New research from Richardson Sales Training reveals the biggest focus for sales professionals in 2018 should be articulating value. This stems from strong competition and an increasing number of decision makers on the buyer’s side.
Top challenges facing salespeople in 2018 included:
Creating a targeted prospecting strategy
Understanding how buyers make decisions
Gaining higher prices
Combatting the status quo
Balancing sales and relationship management
Building the right sales skills
Hundreds of survey respondents helped us identify these pressing challenges. So, what are the next steps, and how do you develop practical solutions? We’ve got a few ideas.
6 Challenges for Salespeople in 2018
1. Creating a targeted prospecting strategy
The Challenge: Selling today requires more resources. Therefore, sales professionals must identify the right buyer profile early to use those resources efficiently.
The Solution: Creating a targeted prospecting strategy begins with a clear definition of best practices. And this means adopting a brand-marketing mindset.
To do this, you must identify the right leading message and communicate that message with the right voice. Sales professionals can develop this message by asking, “Who should we be talking to?” “What do they care about?” and “What value can we offer?”
2. Understanding how buyers make decisions
The Challenge: When a group, rather than an individual, is making the buying decision, it’s difficult for sales professionals to get all the pieces necessary to create a comprehensive pitch or strategy.
The Solution: Sales professionals must be aware of the competing priorities and the different needs those priorities represent within the buying organization. To do this, they must ask the right questions to get to the core of their buyers’ challenges and develop an understanding of how decisions flow through the organizational chart.
Questions like, “What has made this a priority for your team right now?” “Who else is affected by these challenges?” and “How will solving this issue affect your team?” are all great ways to learn how individual teams think about the challenge at hand, and how their views fit within the larger organization.
3. Gaining higher prices
The Challenge: Customers are taking advantage of increasing competition among sales professionals by demanding low-cost solutions. This dynamic puts the sales professional under increasing pressure to maintain the full value of the sale.
The Solution: Trust is the foundation for gaining higher prices, and information exchange is the foundation of trust. Sales professionals can build trust by offering customer-relevant insights that earn the designation of a trusted advisor.
Sharing relevant content, advising prospect on how new features will benefit their business, and finding ways to differentiate their product/service in the marketplace are first steps in maintaining product value in the prospect’s eyes. Show what a higher price tag gets the prospect — and make it worth their while.
4. Combatting the status quo
The Challenge: Access to vast and conflicting information paired with complex internal decision-making hierarchies slows and even stops the sales process.
The Solution: Sales professionals need to impress upon their buyers that avoiding a decision carries risk. Sellers need to help the customer develop a proactive mindset and shape the buying process around the fewest possible steps to make it easy for the customer to move forward.
If you feel your prospect slipping away, ask questions like, “What will happen if you don’t solve for this challenge right now?” “If you choose not to address this issue today, will you still have to address it in the future?” and “What is the cost of leaving this problem unaddressed right now?”
Remind your prospects why they reached out to you in the first place. You can’t tell them why now is the right time to buy, but you can lead them to that conclusion on their own, with targeted questions like these.
5. Balancing sales and relationship management
The Challenge: Increasingly complex sales require more follow-through. As a result, the sales professional has less time to pursue new opportunities.
The Solution: Sales professionals can balance ongoing demands while pursuing new opportunities by vocalizing their intention to keep new product discussions separate from those about work already implemented. This allows the sales professional to focus on “whitespace” in the account, without encroaching on the value expected from previous work.
Upselling and cross-selling are still more effective techniques than selling new business opportunities. While it’s important to maintain a balance of prospecting and relationship management, allocate time to check in with clients, ensure they’re happy, and then — and only then — upsell or cross-sell to them.
6. Building the right sales skills
The Challenge: With limited resources and large quotas, sales organizations must focus on building the selling skills that have the greatest business impact.
The Solution: Build skills that train sellers to ask insightful and relevant questions to understand customer needs and challenges. To reach a close, a sales professional needs a path. The customer’s answers are that path. Explain the rationale for asking the question, and practice using role-play exercises.
Regularly revisit scripts, conduct call reviews, and encourage feedback among reps. If someone is killing the close, have them lead a training session on how they achieve that success. If someone is struggling to get past discovery calls, pair them with a rep who crushes that part of the sales process.
Invest in maintaining and improving your team’s sales skills, and you’ll stay in-tune with customer needs and one step ahead of the competition.