Your salespeople would no longer have to chase these empowered buyers down the road of commoditization and discounting, because they would know how to sell value and differentiate your product.
As your customers discovered the unique value of your product on their own terms, your company would achieve higher win rates, shorter sales cycles, and higher margins.
This vision could become a reality if the following three hypotheses are true:
- Salespeople must deliver insight to sell value.
- The best way to deliver insight is through a customer story.
- The executive buyers in Gartner’s survey said that the best way for a salesperson to provide differentiation that they trust is to share a customer story.
Hypothesis 1: Salepeople must deliver insight to sell value.
We’ve all heard that today’s empowered buyers are 60% of the way through a buying cycle by the time they meet a salesperson, because they prefer to do their own research online. But if this self-serve model works so well, then why do 60-70% of enterprise sales opportunities end with the buyer deciding to live with the status quo? Why would a buyer waste all that time and effort only to do nothing?
I believe it’s because buyers lack the time and expertise to form an accurate buying vision on their own. In the interest of expediency, buyers dumb everything down to where all offerings become commoditized, so the only differentiator is price. Unfortunately, what they find is that the dumbed-down version doesn’t solve a problem that they don’t fully understand, so they stick with the status quo or buy the cheapest suboptimal solution.
It’s like when I’m sick. The night before I visit the doctor, I go onto WebMD to figure out what’s troubling me. So by the time I show up at the doctor’s office, I am just looking for him to write me a prescription. Sure, the doctor could have tried to influence me online through blogs, etc., but like buyers today, I don’t have the time or expertise to become a doctor online overnight. So, I need the doctor to shine a light of insight on my incomplete buying vision so that it more closely represents the truth.
Admittedly, for less complex products, I believe buyers can successfully buy online, because they can form an accurate buying vision on their own. But for complex products, I believe salespeople must shine the light of insight on the buyer’s incomplete buying vision so that they can fully appreciate the value of your product.
Questions for you to consider:
- What percent of your sales opportunities end in no decision?
- What percent of your deals are based on price vs. value?
- What percent of your salespeople use insight to reframe the customer’s buying vision?
Hypothesis 2: The best way to deliver insight is through a customer story.
Even though insight may be what buyers need, it may not be what they initially want. By the time a buyer engages with a salesperson, for instance, they may already have an idea of their needs, the solution they believe they want, and what they are willing to pay. So it’s difficult to directly deliver your insight to these buyers, because it will just bounce off of their established filter of what they believe they need. It can also come across as an attack and make the buyer feel badgered or manipulated.
Imagine, for example, that it’s 8:30am on a Tuesday, and your rep is riding the elevator up to the 35th floor to meet one of your largest prospects. They’re about to sit down with a C-level executive with 20 years of experience at the boardroom table, and your 26-year-old rep is going to deliver insight about the error of their ways. How do you think that conversation is going to go? I call that the black eye and bloody nose approach.
An alternative approach is to wrap your sales insight up in a customer story. Because the message isn’t directed at them personally, buyers are less likely to see the insight as an attack, feel offended, and shut down. It’s like putting your sales insight inside a Trojan horse so that it makes it past the buyer’s defensive wall.
Question for you to consider:
1. What percent of your salesforce is comfortable challenging customers with insights?
Hypothesis 3: Gartner’s survey of executive buyers concludes that facts tell but stories sell.
In the Gartner survey, 74% of executive buyers felt salespeople spend too much time talking about their product. But without the context of a story, salespeople are leaving it up to the customer to figure out why they should buy their product. This product strategy is not successful, because only 34% of executive buyers felt salespeople could articulate value. If salespeople want to sell value, 70% of executive buyers said that the best way for salespeople to provide differentiation that they trust is by sharing customer stories.
I can remember how excited I was to finally be able to afford to hire a salesperson with more industry expertise than anyone our team. But after three months, he wasn’t getting any traction with customers. So one afternoon I asked him how his meeting went. He said, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” I said, “I can send someone from telesales to do that. Your job is to make them thirsty.”
He gave me a blank stare, so I decided to use a metaphor: “Right now, you’re like a rescue boat salesman, trying to rescue customers who are only ankle-deep in problems. No wonder they are clipping you at the knees, because they’ve got no skin in the game. Instead of giving them a lecture on our product, why don’t you tell them a customer story that packs so much insight that they realize they’re not ankle-deep, but that they’re out in the middle of the lake drowning in problems before you try to rescue them with your product? That’s when they’re ready to believe in the viability of our product, not before. “
So not only do stories help customers to internalize the value of being rescued by your product, but they are also 12X more memorable than facts. In one Stanford University study, for example, only 5% of the audience remembered facts, but 63% remembered stories.
Questions for you to consider:
1. What percent of your salesforce can articulate value and help your customers to get it?
2. What percent of your sales team share customer stories? Are they effective?
Hypotheses: True or False?
I believe these hypotheses are true, because without providing insight scenarios to today’s empowered buyers, salespeople are forced to follow the customer down the path of commoditization and discounting.» read more
1- Puts the customer’s ego to sleep
With an insight scenario, you can deliver insights that will only challenge the customer’s thinking, and not the customer. Because insight scenarios are about someone else, the customer does not feel under attack. A story simply presents a scenario that allows the customer to draw their own conclusions. Without feeling pressured, the customer can now relax and listen to your message, and possibly gain enough insight that they start to tell themselves a new story, where new choices make more sense. Read more »» read more
Even though insight is what buyers need, it may not be what they initially want. By the time buyers engage with a salesperson, they may already have an idea of their needs, the solution they believe they want, and what they are willing to pay. So how does the seller use insight to challenge the customer’s thinking without challenging the customer? Read more »» read more
While many companies complain that 80-90% of their salespeople can’t sell value, they are spraying their sales force with product presentations, and praying that their salespeople will be able to figure out why customers should buy their product. But instead of complaining, these companies should feel blessed that they can increase sales by capturing and sharing this valuable tribal knowledge with the rest of their sales force. Read more »» read more
Imagine running a sales team where the last person that your customers want to speak with is one of your salespeople? That’s the conclusion of a recent Gartner survey where Salespeople came in last place after technical and industrial experts, services and support, and senior executives as “the most influential personal interactions across the entire buying cycle.” (click)
So what’s the problem? Read more »» read more
“Colleague Michael Harris wrote this blog post recently, and I couldn’t stop cracking up! I laughed so hard I had to read the story to my husband Tim. He laughed just as hard.
Michael uses storytelling in his sales training, and he uses this story to demonstrate why it works. Just imagine telling this story in corporate language. We’d be bored to tears.
But here’s another way to think about this story. We all have at least one story like this. A story when we screwed up big time. A story about a time we failed. A story about a near miss. A story about good friends who stick around even after misadventures. Read more »» read more
True story. Before a meeting, a potential customer downloads, and then watches 11-videos on SAP’s CRM. So by the time the meeting rolls around, the last thing the potential customer wanted was more information, because they’re drowning in it. All they wanted from the salesperson was insight into three key areas.
So how do you sell value and differentiate your product to these empowered buyers? Read more »» read more
How can you persuade someone to buy your complex product when 90% of your presentation is forgotten within 72-hours[i]?
The short answer is you can’t. Unless you dramatically change how you engage with customers, they won’t understand why they should buy your complex product, because of the limitation of our short-term working memory. Read more »» read more
Selling value to B2B buyers today can feel like trying to stop a freight train that’s hurtling towards the sales graveyard of commoditization and discounting.
Today, an empowered buyer has done research, has a clear idea of his or her firm’s needs, and how much the firm is willing to pay. This type of buyer does not want a salesperson to talk about features and deliver a series of open-ended questions that delivers no value. What this buyer wants is insight. So, how does a salesperson deliver insight so that it challenges the customer’s thinking without challenging the customer? Read more »» read more
With the rise of the empowered buyer, it is no wonder that Microsoft, and SAP have embraced insight selling. But these companies have also learned that there is a gap between theory and the practical application, because insight selling is more than just using data, facts, and brilliance to shock and awe buyers about the error of their ways. Read more »» read more
In business, time is money, so the last thing you want is to waste time sitting through a dull detail laden presentation. And as you wonder where it’s heading, you ask yourself why they couldn’t have just giving you the top five bullet points so that you could get on with the rest of your day. Read more »» read more
After working on Wall Street for 14 years, I’ve always presented facts and figures to B2B buyers, because that’s how I felt serious business people made decisions. This belief was backed by 2500-years of conditioning. It started when Plato said that man is rational, and that it’s our emotions that interfere with rational decisions. But recently I had an experience that called this belief into question. And then shortly thereafter, I was presented with a compelling study from neuroscience that also refuted this belief. So when these two events collided, the myth that buying decisions were strictly rational was busted. I now understood why customers get stuck in analysis paralysis, and what I could do to help then to avoid it. Read more »» read more
Everyone is talking about how salespeople must now learn how to deliver insights to their customers, because the internet has changed how people buy. So by the time a customer now engages a salesperson, they’re already 60% of the way through their buying cycle, because they’ve done most of their research online. So they don’t need more information from a salesperson. What they need is insight into what the information means.
But what is insight, why is it important, and how do you deliver it? Read more »» read more
Well, when you get sick, do you ever go onto WebMD before you visit the Doctor? So when you show up at the doctor’s office, all you want him to do is to write you a prescription for what you feel you need? And if the market for buying prescription medicine was truly competitive, wouldn’t you also be looking for a better price? Read more »» read more
If I told you that a fact, wrapped in an emotional story, is 20-times more memorable[i], would you believe it?
I didn’t at first. So we continued to throw facts against the customer’s wall, and they continued to stick as if they were coated with Teflon.
I wanted to believe that our value propositions could stick like Velcro, but I couldn’t until I personally experienced the power of an emotional story to make a dull fact unforgettable. And this story took place a few years ago at my son’s soccer game (see video of story live below). Read more »» read more
And when the decision was made by SAP’s CEO, Bill McDermott, it becomes a great story.
- Why, for instance, did Bill feel that the role of Chief Storyteller was so important that he personally recruited Julie Roehm 18-months ago for the role?
- Why did he hire a B2C candidate for a B2B role?
- And with all of Bill’s experience (Sales Xerox, President Gartner, Exec VP of WW Sales & Operations Siebel, and CEO SAP), what insights can we gain from his decision? Read more »
Joel needed new customers. But he found that he wasn’t 100% committed when he picked-up the phone, because his fear of rejection made him apprehensive. It felt like he had one foot on gas, and the other on the brake. And because customers sensed that Joel wasn’t completely sold, they weren’t interested in what he was selling, because no one wants to be rescued by a drowning man.
So Joel’s turned to his VP of Sales for advice, but he didn’t find being told to ‘just suck it up and make the calls’ particularly helpful.
Fortunately Joel loved to read, and he was shocked to discover that his fear of calling new clients was due to an overactive instinct of survival. Read more »» read more
Two years ago Gord Smith, a Partner at Ideaca (one of Microsoft’s largest partner in Canada), hired a bunch of new salespeople to hunt for new business, because he knew the partners were too busy servicing clients (click for video). Read more »» read more
When I asked for more details on how a customer could use our product, Tim, our Managing Director, joked: “Michael, you’re in sales, you’re too stupid to understand.” But the sad thing was that this was what he, and his delivery team really believed. And when I wanted customer stories, I only got the watered down versions from marketing. Because marketing didn’t trust sales to properly share these stories with customers, they had the executive team sand off the rough corners that made the stories interesting- to the point that they were useless. So there I was standing outside the walls of customer knowledge, trying to prepare for a potential customer meeting with the few scraps of information management decided to throw down to sales. Read more »» read more
Salespeople are selling blind, because they are not being coached on customer knowledge. Without an accurate customer map, they can’t link their capabilities to their customer’s pain points. This results in lost sales, because customers are left to try to figure out why it makes sense for them to buy, or even worse, why they should care.
We’ll show you how simple it is to find, and then fill customer knowledge gaps. And your sales team will do it in as little as 10-minutes a week.
Simply have one of your salespeople share a relevant customer 2-min. story each week, and then have their peers provide feed-back. Read more »» read more
By recognizing the difference between a customer story that “Sells” vs. a story that “Doesn’t Sell,” you can see for yourself how your own customer stories can be changed so that they inspire prospective customers to buy, instead of providing them with no reason to change.
The mistakes made in the story that “Doesn’t Sell” are common. Because the effects of not having the Seller’s capabilities are abstract, the story doesn’t make the Buyer want to change, because the risks don’t feel real.
Without making the risks of not having the Sellers capabilities feel more real than the risk of change, the Buyer will stick with the status quo. Read more »» read more
The results are in, and it’s time to fire 15% of your sales team. But do the numbers tell the whole story?
You know, for example, that a rep’s sales can also be negatively influenced by: a) a competitor in the rep’s territory who is a star salesperson; b) a string of bad luck that may turn around, and; c) some salespeople take a little longer to turn around.
You also know that buyers today buy differently, so instead of just letting go of the poor performers, wouldn’t it be better to go through your sales team to see who is capable of prospering in this new sales environment, and who isn’t? Read more »» read more
But will another sales process or sales methodology really help?
Most companies have tried 2-3 of them, but have they helped salespeople sell more? A sales methodology or process may provide better reports to management, and improve the sale team’s efficiency; but right now, do you really need to better forecast poor sales, or does your sales team really need to be more efficient at doing the wrong things? Read more »» read more
But before we dive into the science, let’s do a thought experiment, so that you can discover what is more likely to inspire you to act, a story or a fact?
Story scenario: Imagine you are the VP of Sales for Software USA. After an overnight flight, you are walking over the Waterloo Bridge in London on a sunny April morning. You are on your way to the biggest interview of your life- to run your European operations.
After investing over $1,000 on a new wardrobe for this very important interview, you sidestep a puddle, to avoid getting your new shoes wet. Just then, out of the corner of your eye, you see a small girl fall off the bridge into the frigid water below. As she cries for help, without thinking, you jump in to rescue her.
As you emerge from the river, you notice that your suit and shoes are ruined. But that’s quickly forgotten, when you look down into the frightened girl’s eyes, and realize that she is just about the same age as your daughter. Read more »» read more
The sales challenge: You may be surprised to hear that your biggest competitor isn’t another company, it’s the customer deciding to do nothing. Customers will not act, as long as the status quo is supported by: Read more »» read more