The dynamics between sales and their audiences (and prospects) vary tremendously depending on a number of factors. One of the biggest ways is in what sales teams believe that their audiences are focused on, versus what they are actually focused on. Understanding this difference and working to minimise misunderstandings can be integral to the creation of long-term and positive relationships.
We decided to put the hard yards in and find out what customers actually want, what sales teams believe that they want, and how these two perceptions stack up against each other.
Before we take a look at what we did, let’s explore the ‘why’ behind it. Previously, we had looked at the relationship between search and content in our post: How Modern Search Has Evolved - Conversational Search. We reviewed the evolution of search behaviour and how it has affected content online today, including a look at how this has shaped the web as we know it. To continue on this trail, we next took a look at how customer perspectives have changed and developed over time, which as a result might have your sales department scratching their heads.
Aligning Contrasting Requirements
Let's start off by highlighting that all businesses have different needs and goals that they want to achieve individually. For most businesses, they are looking to generate revenue directly from the sale of their product/service to other businesses or customers. This will pace them in a ‘Selling’ mindset. But remember that all business buy something from someone at some point.
There is a clear division between the actions of ‘buying’ and those of ‘selling’. Subsequently, for the purposes of this article we will consider that ‘selling’ relates to your internal sales team and ‘buying’ relates to your customer base.
With that in mind, the emphasis on ‘selling’ impacts upon the attributes your team will have and thus the mentality they ultimately have towards reaching their KPI’s. Adversely, the customer that your team targets will have their own agenda and so the difficulty is, how does your business align what you’re selling with what a customer wants to buy?
Market Research from Both Sides
In order to have a fair analysis in this exercise, we conducted two different surveys: one created for our internal teams (sales, operational management, account management) and another one for the customers of our clients.
First, we produced an ‘Internal Survey’ where we worked with several of our clients customer facing team and produced a set of results from the perspective of what a ‘selling’ business thinks their audience wants.
Next, we produced a ‘Customer Survey’ which went out to the customers of our clients and was designed to allow them to define and explain their own needs and perspectives.
Both surveys had a specific structure scoped around the definition of ‘Goals’, ‘Challenges’ and ‘Pains’ of the business. Along with this, it was aimed at verifying how, what, where, when and why the customers behaviour was online such as networking groups, conferences, and other related activity.
With a wide range of responses from a number of sales teams and customers, Wings4U was able to use this data to visualise the common trends and insights in order to define a clear set of results.
The results are as follows:
Internal Survey Results
COMMON HIGH-LEVEL GOALS:
- Managing costs
- Streamlined process
COMMON HIGH-LEVEL CHALLENGES:
COMMON HIGH-LEVEL PAINS:
- Stakeholder buy-in
- Opportunity evaluation
It’s clear from the results that there is a trend that leans in ‘financial’ direction. This is not surprising really, when you consider that most sales teams are geared up to think in numbers. KPI’s, targets, commission, quotations and pricing are just a few aspects of the DNA of many sales teams.
There are many reasons why this is, but let’s focus on the mindset it fosters for now. Obviously, a sales team's duties are to generate their company money, so it’s only natural that financially-biased aims are front of mind.
Customer Survey Results
COMMON HIGH-LEVEL GOALS:
- Integrated end-to-end solutions
- Customer satisfaction, customer journey & experience
COMMON HIGH-LEVEL CHALLENGES:
- Stakeholder buy-in
- Maximising ROI / organizational development
COMMON HIGH-LEVEL PAINS:
- Compliance / regulation
- Data overload / real time pricing / discounting
Looking at the results generated from the customers that were surveyed, there is a stark contrast with the feedback from the sales teams.
Again, this isn’t surprising as businesses often don’t “act” financially, instead they often consider such implications, but they actually trade with much more granular and relevant things in mind.
On one side we have a sales team's perspective, that believes that most of their customers have money at the heart of any buying decision they make. Whereas on the other side, we have the customer’s viewpoint that isn’t financially motivated whatsoever.
For a customer to make a decision on anything, they first need to realise there is a specific problem in their business. If we look at the results above as the example, then customers have real issues with data, compliance, and keeping up with imposed regulations. However, from a sales team's perspective, they believed that the main problems they faced were geared around stakeholder buy-in and opportunity evaluation.
As the example shows, it’s lost in translation. Buyers need to have a tangible problem first before any thought of money enters their mind, which happens much later in the buying journey.
Again, as an additional example, the main goal of the customers that we interviewed were related to having an integrated business solution so that their own customers were happier. From the sales team's side this leaned toward managing costs which again, showed the misalignment of what their customers actually wanted to achieve.
Stop Selling and Start Solving!
To be more aligned with your prospects and customers is not difficult. The answers that your customers seek are already right there in your business, the trick is to ask them more personalised sets of questions to discover more about the ‘who’, the ‘what’, the ‘where’ and the ‘how’; which means that the question of ‘why’ they should use you above all others is one that they can answer for themselves.
Finding out more about what your prospective customers actually want by having a conversation with them, rather than at them to pitch your business benefits will open up new avenues and help you to build long-term relationships.
If you develop a more conversational sales approach that isn’t measured solely by call volume or time, but instead on how many leads are nurtured through the buying process, from initial awareness to final sale, you will find that the attitude and efforts of your sales teams will shift. And this shift will mean that their interactions with prospects will be more relationship-focused and empathetic, instead of feeling ‘salesey’ - resulting in customers that determine of their own accord that your business is a viable provider for their needs.
There are so many ways a conversation can go if your team opens up their approach and encourages the prospect to share their requirements in detail from the beginning. Probe them with more direct questioning about what they say rather than having them sit and listen to repetitive and emotionless sales pitches.
People Buy from People
Imagine if you walked into a bar and tried to have the same conversation with 100 different people. After a while, your demeanor would stale and your reputation in the room would become similar to that of a robot.
Apply that same thinking to a business. Someone from your team calls them and begins to spout off a sales pitch down the telephone at them and naturally, they are busy trying to solve the data overload issue or frantically researching how they can be more compliant to meet new regulations and you're trying to sell them software...so needless to say, it’s highly likely that they wouldn’t be prepared to ‘waste’ time (in their eyes) listening..
Here we should apply the “listen twice, speak once” methodology and open with a question about them, about what their issues are and ask them to explain why they are struggling first before even beginning to apply that to your product. Then, you can offer relevant feedback about how you empathise with them and how you understand their problems..
This approach generates buy-in because suddenly, you’ve differentiated yourselves from any other canvasser and all the other businesses they speak to 8 times a week trying to sell them something. You quieten down the noise because you’ve shown an interest in their needs and demands as a business.
Because of the evolution of how people search today, your sales team needs to tune into what your audience is actively asking for, rather than trying to tell them.
Questions to Ask
Try to reshape how your team speak to your prospects and clients by asking questions like:
“What are the top priorities in your business at the moment?”
“What regular activity do you find problematic?”
“What are some of your business goals?”
“What stops you from hitting your business goals?”
“What are your personal thoughts about X in your business?”
“Is your existing X in the business adequate?”
“Where do you go online for help?”
“Are you part of any groups on social networking?”
As you can see from the line of questioning above, each one is designed to be open and to allow the customer to go wherever they feel most comfortable with their answers. This will open up the conversation much more and allow for a comfortable and honest appraisal to occur.
Ultimately, your team can’t realistically ‘solve’ a customer problem without knowing what that problem is first.
- Stop selling, start solving!
- Ask more open questions
- People buy from people
After exploring both the relationship between search and content and seeing how it has affected the customer mindset, your sales team will have a strong fighting chance to create meaningful conversations that lead to long-term relationships and customers.
If you're interested in learning more about enabling your sales team or would like to develop a smarter profile for your audience why not reach out and get in touch with us.
Alternatively, you might want to learn a little more about your marketing approach and how to leverage what you do to speak to people you can’t. Check our our services.