Consumer salespeople are, of course, changing their approach to selling based on the changing needs and wants of consumers. But B2B salespeople should do the same, says Pieterjan Bouten, CEO and co-founder of sales enablement platform Showpad, because B2B buyers are increasingly bringing their personal consumer approach to their professional role.
“Today’s B2B buyers,” Bouten says, “are starting to act more like consumers. They demand relevant content, prefer to research online and on their own, and don’t find value in sales meetings that don’t address their specific needs. They have higher expectations than ever before and will only make time for content that is directly relevant to them.”
In fact, recent research by Training Industry and ValueSelling Associates found that, like consumers, corporate buyers “are doing more of their own homework.” However, this research concluded that this “buyer landscape” may be at least partially due to “a combination of a lack of knowledge about the nature of prospective buyers’ business realities and a lack of skills to communicate effectively in an increasingly technologically-mediated sales environment.”
Better sales training and enablement are required to mediate these problems. For example, Julie Thomas, president and CEO of ValueSelling Associates, writes that salespeople need training in business acumen in order to “speak the language” of their buyers. The research also recommended improving salespeople’s ability to diagnose where buyers are in the buying cycle and then adapt their approach accordingly.
To make salespeople more efficient as well as simply making them better at their jobs, Bouten believes it’s important to have one platform for all content, readiness and engagement. That includes access to training, coaching and skills practice. That’s why Showpad recently acquired sales training and coaching software company LearnCore. Their new, integrated platform is, Bouten believes, the only one on the market to include all of those critical activities – training and coaching to help reps build expertise before the sales process and content and analytics “to facilitate engaging digital experiences during the sales process.”
“Great buyer experiences,” says Bouten, “are built on a foundation of sales excellence.” That means having reps who are knowledgeable about the product or service they’re selling, able to uncover buyer needs and then identify solutions for them, and communicate in the formats and at the times buyers prefer. Because of the importance of understanding buyers’ needs (and wants), it’s critical to make sure sales reps have strong active listening skills. In fact, the ability to ask good questions – and then carefully listen to the answers – is arguably one of the most important sales skills.
“Buyers don’t have the time or tolerance to meet with people just for the sake of meeting,” Thomas adds. Identifying the right time in the buying cycle to communicate the right information is key – as is identifying the right way to communicate that information. For example, 81 percent of respondents to the Training Industry survey prefer that salespeople contact them via email, and only 27 percent prefer in-person meetings. Additionally, notes Bouten, “in today’s fast-paced world,” content should be easily shared “regardless of device or browser.”
As learning leaders, we are charged with adapting our strategy according to the needs of our organization and our learners. Sales leaders must help their reps do the same – adapt to the changing needs of the buyers they interact with. Fortunately, good enablement and training strategies will help.