of their role in the customer buying journey as a numbers game. And organizations reinforce this notion. Promotions and pay bumps often hinge on how well the rep measures up to their KPIs. From the number of SQLs they convert to how much revenue they generate, these metrics are necessary for tracking and analyzing your sales team’s performance. However, these metrics don’t tell the full story but are chronically overemphasized.
Are Your KPIs Actually Leading to Poor Performance?
Here’s why quotas can actually hinder your sellers’ ability to nurture the B2B customer buying journey. Overemphasis on metrics:
- Breeds desperation.
- Doesn’t incentivize sellers to invest in building quality client relationships.
- Promotes a Rambo-style “don’t take no for an answer” approach.
- Lead to sellers saying whatever it takes to get a foot in the door.
So, why do B2B sales organizations still encourage these behaviors?
When a prospect makes contact with your organization, they’re impressed enough by what they’ve seen of you to engage. But, they will still be inherently skeptical of your team’s ability to help. The TrustRadius 2019 B2B Buying Disconnect Report shows that only 11 percent of buyers found sales reps to be very trustworthy. When asked to rate sources on a scale from 1 to 4 for trustworthiness, buyers gave vendor reps a mere 2.5 rating.
The impression your sales rep makes is a pivotal factor in the B2B customer buying journey. If the prospect gets even a whiff of desperation or feels the seller isn’t totally upfront, that is an instant deal-breaker.
Bridge the Trust Gap
To help your sales team make the right impression, you need to reframe the way they think about prospects. The focus should not be on making the sale—but on building a relationship.
This shift is the key to winning more business. B2B buyers need to feel like more than just a name on a list. In fact, a Salesforce Research study showed that 84 percent of B2B customers agree that a personable approach is very important to their purchasing decision. To feel confident enough to buy, customers need to feel your sellers are trustworthy and supportive.
High Stakes for B2B Tech Buyers
Trust is essential for any partnership, especially one centered around a tough decision.
B2B buyers actually appreciate when sellers offer helpful advice The CSO Insights 2018 Buyer Preferences Study shows that nearly two in three B2B buyers find value in discussing their needs with salespeople. Nine in ten of them are open to engaging reps early on in their buying journey, especially when addressing a new, risky or complex situation—as is often the case with B2B tech purchases.
B2B tech purchases are dreadfully complicated and costly. Buyers must consider various factors like the timeline and difficulty of implementing a new solution, integration with existing platforms and tools, and training users and staff on new features. If a buyer has the misfortune of making a bad call on which solution to drop thousands of dollars on, their job could be on the line when it doesn’t work out.
B2B sellers need to keep these things in mind and understand how important it is that they be transparent with buyers to help them make a good decision. With educational guidance that doesn’t come across as an upsell, sellers can help buyers feel confident in their purchasing decisions.
Where Most Sellers Fail
Unfortunately, the majority of sellers fail to do this and don’t even know it. The TrustRadius 2020 B2B Buying Disconnect Report indicates sellers drastically overestimate their own transparency. Eighty-six percent of them reported that they aim to be clear about whether or not their solution is a good fit for the buyer, but only 40 percent of buyers agreed that tech vendors are forthcoming about their solution’s limitations.
Tell Buyers What You Can’t Do
Being honest with prospects about whether your solution is a good fit for their problem is essential to establishing trust. Many sellers struggle with this.
Only a third (33 percent) of vendors surveyed in the 2020 TrustRadius report believed it was important that their prospects understand the cons of their product before buying. Withholding vital information like that yields a poor customer experience.
There is a strong positive correlation between vendor transparency and the quality of customer support. Vendors who offered superior support were two to three times more transparent about their limitations.
Plus, buyers can easily do their own research from online reviews or analyst reports to find this information on their own. But it’s better if they don’t feel like they have to.
Sellers should be upfront about limitations with prospects. Your sellers can use the discussion as an opportunity to define your niche, so that when customers have a need you are better equipped to solve—they’ll think of you first.
Remember, your limitations and your differentiators are often one in the same—it’s just a matter of positioning.
If a prospect from an enterprise-level company inquires about a software solution that’s more appropriate for mid-market buyers, be upfront about it. They’ll appreciate the honesty and may even be inclined to recommend your solution to colleagues who are suitable for it.
Don’t Think of Yourself as a Seller; Think of Yourself as A Guide
Your solution won’t always be the best fit. But that doesn’t mean the relationship with the prospect has to end. There’s still potential for future work with them or with someone in their network. You just have to be willing to help them—even if that means recommending another vendor to them.
The amount of quality information buyers encounter in their path to purchase is overwhelming. Prospects are grateful when sellers can save them the time of having to figure out how to wade through it on their own. Help them navigate to the information they need to make a good decision. Redefining your role in the B2B buyer’s journey is the first step to building a relationship that will keep customers coming back long after the first sale is over.
Relationship Building Tactics
Beyond the mental shift, how do you put relationship-building into practice as a sales approach?
For starters, you need to instill behaviors that drive meaningful dialogue. Patience and active listening are basic yet overlooked skills that are critical to the customer experience. When talking to buyers, sellers are often focus on their own company’s credentials or diagnose the buyer’s problem while downplaying its nuances to make it fit with their solution.
These behaviors make interactions feel one-sided. Not only that, they don’t create value. Instead of fixating on yourself and your solution, you need to keep the focus on the buyer.
Ask them lots of open-ended questions. Help them think of their problem in a way they hadn’t before. Above all else, resist the urge to simplify their problem for your own means. That’s how you create a personalized experience and nurture a partnership that endures.
Play the Long Game
According to the CSO Insights managing director Seleste Lunsford, a sales organization’s success in today’s market is dependent on their ability to provide insights that help buyers in their journeys. Many, however, have yet to rise to the task, she says.
Unfortunately, sales organizations continue to fall short. The ability to provide buyers with perspective offers the most promise for differentiation. Sellers must bring ideas, shape vision and make customers aware of solutions they hadn’t considered. There are no short-cuts. Educating the buyer needs to occur in addition to the other requirements, not as a replacement for them. And there is no one cookie-cutter approach for how and when to provide insights. – Seleste Lunsford, Managing Director, CSO Insights
Your sales approach should keep the buyer’s needs at the forefront. As riveting as you may think you and your company are, they don’t want to talk about you. They want to talk about themselves and how to solve their problem. Spare them the story of how your company started in your founder’s basement, and focus on doing what they came to you for. What they don’t want is to drudge through a conversation about how great your company is or review some blanketed solution that isn’t directly applicable to their situation.
Your job is to consult them, even when the answer to their problem lies elsewhere. In B2B sales, you have to look beyond instant gratification and play the long game if you want to build relationships that last.
This blog post is brought to you by Cascade Insights, a firm that helps organizations seize opportunities in the B2B technology sector with our custom market research and marketing services. Worried that your sales approach is turning off prospects? Our B2B buyer’s journey research can help.
Special thanks to CEO Sean Campbell & Director of Systems Design Philippe Boutros for advising on this article.