Recently, the CEO of a FinTech vendor realized that his sales team has “gone rogue.”
His sales people are spending upwards of 20 minutes in discovery meetings just talking about their company and product, rather than engaging buyers in a conversation that will aid discovery.
When they do ask discovery questions, they start in the weeds, asking about details that will facilitate pricing for a proposal, but neglecting the higher level questions that would allow them to uncover the buyer’s business needs, goals and pain points. So they never gain the insight they need to really understand the prospect and qualify the opportunity.
Then, in the follow up meetings, instead of using approved sales presentations provided by Marketing, the sales people are taking outdated sales decks, customizing them as they see fit, and repeatedly going off message.
These sales people are professionals, and they’re trying to be customer-centric. Problem is, they’re missing important business context and misrepresenting features.
So let’s figure out what’s gone wrong.
Buyers Are Part of the Problem
First of all, we can’t place all the blame on the sales people. Buyer expectations have changed radically in the past 3 years.
In most cases, buyers start their research and discovery process online. By the time they’re willing to interact with your sales team, they already have a vague idea of how they’re going to solve their business problem. Buying committees have limited time and can be impatient.
They expect your sales person to quickly figure out their needs and show them how they can achieve their goals with your product. Unfortunately, if your firm isn’t lucky enough to be the first vendor they call, they’re likely to be less than forthcoming with their business needs.
Good Discovery Uncovers the “WHY”
So your sales team needs a really good discovery process. They have to go beyond figuring out the prospects’ technology needs, and drill into the business drivers behind those needs. They need to do situational analysis to figure out how your capabilities fit the prospect’s needs. They need to convey a vision for how the prospect can best address their problems using your solution.
Most sales people are good at uncovering “what’s, how many’s and when’s.” Those details are important for scoping and pricing, but you’ll never convey sufficient value if you don’t get the “WHYs.”
And in most sales opportunities, the only chance to do that kind of discovery is in the initial meetings. After that, buyers will lose patience with answering questions and push you to just get on with the demo or pitch.
Arm Sales with Discovery Questions and Conversation Starters
Marketing can help this process by providing insights into buyer needs based on your voice of the customer research and buyer personas. Give the sales team brief positioning statements and short reference stories to provide context. Pair the stories with a series of high level questions and conversation starters to help Sales strike up conversations about business needs and drivers.
The better prepared your sales team is with customer insights and questions, the more effective they’ll be at the discovery process.
Sales Presentations Need to Be Customer-Centric
Customer centricity doesn’t stop with the discovery process. It has to flow through every sales presentation and demo. Here’s where we run into another roadblock.
Marketing spends a LOT of time creating standard sales decks.
It’s natural to want to standardize sales decks and deliver the same presentation to every client. It’s more expedient than re-inventing the wheel for every prospect, and it helps keep the sales team on message. You can train the team to present and be confident that the same message is delivered consistently.
But it’s not customer-centric.
And Sales can use it as a crutch. They’ll run through the standard sales presentation, pitching features and benefits, but not tying these to the prospect’s situation and needs. The buyers politely sit through the presentation, but whether they’ll connect the features to the capabilities they need is anyone’s guess. The sales person has lost control of the sale.
OR, the sales person goes rogue. They don’t feel that the standard deck meets the buyer’s needs, so they create their own decks, using slides that are out of date or off brand. In my client’s situation, this is resulting in garbled messaging and a lack of clarity.
Sales Needs a Library of Approved Slides
My client realized they need to take a different approach. They were trying to create standard slides, but they were having trouble agreeing on the content because the deck couldn’t answer every possible buyer need without being to long.
So my client decided to create a LIBRARY of approved slides. This allows sales people to assemble a customer-centric presentation that matches the buyer’s business and technical needs.
A Sales person first customizes introductory slides to reconfirm specific business needs and drivers. Then, based on the needs, he or she pulls in relevant capability descriptions. The new approach better aligns the vendor’s solution to the buyer’s goals. It gives buyers a clearer sense of how they can solve their business problem using the capabilities you provide.
When your sales team can do this consistently, the way you sell becomes a competitive advantage.
Voice of Customer Research is a Pre-requisite to Being Customer-Centric
PropelGrowth’s Voice of the Customer research service can help you make sales efforts more customer-centric and turn how you sell into a competitive advantage.
We interview your clients, lost deals and customers of direct competitors. We dig into the business problems your customers are trying to solve. The insights gathered from this kind of research can be invaluable to your sales team. We use voice of customer research to:
- Create customer-centric marketing and sales playbooks and sales presentation libraries.
- Educate Sales on the business needs, goals and drivers that led customers to purchase.
- Provide customer stories that provide context and articulate your value proposition.
- Prepare business-oriented questions and conversation starters Sales can use to uncover needs.
Companies that invest in voice of the customer research and use the results in sales tools and training see dramatic improvement in sales effectiveness. If you’d like to learn more, .
Here are some articles that dig deeper into the subject of buyer research.