Selling has changed. Gone are the days of a linear sales process and the predictable conversation that goes along with it. With this change comes the responsibility of understanding how and why this change is occurring, and how you can help your reps continue to be successful.
Yesterday, Tamara Schenk posted a great article explaining two different types of B2B selling: transactional and complex. Transactional selling is what you may consider “old school” selling: one product, one buyer, and little (or no) interaction with a salesperson. Complex selling is the more modern way that most reps sell; it includes multiple decision makers, extensive product research on the buyer’s end, and a more personalized experience provided by the salesperson.
Why is this important?
While this distinction is good to know, it’s more imperative to understand that the transactional sales process is nearly extinct. The internet has made it possible for buyers to find nearly all of the information they need to make a decision, or at least get the right people involved in the buying process, before speaking with a sales rep. This is where selling gets complicated.
The article goes on to explain that each of these types of sales has different requirements. For transactional sales, this is more of a step-by-step process to follow for each buyer persona (think of a sales playbook), and complex sales require more a more dynamic, personalized approach. But when a customer interaction doesn’t go as planned (do they ever?), a one-size-fits-all approach is impossible. It is now crucial for a rep to think on his or her feet, while prioritizing the needs and pain points of all parties involved, no matter the industry, position or department. But preparing sales reps for each and every situation that they could ever run into is unrealistic.
So, what can companies do to help their reps?
In her article, Schenk suggests that the recipe for a successful sales interaction includes both a savvy sales rep and a content/messaging service. She suggests an interactive sales playbook that can guide salespeople “to find the right entry point for different buyer roles and different situations in different industries.” But even then, especially in B2B sales, you will likely have multiple buyer roles involved in the same conversation, and you probably won’t find out about this change before the discussion. I doubt the chapter “What to do when nothing goes as planned” exists in any sales playbook.
The key is providing sales reps with the right content, at the right time, for any industry. By doing so, you give your sales reps access to the tools they need to be the best they can be. By making content contextually relevant (by industry, stage in the sales cycle, profession, etc.), you can ensure that your reps have what they need for any conversation. Further, if you train your reps to think on their feet, listen for customer pain points and priorities, and personalize the sale, they are able to strategically problem solve and decide exactly what content would provide the customer with the most value (and most valuable buying experience).
The days of transactional selling may be over, but I don’t see the sales process getting any less complex. You can simplify your company’s sales process by making reps strategic problem-solvers armed with the most relevant, searchable and up-to-date content, which will create the most successful selling environment possible.