A couple of months ago, I had the privilege of being on the Sales Hustle podcast with Colin Mitchell. We talked about what CEOs need to be thinking about to lead their sales teams in a post-pandemic world. Let me share with you four strategies that came out of the podcast that all CEOs should embrace to ensure sustainable sales in today’s environment.
The world sped up in many ways during the pandemic, and it is clear we aren’t going back. Moreover, the rate of change will most likely continue as new ways of working and consuming information are at our fingertips in even more ways than ever before.
When it comes to sales, the pandemic has changed the buying environment. People want to get online and buy what they want when they want. They don’t want to wait or have to search for information. They want instant access, which often happens without a salesperson involved. And while that is often a B2C mindset, it is flowing into B2B sales quickly.
4 Strategies CEOs Should Embrace to Ensure Sustainable Sales in Today’s Environment
In general, companies are moving slowly to change their sales process in order to serve the buyers the way they want to buy. But, as the CEO, you can speed that up to win. Here are four strategies CEOs and their sales leaders can embrace and employ to turn their team into a sales powerhouse.
Strategy #1 for Sustainable Sales: Become a Team of Modern Sellers
The first question you need to ask as CEO is, do we have a team of modern sellers? If not, how can I support sales leadership to change that? A modern seller provides the right information to the buyer at the right time. Modern sales would be providing that information without having a salesperson involved. Some combination is needed.
Think about the information that your salespeople typically provide to prospective buyers and then make that easily accessible on your website and other outlets where your buyer consumes information. Don’t hide information that your buyers need to make a decision – give it to them right upfront. Get the material, videos, reading – everything they need to make a decision and post it where they go for information. Trust me; if you do, they will be more likely to engage with a salesperson.
Keep in mind that in some cases, depending on what you sell, that may even include pricing information.
There’s always discussion about when to deliver the price in the sales process. Deliver it too early, and your buyer may not understand the value of your offering. Deliver it too late, and you may draw them too far into the process without any budget considerations.
In a complex sale, where pricing can be variable, it isn’t as easy to say, “here’s the price.” But that doesn’t mean that you can’t elude to baseline pricing to reference the buyer.
Strategy #2 for Sustainable Sales: You Need Salespeople with a Different Mindset and Different Training
Buyers have changed the way they want to buy, but we have not kept pace with that profession. As the CEO, take a look at how your sales leadership is helping salespeople change their mindset and providing the training to meet the buyer where they are.
As the company leader, you need to know how the buyer wants to buy from you to ensure your strategy aligns with that. It’s the sales leaders who then need to work with their teams to adjust. You need salespeople who know how to intersect with the buyer wherever they come into the sales process.
Throw techniques like BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing) out the window with your neon shorts, leggings, and mullet from the 1980s. Instead, train your salespeople to know where in the decision-making process the buyer is and what they need from them to move forward. Then, teach them to have conversations that bring insights into posing better questions that help the buyers make the best decision.
Don’t force buyers into your existing sales process that brings them back to the beginning of the cycle. It’s a waste of time and a disservice to the buyer. Instead, adapt the sales process to meet the buyer’s need.
Salespeople should be trained to help buyers navigate the process and, above all, show they care.
Strategy #3 for Sustainable Sales: Understand How the Buyer Wants to Buy
If you understand how the buyer wants to buy, then you will provide what the buyer needs depending on where they are in the decision-making process.
Think about yourself and your team as buyers. Are you sellers selling the way you would want to buy?
Do you take cold calls from SDRs? Does anyone on your team take cold calls from SDRs?
If the answer is no, why do you have SDRs calling senior people by phone who don’t take cold calls from SDRs?
Do you answer emails from salespeople who talk all about their company and products?
Then why would you allow your sales teams to send thousands of those emails out every day when you know you wouldn’t respond?
It’s madness. There is a better way.
Stop pushing the MORE button and push the BETTER button. Don’t allow your sales leaders to continue to have your sales team members doing an activity that doesn’t lead to a sales conversation. Stop doing things that give you such a low response rate. Instead, start having your sales and marketing team work together to do things that make it easy for the buyers to buy.
So, how do you create a sales process in line with what the buyer wants? Here are two ideas to help you get started:
Ask the Buyer.
This seems so obvious but is so often overlooked. Have someone pick up the phone and call your current customers and ask them, “What do you want from a seller? What info do you need? Walk me through how you are making a decision to buy today.”
If you have a strong relationship with your customer, they will gladly tell you exactly how to sell to them and make their life easier.
Assemble a Panel.
Assemble a panel of C-level or senior leaders from your customer base and invite your sales team to ask questions. Here are examples of questions they can ask:
- What kind of messaging peaks your interest?
- What kind of communication do you respond to?
- How do you find new products and services?
- What is a day in your life like?
These insights into your buyers are priceless.
Strategy #4 for Sustainable Sales: Ensure You Are Building Strong Relationships with Prospects and Customers
Not every sale closes. We all know that. But one thing to remember is that every interaction is an opportunity to build a relationship that can bring you sales in the future.
Perhaps your salesperson worked with a prospect only to learn that your solution wouldn’t be the right solution for them. Train your salespeople to direct them towards the right solution, even if it’s not yours. By helping them, they will be building trust between the prospect, themselves, and your organization. So, while this sale may not have come to fruition, with a new level of trust, they may come back when your solution fits or take your solution to a new job or even refer you off to someone who is the right fit.
To build sustainable sales, you’ll want to ensure you are retaining your customers. Build strong relationships that can be leveraged. Make sure that someone from your company is positioned at the right level within your existing customers.
For example, the salesperson is orchestrating the relationship and has certain go-to contacts. That salesperson should position the VP of sales at the right level, so a relationship is built and perhaps even position the CEO with someone higher up at the customer.
Keep in mind:
- Selling is a team sport. In companies under $100M, the CEO, CFO, CMO, Customer Success Team, Subject Matter Experts – everyone is responsible for the customer. You are all responsible.
- Your Salesperson needs to be the person to ‘orchestrate’ and manage all the interactions with the customer. They need to understand when it’s important to bring other team members in to move the decision-making process along or best serve the buyers.
- Who is the highest-ranking person in the decision-making process that you, the CEO, should be available to?
While today’s sales environment has its challenges, it provides many opportunities for organizations to make deeper connections and build a more effective customer engagement process.
As the CEO, your vision and strategy drive all of this. When that is clear to every department, they can work together to provide an exceptional experience to your customers.
Alice is nationally known for her expertise in elevating sales to increase valuation for companies with a B2B complex sale that have exceptional growth potential. She’s originally, from the widely known Miller Heiman Group. Spending her time strategizing with CEOs and their leadership teams to build the strategies that find new business and grow existing accounts is her passion. Her clients love her spirit and the way she energizes their sales organization.