The world’s economies are experiencing a rare period of synchronized growth. In fact, each of the 45 major economies are growing in unison, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Clearly, the time is now for effective sales professionals to deliver. However, as opportunities grow, so do challenges. Common missteps could put the competition ahead.

Here are some challenges sales teams are currently facing and insights for navigating today’s selling industry.

Competing Against Low-Cost Providers

It’s becoming more difficult to articulate the value of a solution as low-cost providers enter the picture. Technology is putting more players on the field as more barriers to entry fall. In addition, sales professionals are struggling to deliver on revenue and profitability goals. This challenge often arises in the negotiation process.

The solution: Convert demands to needs. This approach is effective because needs (e.g., “I need more latitude in the payment terms”) are much easier to discuss and resolve than demands (e.g., “I can’t spend that much”). Once needs are clarified, it’s possible to identify multiple options for meeting them. Doing so avoids resorting to costly concessions. The goal is to maintain the scope of the work and pricing with a mutually beneficial outcome.

Creating a Targeted Prospecting Strategy

Technology is changing the prospecting game. Sales automation tools are enabling a new level of sophistication in finding and engaging leads. However, the effectiveness of this technology is only as strong as those who use it. The sales professional must keep the functionality of new CRM systems focused on business outcomes. This means keeping the customer at the core of all decisions.

Moreover, the challenge of connecting with the customer has become one of connecting with multiple customers, since more buyers are involved in the decision-making process. Developing a brand marketing mindset is helpful. It refines the message, which speaks to the specific needs of the customer. Sales professionals are thinking carefully about the kind of customers they want to serve and what they care about.

Understanding How Buyers Make Decisions

The increase in the number of stakeholders is a result of dimensional business needs. There are competing priorities and needs within the buying organization; therefore, sales professionals need to ask the right questions. They must get to the core of the challenges without losing momentum. At the same time, they need to understand how decisions flow through the organizational chart.

Doing so requires a refocus on relationships. This approach allows important information to move unhindered. In time, the dynamic changes from being transactional to being consultative.

The Status Quo Remains Powerful

Overcoming the status quo is a central problem for sales professionals today. Unfortunately, the problem is growing. Buyers have access to more information and options than ever. This complexity slows or even stops the process. Additionally, buyers are increasingly focused on the financial impact and ROI of their next move. They’re asking what metrics matter when gauging the effectiveness of a solution.

Here, it’s important for buyers to understand that avoiding a decision carries risk; the competition will move forward no matter what. Help the customer develop a proactive mindset. Additionally, shape the buying process around the fewest possible steps, making it easy for the customer to move forward.

Balancing Sales and Relationship Management

Complex sales require ongoing work. Multifaceted business challenges require the sales professional to rise to the level of a trusted advisor. These aspects of selling take time.

Sales professionals can balance these demands and new pursuits by signaling their intention to keep new product discussions separate from conversations concerning work that’s already been implemented. This way, the sales professional can focus on “white space” in the account without encroaching on the value expected from previous work.

The Most Valuable Selling Skill

In a recent survey of hundreds of sales professionals, respondents cited “asking insightful and relevant questions to understand customer needs and challenges” as the most valuable selling skill in 2018.

Buyers’ competition is on the rise, which has prompted them to fight the effects of commoditization by leveraging nuanced differentiators. As a result, sales professionals should make an effort to understand the nuances of the customer’s business. The solution: Ask insightful questions that uncover needs and shape the customer’s thinking by directing his or her focus to your value proposition.

To reach a close, a sales professional needs a path. The customer’s answers are that path. Explain the rationale for asking the question.

The buyer is changing, and sales professionals must change with them. With a refocus on the right skills, the strongest sales professionals stand to gain big in 2018.