Are you feeling the pressure of selling time?

For most businesses, the answer would be a resounding ‘yes’. They say time is precious, but in the world of sales it is simply invaluable. The fact is, the sales industry has evolved beyond recognition during the last five years. A transformation that has been driven mainly by the soaring demand in customer expectations. Throw in the mix more sales tools, more products, more complexity, more hurdles to getting a deal done. The result is less selling time – which is perhaps why CSO Insights data shows that on average sales people spend just 30% of their time selling to customers*.

No matter how efficient your business is there will always be what we call NOISE that the sales organisation has to cope with. We define NOISE as – No Observable Impact on Sales Effectiveness.

One key issue is the apathy of the customer. Another recent CSO Insights research paper showed that nearly 77% of customers wait until they have scoped out potential solutions before they contact you, or allow you to contact them**. What does this mean? Customers are learning more about our products without us. Gaining access to the right people is getting harder. Like most of us, the right customers have way too many things to do, and way too little time to do them. They prioritise. Unfortunately they no longer prioritise sales people. That’s because they take the information they can get in the public domain as verbatim and confuse it with ‘real’ expertise and insight to help them buy.

Getting access to buyers at the right stage is key. CEB research on complex buyers shows that on average there are 6.8 buying influences involved in complex b2b buying decisions today***. The study also found that when the most complex deals fail, they fail in the early stages. When one or two buying influences are receptive to change but they can’t get the fire started in those around them. This data point could actually be good news. Effectively it means that if we can protect selling time and get to the right people, at the right level at the right time, we still have the potential to add value, add insight and help find the right solutions.

What we see in the market today is that buyers are professionalising quicker than the sales people. Savvy buyers would now profile you if you’re a key supplier. They know exactly which relationships they should invest in and which ones are easy to replace. Do many sales people get that level of help segmenting the right customers in this way? We find that they don’t.

Subsequently, some experts believe there is a growing demand for Artificial Intelligence to help guide and coach sales people in real time. There is no doubt that systems like Einstein from Salesforce and Scout from Miller Heiman could have a big impact on the industry, with predictive analytics adding value and creating insights for sellers. What we see from the very best organisations, aligned with great tools and technology is a laser focus on some simple questions before they start any sales enablement initiatives:

  • What exactly do you want to sell more of across your portfolio of products or solutions?
  • Who exactly do you want to sell to?
  • Through whom do you want to sell?

These seem like three easy questions to answer. But they may need more clarity outside the boardroom to help sales managers and sales people focus on the right opportunities. Your sales team and sales managers should have an absolutely crystal clear image of which customer they are looking to sell to. As clear as if you asked them to describe a zebra; ‘it’s a horse with stripes, right?’ That way they can invest the time needed for those specific customers and spend more time planning for those meetings.

No one needs help to say ‘yes’ these days. What we do all need help with is saying ‘no’ to prioritise who is important. ‘No, that isn’t a good customer for us so I won’t waste valuable resource on them’. When sales leaders guide their teams in this way it will help to relieve the modern day pressure on selling time. They can start to work smarter, use their precious time more wisely and deliver faster, bigger wins.

* 2017 Sales Operations Optimization Study – CSO Insights

** 2018 Buyer Preference Study – CSO Insights

*** CEB The Challenger Customer – Patrick Spenner et al