World-Class Sales Teams Know Why Customers Buy: Do You?

Blog94_UnderstandVisionMost successful sales people are adept at professional selling; they know their products and services quite well. They’ve also accumulated a lot of experience identifying prospect situations where there’s a good fit. The process isn’t easy. Smart salespeople spend considerable time at the whiteboard planning for the ideal fit between offer and solution.

Unfortunately, in the complex world of B2B sales, going from the whiteboard to the solution isn’t a direct route, even when the buyer has need and your solution is obvious. Let me illustrate.

The Forgotten Influencer

A few years ago, an insurance brokerage firm brought a unique concept to me and asked if I had relationships with large employers where this product would be a fit. They developed a process with algorithms that could substantially reduce the cost of group term life and disability insurance, a basic and costly benefit every large company offers.

In the majority of cases, the brokerage firm would reduce the company’s cost by as much as 60 percent without altering benefits. In fact, the cost reduction was guaranteed for five years without any change in carriers. Pretty straight forward.

I prepared a list of large employers; the firm did its homework, and I ended up with a good estimation of the savings. On average the prospects on my list could save $2.5 million annually, without changing benefits to their employees. A real no brainer.

The lead salesperson on the brokerage firm picked up the phone, called the CEO or CFO, at the level of my relationships, and gave each the pitch. For the most part, these prospects were excited to hear this news and turned the salesperson over to the head of benefits or the director of human resources.

Yet in 100 percent of his follow-up calls, we heard, “we are not interested.” Confused, I asked the salesperson to go back and restate the benefits in cost savings the company would realize, and emphasize the seamless implementation, which meant no hardship on operations. Still the same response.

Blog94_UnderstandVision2When I followed-up with my contacts at the CEO or CFO level, they deferred to the benefits people and made excuses for the timing and said things like, “this is a bad time of the year because we are re-enrolling our benefit plans.

What was missing?  I identified a big need and had an attractive cost-savings solution, however, I never focused on the prospects’ vision for the solution, and each buying influencer’s reason for buying (their personal win), and results they sought.

In one of the calls I made, I later found out that the director of benefits was threatened by my cost reduction. She relied on the company’s current broker for other services and felt none of the cost savings would end up in her department. Getting us involved was more work with no upside for her.

Understand the Vision

The smart way to sell is first gain an understanding of the prospect’s concept or vision for a solution—that’s to say, not tell him what you think he doesn’t know or deliver a canned pitch developed by someone, “usually in marketing.

Now if this sounds obvious to you, bear with me. MHI Global Research Institute’s 2015 Sales Best Practice Study cites that 89 percent of world-class sales organizations clearly state, “We know why our customers buy from us,” versus 70 percent of all respondents.


Buyer Behavior: “We know why our customers buy from us.”

Blog94_UnderstandVision3Every customer makes decisions for different reasons and knowing why customers buy from us becomes increasingly challenging. The alignment of product capabilities to business requirements gets more difficult as products become more sophisticated and complex. At the same time, the proliferation of open-market information has made the evaluation and comparisons of capabilities a far more cumbersome process.

Complicating the buying process even further, products are becoming more solution-like, and their impact on the organization is broader than ever before. This forces the salesperson to connect and engage with new buying team members who were typically uninvolved in similar decisions in the past.

2015 MHI Research Institute’s Sales Best Practice Study

There does come a point in every sales situation when the experienced sales professional recognizes that it is appropriate to introduce new information and to connect the seller’s capabilities with buyer needs.

Sales professionals know this happens at various stages in the buying process as the buying team acquires knowledge. In the real world of closing complex sales, presenting a solution that is connected to the prospect concept occurs at the end of the sales process, after developing and building trusted relationships—not the beginning. Understanding the prospect’s concept recognizes that only the prospect can decide what’s important to them.

Top Performers Individuate

A “pitch-first, ask questions later” approach assumes that all prospects have the same needs and is the typical approach of a commodity product sell: One size fits all sales strategy will fit only one size. We all do it, even though we say we are solution or sales process-driven.

By contrast, world-class sales professionals zero in on how this prospect will make this decision this time. Prospect buying dynamics cannot be automated or canned. Getting closer to prospects, understanding their strategic issues and recognizing that each prospect is unique, is a defining attribute of World-Class Sales Organizations.

These top performers hold the prospect/customer/client in the center of everything they do. They have developed and deployed sales management processes that allow the entire sales force to identify consistently and manage opportunities, as well as to manage the relationship behind the opportunity. They are aligned with their marketing team in terms of which prospects to target, what they want, and the value propositions resonate.

Imagine the benefit to you of managing a sales force that operates at a world-class level. MHI Research Institute’s research, combined with 30-plus years of real world experience demonstrates that “World- Class Sales Organizations” know why their prospects buy from them. They understand the prospect’s business issues before presenting a solution. They realize that in complex and dynamic B2B professional selling environments, there are no silver bullets.

Learn more about our research on the behaviors, attributes and performance of World Class Sales Organizations by downloading the Executive Summary of the 2015 MHI Global Sales Best Practice Study , then do consider taking our Sales Performance Meter to benchmark your performance against World Class Sales Organizations. You’ll be amazed at the number of areas worth your time, attention and improvement.

See you on the upside, Bill

For more information on how to simplify the complex sale, go to
Or call Bill in San Diego at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700

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