To Win Against Increasing Competition, Equip Your Salespeople With A Deeper understanding Of Your Buyers

Last week I spoke with the VP of Sales for a tech company that used to have the hottest product in his market.  In housing terms, they used to be an exclusive and much sought after neighborhood, but now the competition has moved in on all sides and sales are down.  His sales force is facing a vastly growing number of competitors. Some are much larger and have broader portfolios that give them better presence in customer accounts. They’re getting squeezed and are finding it harder to compete in deals where they used to be the only solution.

Your only true differentiation comes from how your reps interact with your buyers

What’s interesting is that the vendor mentioned above is still experiencing consistent success when his company’s salespeople gain access to executive buyers early in their decision process and work in a consultative manner with those buyers to shape a vision of a solution.  When that happens, salespeople are confident discussing the business issues faced by those buyers.  They’ve found certain industries that they know well where they are able to do this consistently.  They are not getting squeezed by competitors and they are winning. But often, they're chasing deals that competitors started and reps are drawn into an RFP frenzy that chews up time and resources.  After all, they used to win these deals, but now they're pretty demoralized and reps are starting to leave.  

It's all about empathy for buyers

Your marketplace is likely filled with reps who don’t understand your buyers’ roles and challenges. Losing a lot more deals than they win is the norm for salespeople who can’t get access to the right people in a buying organization and have successful conversations that lead to shared vision early enough in the decision process. Our research shows that, in financially stable companies whose products are roughly equivalent in capability, once access to the right buyers is gained, the winning advantage almost always goes to salespeople who deeply understand buyers’ roles and relevant business challenges and how to help the buyers solve them.

Want evidence?

Following are links to very short but compelling Forrester reports that I've specifically selected for you in consideration of how to help your team differentiate and win.

What Does It Take To Win With Executive Buyers? Helps you understand whether you are looking for the wrong signals to identify sales opportunities with greater chances of winning.

What Do Executive Buyers Find Valuable? shows you and your team how to communicate with executives in a manner that creates a perception of high value.

What's On A Seller's Agenda?  shows how salespeople are actually interacting with buyers and why a huge gap is created that causes lost sales.

Executive Buyer Expectations — The Bar Is Low shows how salespeople fail to meet buyer expectations

Our point of view is that if you want to compete more effectively, then you must equip your salespeople to deeply understand their buyers (what we call buyer empathy) and change their dialog to align with executive buyers earlier in the decision making lifecycle.  We know that when you get in early and help create the solution vision with the buyer that you win more.  Our research proves that this win rate is upwards of 74% (see infographic).

The question is “How do we help reps to engage in a totally differentiated way with deep buyer empathy?”  The Failing School System For B2B Sellers illuminates that the product-focused training of salespeople that is occurring in most organizations is creating massively negative perceptions of sellers by executive buyers - the ones you want your team to engage with early on.

Stay tuned!

At Forrester's Forum For Sales Enablement Professionals I’ll be introducing a new framework for developing salespeople to have more rapid and sustainable success.  If you want a preview, register for my January 30th webinar: Sales Onboarding: Solving the devastating delay from sales hiring to consistent production.


Creating opportunity trumps responding!


Great post! That's a very compelling chart, isn't it? It ought to be hanging in every CSO/Sales VP's office.

Like you, this is something we've been preaching for awhile now. Yes, the challenges to getting in early vary by industry, vertical, channel and nuance, but by and large, you can develop strategy, tactics and competencies (replicable plans and learnable skills) around creating opportunity.

In that vein, we've built models for what we call the Selling Modes, where we teach reps to Create, Shape, or Respond to opportunities, based on where they enter the buying process. There are things you can do and ways to guide the dialogue, that can increase win rates in each phase (and sometimes, pull them backward into a previous stage)... but none as significant as when you get in early. We also offer thoughts about how to enter earlier and do exactly as your data recommends - which is also supported by our Richardson's Selling with Insights® program.

It's exciting to see this data again, which supports the approach so clearly. I hope enough people are heeding your advice.

Stay the course and keep the great content coming,