The reason professional B2B selling evolves over time is because decision-makers need something new from salespeople. When your prospective clients experience a change in their environment, their lack of knowledge and experience causes them to need a greater level of help from the sales reps.
We describe the 21st century as the ACDC environment. This abbreviation describes the "accelerating, constant, disruptive change” that has marked the last two decades. This creates a level of uncertainty, making it difficult for B2B buyers and their companies to implement necessary changes in response. In the ACDC environment, the sales professional’s role has changed because modern buyers need more help making decisions and improving their business results.
The modern sales approach allows salespeople to help their clients learn why they face challenges to produce the results they need. The sales rep’s role includes helping clients recognize the root causes of their problems, and how best to address the change they need to succeed. It's worth noting that the definition of a modern sales approach is one that uses modern sales techniques, replacing outdated sales processes. The modern sales approach is so important because it has evolved to help sales organizations be more consultative, providing insights, advice, and recommendations when helping prospective customers. This approach uses a set of value-creation strategies that buyers appreciate, strategies not included in the legacy approach.
This evolution in sales approaches deemphasizes the company and their products and services, and puts the focus on creating value inside the sales conversation. We can trace the beginning of the change to Neil Rackham's SPIN Selling and Major Account Sales Strategy. Robert Miller and Stephen Heiman followed with Strategic Selling. There are others who contributed sales methods that supported the move away from transactional approaches to more consultative approaches.
Traditional Sales Approach
The traditional selling methods are based on the belief that the salesperson's role is to use a positioning statement to prove that their company is good and trustworthy. Once they have accomplished this outcome, the salesperson positions their company as successful, offering proof in a slide with the logos of their existing clients. From this position, the salesperson explains that their offerings are different and better than anything offered by competitors. Then, they follow up by asking their potential customers about their problem, pain point, hot button, or source of dissatisfaction.
The traditional sales approach is essentially a sales pitch, one that creates no value for decision-makers trying to address the problems and challenges in the ACDC environment. Sales success eludes the sales teams who still use this legacy approach to B2B sales. The reason for the shift to the modern sales approach is often organic. As salespeople recognize their prospects have different needs, they help their contacts by giving them the information they need to get better results. Salespeople can make this change consciously or unconsciously. Either way, this approach shortens the sales cycle.
Characteristics of Modern Sales Approach
The modern sales approach includes a number of strategies that make it effective in today’s business environment:
- Focus on building relationships: In the past, relationships might have been pursued with a strategy to build personal rapport. In modern sales, the relationship is measured by the level of value the salesperson creates in the sales conversation.
- Emphasize value-based selling: The traditional sales rep thinks of the value of their solutions. In modern sales, the salesperson first delivers value in the sales conversation, knowing that helping the client by improving their understanding of their situation and the decisions they will need to make. This improves their odds of winning the client's business.
- Emphasize insights: Where a traditional salesperson will research their contact, the modern seller will research the client's industry and use a data-driven approach. This allows them to land on insights that will be valuable to prospective buyers.
- Facilitate the buyer's journey: In modern sales, the salesperson not only leads the client, but also collaborates with them and acts as part of the client's team. Largely, this approach creates accountability and certainty that allows their contacts to move forward and succeed.
Best Practices for Implementing Modern Sales Approach
To practice a modern sales approach, you don't ask your client about their pain point, problem, or their implications. When you ask those legacy questions, you do not come across as an expert and an authority. You should know what challenges your contacts are likely facing before you meet with them. Being well-informed is what helps you create value and insights.
Being collaborative allows you to create a solution that will work for your client company and any stakeholders who will rely on what you sell. To ensure your client succeeds often means changing how you deliver. Part of collaboration is being flexible and willing to make adjustments.
The effective modern salesperson is a welcomed guest because they have proven themselves to be a value creator. As a result, they have more meaningful conversations and more access to the contacts and decision-makers. To strengthen this aspect of the modern approach, organizations should improve the alignment between sales and marketing. Instead of opening the sales conversation with the question Why us? marketing should shift to the question Why change? This customer-oriented approach taps into the types of insights that buyers find incredibly valuable.
In the modern sales relationship, there is a greater accountability to evaluate and assess the client’s results. Ensuring clients get the results they need—and were promised—can enhance their lifetime value for the sales organization. To succeed at this, the salesperson must be able to produce the results that make them a trusted advisor.
Benefits of the Modern Sales Approach
The modern sales approach, when implemented properly, brings many benefits. First, it creates a better sales experience and, in the process, increases customer satisfaction. It also improves client retention. Modern salespeople prove that they are not interchangeable commodities. Establishing a relationship like that of a business advisor can make you indispensable to your clients.
The modern sales approach also improves sales productivity and efficiency by increasing effectiveness. Rather than focusing on more activity, the modern sales process focuses on higher win rates. The modern sales approach helps salespeople close more deals, which should cause sales leaders to change their teams' processes to include modern strategies.
Finally, sales organizations that adopt a modern approach will experience an enhanced brand reputation and recognition as value creators and advisors.
Because the current environment is challenging, sales organizations need to adopt new sales techniques to address their client’s needs. The first improvement you can make is removing the traditional approaches that no longer serve your clients. Replace them with the modern sales approach, which includes strategies that create value for your clients. The bottom line is this: Sales organizations that continue using outdated strategies will lose deals to salespeople using modern approaches.
If you are ready to embrace modern sales, schedule a sales strategy session here.