Blog Article

The Changing Buying Cycle

Organisations are experiencing a change in the traditional sales and buying cycle. As we all become more switched on consumers, the sales cycle is changing to match our buying patterns but are your sales staff making the change too?

An interesting and unintended consequence of the internet is the increasing number of people using it to educate themselves and define potential suppliers rather than engaging with sales people as they used to. This phenomenon means that buying cycles are more advanced at the point of sales engagement.
Previously people met with potential suppliers to educate them about products and trends, to help them build a short-list. Today that is happening on the web.

This change has three implications for sales organisations:

1. Web Presence

The information you put on the web will affect how your sales operation engages with the market. Sales people are finding that they are getting involved later in the buying cycle and the ability of buyers to educate themselves is why.

To address this problem, sales and marketing need to agree on what is published on the web and polices that agreement.

2. Dealing with Mature Buying Cycles

The traditional need development process isn’t appropriate if your prospects can define their needs and just want you to provide a quote so that they can compare you to other appropriate suppliers. In this environment sales people must be able to challenge the prospect’s assumptions – and challenging isn’t a skill that’s well developed in sales people.

3. Competitive Knowledge is Vital

Sales people must understand the prospect’s needs and use their product knowledge to explain how they’ll meet them. But today that is just the start. Sales people also need to know enough about the competition to debate, objectively and factually, their strengths and weaknesses compared to the prospect’s needs.

This brings us to a controversial view that goes against one of the commandments taught in Selling 101 – don’t knock the competition. I beg to differ. Political advertising today is negative and however much people say it’s off-putting, the fact of the matter is it works, which is why it’s used so much. Look at the Apple Mac v PC advertising – they’re ‘knocking’ ads.

This ‘don’t knock the competition’ attitude means that often, sales people avoid talking about competition at all.

So give your sales people the knowledge (market/competitive offerings) and the skills to be able to debate, objectively, how they’re better able to meet the prospect’s needs that other suppliers.

In summary, the sophistication of the buyer has changed beyond recognition and if you don’t change your sales education to reflect this, you will lose business.

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