Think back to your last closed/won deal. What was your margin of victory? What gave you an edge that, if absent, would have meant you’d lose the deal? It’s you! It’s what you do to enable buyers that makes the difference.
You can’t assign an exact figure to your margin of victory; buyers can’t tell you either how close or far you were from losing with any level of meaningful precision. So you have to just assume that you were at least 1%, or more, better than the alternatives.
The new game is one in which buyers close deals, not sellers. You – your mindset, your methodologies – are the differentiating factor between winning and losing.
Andy Paul – sales expert, creator of the Sales Enablement with Andy Paul Podcast, author of several books including the recently published Sell without Selling Out – offered a wealth of knowledge on a recent webinar about what it takes to differentiate yourself from your competitors. “Buyers have relatively few interactions with sellers in a meaningful way. You have to make every moment count.”
Since you never know how important a single interaction will be for your customer, always bring a “this is it” mentality. “Really start with this realization that there is no such thing as an unimportant sales touch or sales interaction.”
What will set you apart from your competitors in the future?
It starts by acknowledging that your sales process is not the key. “If we look at a typical sales process, most sellers think that we have these well-defined moments that exist in sales. The problem with that is that it doesn’t really conform or match with how the buyers view their process.”
We need to stop forcing our prospects through our sales process and instead enable their buying process.
Gartner analysts have researched and talked extensively about how these moments don’t always match how buyers view their buying process. Gartner developed a now-famous chart outlining the complexity of the buyer’s journey. It’s chaotic and at only one point is a seller interaction even mentioned. “When you consider this from the buyer’s perspective, they look at the task they have to accomplish and almost nowhere in there the Sales team.”
The journey is about what the buyer needs to achieve inside their organization and when. Buyers only spend 5% to 13% of their time interacting with sales reps, which is further divided between all the companies they are exploring. There are very few opportunities for AEs to engage with buyers in meaningful ways.
“If we think about our buyers, we know they’re incredibly busy. We know they’re being deluged with information from our competitors in a way they never were before. They have access to more information than they ever have before. How do we compete with that in order to have the opportunity to create some impact on them to build the relationship to engage their interests, start building trust, and create some value.”
This makes it hard to build relationships and trust, to engage the buyers’ interests, and to create value. When you get the chance to interact with the buyer, you have to make every moment count. Andy likes to say, “Create value in every interaction.”
A Sales Moment Impacts Multiple Dimensions
Customers tend to weigh every interaction sellers have with them as equally important. It doesn’t matter if it’s a face-to-face meeting, a phone call, or an email. So with each customer touchpoint, think about how that interaction affects these dimensions.
- The relationship: it cements or develops the relationship and rapport, creating a functional working relationship to help you help them
- Trust: each moment helps build trust between you and the buyer
- Engagement: you are making yourself interesting and engaging their interests in the product, solution, and service you provide
- Value: each moment is building something of value
How Buyers Decide Who Gets Their Time
Herbert Simon conducted a landmark study about human problem-solving in 1970. Human beings are relatively rational about their decisions, prioritizing their time to get the best return on their investment. “People will decide where to invest their time based on where they get the best return on that investment.”
This is evident in the buying journey, as buyers decide to spend their time where they get the most value. “There’s this fundamental bargain that we strike without buyers and the bargain is that they’re going to give us some of their time, what are we going to give them in return?” If you stop delivering, they stop giving you their time. And if you can’t deliver in ways that are easy, fast, and pleasant for them to consume, they’ll move on.
“If we give them nothing in return, if we’re not consistently delivering something of value to them to help them get an ROI in the time they invest in us then they stop giving us their time.” Each moment has only two possible outcomes for the buyers: you help them achieve their goal and it’s a positive interaction, or you don’t and they walk.
“The way to conceptualize this, on every sales touch you have, doesn’t matter the size, you have to have a value plan. There are two parts. You need to understand what the value is you’re delivering in that touch. If there’s nothing there for the buyer, why are you reaching out? As a result of receiving it, am I helping the buyer move closer to making a decision?”
How Buyers Really Make Decisions
“Sellers view the sales process as a series of events that are cumulative in impact, and buyers make logical decisions when they get to the end.” But this isn’t actually how people make decisions. Nearly all decisions are made by emotion, and logic is used to backfill and rationalize the decision after the fact.
This concept is explained by Daniel Kahneman’s peak-end rule which asserts that when people make a decision, they factor in two things: the peak events during that experience and the last contact.
This translates to sales as well. The buyer recalls these interactions at decision time. “Any one of these steps, and contact you have with the buyer, any moment you have with the buyer could be, in their mind, the peak event during their interactions with you.”
Peak events for the buyer along the sales process could be initial contact, discovery, demonstration, proposal, and then the final contact and decision. “A client I worked with doubled their sales over the course of two years by saying we’re going to follow up all of our inbound leads within 30 minutes. On the first call they got about 75% of the way through the customer’s buying process. By getting back to people quickly, they eliminated the prospect’s desire to go talk to other vendors.” This was a peak event for their potential buyers.
Buyers aren’t trying to find a perfect solution. They’re trying to make a good decision with the least time, energy, and money possible. Help them achieve their goal.” The key thing to remember is that every step of your process can be a peak event. You don’t know in advance which one it will be, which one will be most important, most influential for the buyer so you have to bring your A-game every single time you interact with some potential customer.
Technology like intelligent demo automation can help. If you increase responsiveness, you create value in multiple dimensions by enabling the customer to make a decision more quickly and implement the solution you are selling.
Selling is a deliberate act. You cannot be on auto-pilot or do it robotically at every stage. Be prepared in each interaction, regardless of channel or topic, to provide the customer with an ROI on their time spent with you. It’s the most effective way to set yourself apart from your competitors.