There are several reasons one might fall behind the changes in B2B buying and B2B selling. Just like our clients fall behind, sales organizations can miss an inflection point. They can be like a prospective client that believes what they do is good for all seasons, even if they haven’t made changes in five decades.
Another reason could be that a salesperson isn’t interested in recognizing what has changed, especially if it might force them to change their sales approach. Maybe they are not interested in what has changed, or they believe a transactional approach is right for how they sell. In some cases, they may be right.
To be fair, what I teach will eventually be replaced by what buyers and companies need in the future. I do, however, believe that consultative selling will continue, but it will come with greater demands on the salesperson. In particular, the days ahead will require expertise and authority. It may also come with new strategies salespeople will need to master. For all human history, leaders have sought trusted advisors who could see the future and provide counsel.
It is also worth understanding history because it provides lessons about the future. History also preserves principles and fundamentals that tend to persist over time. But all, many are falling behind their buyers and their needs. The future is here now, even if some wish to believe otherwise.
A Point of Evidence You Are Left Behind
I work with no fewer than five large clients, with revenues in the billions, who have shared their team can easily get a first meeting, but not a second one. One must ask themselves why so many salespeople with a well-recognized name and excellent offerings are challenged to convert a second meeting. Could it be that these large companies are using an approach that has lost its efficacy? Somehow, these well-trained salespeople fail the audition and get ghosted on a second meeting.
If their approach worked for more than two decades only to fail now, is it possible nothing changed? Another company increased their revenue after making a change to their sales methodology, resulting in close to a 20 percent increase in their net new revenue? Chance? Incredibly good luck? The Gods of Sales preferring to provide this bounty to this one company?
A Second Point of Evidence
Let’s agree that Gartner’s research is not exactly right. Maybe it is a cohort of large clients who have professional buyers stating they no longer want to meet with salespeople, but not you and I, as we are aware of the changes. Maybe a great number of these buyers have made what was once a complex purchase without ever meeting with a salesperson.
Why would a buyer mark a survey box suggesting they want a salesperson-free buying experience? Malice? They found it funny? Or the old linear sales process fails to provide the sales experience they need and expect?
I get it. Some believe that the buyer can pound sand while you ask questions about their problem and pain point, as if it’s your third day on the job. The concept of nonlinearity fits a dynamic, complex conversation about change eludes those being left behind in B2B sales.
A Third Point of Evidence
Recent data suggests that the average win rate is 17 percent. The clients in that survey were “enterprise targets,” but enterprise can mean just about anything. Your SMB might be someone else’s enterprise sale. Let’s split the difference and ask why on earth would the average be a few points higher than your odds of winning an RFP.
If you have noticed that sales leaders are devoted to enormous amounts of coverage of their pipeline, you might be onto something. But 17 percent of that is deals the sales force won. If you are happy with a 17 percent win rate, you may need a seriously good side hustle to feed the kids.
A Fourth Point of Evidence
Quota attainment is at an average 27 percent. The good news is that it isn’t worse. There is nothing more important than winning. You can’t hit your goals and sales objectives without stacking up wins.
Is it that quotas are too high? Are salespeople suddenly lazy and no longer interested in their work? Or could it be that what used to work for these buyers and companies is no longer good enough for them to buy from you?
To be sure, the client you lost because you didn’t create the value they needed from you found a salesperson more helpful, causing the client to buy from them instead. I imagine this competitor has a higher win rate and a number above a 27 percent quota attainment.
For Those Being Left Behind in B2B Sales
Perhaps, you believe all these salespeople who cannot convert a first meeting to a second meeting are modern salespeople with value creation strategies and a better sales experience for their buyers. Or maybe you think that buyers have all lost their minds and are wrong about what they need from salespeople.
The world moves on with or without you, caring nothing about your preferences or mine. Its progress, whether you like it or not, continues, eliminating what is no longer useful and replacing it with something better. Those who believe nothing has changed might look around themselves and take account of everything that has changed, like their supercomputer, their smart phone, streaming content, artificial intelligence, your giant television, Uber, DoorDash, Spotify, Airbnb, and a thousand other things that have changed over time.
So, everything has changed, except for the legacy approach which cannot be improved on over the last fifty years? For some reason, this outdated approach is so durable that it will be replaced by something better. Pretending nothing has changed and avoiding necessary change is how companies and people fail. As always, you change, or you are obsolete.