The internet has opened up a world of information and its influence can be felt across every area of business. It has changed the way B2B buyers source and make their purchasing decisions and for sales teams, this has come at a price. It is has meant the death of sales as we know it and a new kind of buyer behavior to master.
To survive in the face of today’s buyers, sales teams need to adapt – and quickly. Potential clients will do their homework. They will head online to research their problems and pain points and read up on potential solutions, while seeking advice from their peers. They don’t even need order takers anymore, as that part of the process can also be done far more efficiently by machines.
What modern buyers are looking for is credible and knowledgeable sales people who will help them navigate their choices and come up with ingenious and creative solutions to their specific problems.
While traditionally, sales people would have been focused on pushing their product (and pushing it hard) in today’s world that method is unlikely to work. In fact, it could potentially even be damaging.
What is called for is a consultative approach based on listening, learning, understanding and then giving a client want they really want and need.
For some teams, this will call for a complete shift in how they’re operating and the tactics that are being used. It may require some serious upheaval, as classic sales tactics often clash with modern approaches and not everyone has recognized the need for consultative selling.
But many sales teams have, and they are starting to innovate and consider the other options and approaches open to them. This includes modern sales tactics, such as:
- Aligning sales and marketing teams – devising plans and strategies together, and having marketing talk to potential clients directly
- Online lead generation – using the company website to generate leads instead of having armies of cold calling agents
- ABM – account based marketing – not a new concept but greatly enhanced by technology and the creation of highly targeted content
- Sales automation – tools that can enhance the individual sales experience for potential clients, while making life easier for the sales team
Employing new sales tactics is all well and good, but there is one vital piece of the puzzle that can’t be ignored and that’s ensuring the sales team is fully aligned with them. But how do you do that?
Drive engagement early on
The process of driving engagement and getting buy-in from team members should begin long before any changes are actually made. It is far more likely to be a smooth process, if team members are made part of the process early on. It will help them to better understand any changes and developments before they are implemented.
Deciding together on the best way forward will naturally generate better results, simply because people will have a greater sense of ownership and a stronger stake in the decision making.
For any changes or new tactics you plan to introduce, it’s also advisable to have some ambassadors in the group, who will help facilitate their acceptance.
Successfully driving engagement goes hand in hand with providing extensive ongoing training. It will never work if you drop new tactics and methods onto team members and just expect them to get on with it.
Make sure everyone understands why you have made the changes, as well as what they are and how the new strategy will work. This is particularly important if new technology is involved.
You will need to dedicate an extensive amount of time to training and to recognize that people learn at different rates. Some individuals may need more support getting to grips with things than others. Repetition is what will form a habit, so keep at it.
Often modern tactics will only work if everyone is on-board with them and using the new systems to the full, and as they’re meant to be used. Hoping people will just figure it out by themselves is never going to lead to success, so a training plan is vital.
Checking on the progress of any implemented changes is also important, in order to keep things on target. Without actively tracking and follow up with reminders, it can be easy for people to fall back into old habits.
Any new tactic will take a period of time to get up and running, and to work effectively. You may also need to make certain adjustments or adaptations along the way, which haven’t been anticipated.
Actively seek feedback from the team and keep them motivated by talking to them about the changes in any recurring meetings. Highlight results as they start to come through and regularly ask for everyone’s experiences.
Teaching old dogs new tricks
Much has been written on this subject (including by us, see: ‘How to get your sales force to go with the times’). That’s because, as far as sales tactics are concerned, it can sometimes be difficult to convince people to adopt new strategies.
Change can be hard to swallow, especially if the results aren’t going to be seen immediately. Just dumping new methods onto the team, without much in the way of an explanation, is likely to set you up for failure. Instead, include the team in the decision making and listen to feedback.
Recognizing any concerns and addressing them moving forward, will be a positive step in the right direction.
Goals and strategic priorities
Is your team aware of the wider business goals? Do they know what the strategic priorities are within the department, and your organization as a whole?
Introducing some simple communication routines is often all you will need to keep everyone up-to-date and interested in developments.
Getting the job done
Once your team is on-board with the changes, aware of why they are happening, has been given ongoing training and invited to feedback and share their experiences, your job will be done, and you’ll be in a great position to make a success of the new way of working.