Flexibility is the future in B2B sales


Today’s web-savvy B2B buyers believe they know best. They’ve done the research. They know all the suppliers are alike. Now it’s all just down to the price.

60% of executives say that their companies do not “consistently do a good job of aligning offers to target customer segments.”*

In the face of this belief system, it’s tempting for sellers to just take their best shot and respond with a scripted, rehearsed, best-practice selling gambit learned during their sales training. They try:

  • delivering a highly-polished, stand-and-deliver sales presentation to counter buyer resistance;
  • working through a series of structured questions that tend to uncover needs the buyer already knows they have rather than drive new insight; 
  • demo-ing their solution with a focus on proving why it is technically superior to competitor offerings. 

Unfortunately, structured selling approaches like these usually make the sale even more challenging.

Disengaged, know-it-all buyers see these approaches as sales tactics rather than genuine invitations to discuss issues, problems and solution strategies. They make the seller appear inflexible to the buyer, who often already feels that that suppliers don’t understand their unique requirements. In short, the approach makes it harder for the sales team to connect its value to driving customer needs.

Here’s a better approach

Focus sales planning not on structured message delivery but on creating flexible, planned-but-not-scripted dialogue-based interaction with customers. Provide your sales team with skills and tools to help them control the dialogue and flexibly adjust their approach when needed. This planned flexibility is characterised by sellers who:

  • Arm themselves with Nuggets of Value that can create buyer curiosity and make them doubt whether they do, in fact, know it all.
  • Prepare questions rather than presentations, and consider how they will shift their questioning strategy based on the functional role of their buyer.
  • Develop follow-up strategies based on the range of possible buyer responses to initial questions.

Everyone agrees that sales people need to plan more effectively to be successful. In today’s B2B buying environment, which features more team (vs. individual) buying, this kind of flexible selling approach is more important than ever.

What traditional techniques have you found fail you most in this web-savvy world? Where do you research your target industries? Share your knowledge and build a library.

* Bain & Company: “Mastering the new reality of sales” (2014) http://www.bain.com/publications/articles/mastering-the-new-reality-of-sales.aspx and http://www.bain.com/Images/BAIN_BRIEF_Mastering_the_new_reality_of_sales_.pdf

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