Today’s blog post is by Mark Boundy, CEO of Boundy Consulting.
In 2022, some organizations will realize they’re automating the wrong thing: a sales model that isn’t how their customers would like to engage.
Research (CSO Insights, 2018 and Sales Mastery, 2021) shows that while some customers are fine with an optimized sales process with dedicated cold-caller/appointment setters, demo specialists, and closers, they also found that some customers want much more. Some welcome expert “trusted advisor” sellers.
The near-universal buying process has variations
Let’s reacquaint ourselves with customer behavior. The customer journey is the same it’s always been, but has two main variations, one of which is being called “the new way customers buy”. To understand each option, take a moment to study the persistent buying process:
When a customer knows all about what they’re buying
When a customer is repeating a familiar purchase, the first step above seems like it’s shortened or even eliminated entirely. We’ve heard the research: Many buyers self-inform before engaging with vendor salespeople, who simply need to respond efficiently to an already-underway buying process.
This isn’t actually an abandonment of the persistent process; the customer is simply repurposing some of last time’s decision, and to outsiders, it just looks like the truncated diagram above.
Here’s the twist: When salespeople don’t add value, customers commonly self-inform elsewhere. When buyers perceive sufficient information availability (and scarcity of good sellers) they conduct the beginning of their process in stealth mode: it still happens, just without your salespeople allowed access.
Many in the “sales industrial complex” tell us that this shortened buying decision model is the new normal. They sell us tools to automate “quickly getting in line with self-directed buyers to win our share of business”. We’ve all been pitched with a highly automated sales model for customers who are well informed and highly confident in their ability to make a decision.
The “divide and optimize” model divides selling into discrete steps, positions specialist jobs in each portion of the selling process, and optimizes automation and performance within each step. Here’s the thing: This “divide and optimize” model works great for well informed customers. That isn’t all customers, though, is it? What if it’s not yours?
For many buyers, what’s old is new again
The CSO Insights and Sales Mastery research shows that many customers consult much earlier in the buying process if the decision is:
- New to me or my company
- Risky to me or my company
Under these conditions, the customer slows down, and their process looks like the full-length persistent process—that is, fully front-weighted.
They are willing to consult with anyone who rises to the level of trusted expert. They don’t care whether that’s your salespeople or someone else—they just want value added to their decision process. Whoever comes in and establishes their worth wins a “trusted expert” seat at the customer’s conference table. If they elevate your seller into that seat, the sales model will look much different than the divide and optimize model:
Customers willing to engage a trusted advisor won’t settle for script-reading cold-callers. In fact, most outreach specialists generally provide ample proof that your company isn’t the one who deserves a trusted advisor seat at the table. Maybe a competitor has salespeople who pass the test.
Choose wisely in 2022
Before you go into 2022 with a poor-fitting sales model, figure out where your offer’s buying decision lies on a customer’s “willingness to engage” scale. If your customers need a “trusted advisor” selling model, you may need to invest in your people, not your tech stack.
When you do, you’ll find that it improves your sales, your pricing integrity—and profits— informs better marketing, and sharpens your product strategy. I’m happy to help you figure out how to do it in your world, using your language.
To your success!
Get access to a tool that will help you navigate the “willingness to engage” scale. It only takes a few minutes to complete. Email me for a copy. If you don’t want to reach out, you can get started by reading my book, Radical Value: How to Take Your Company to the Next Level Through Radical Customer Centricity.