In an information, data saturated world, buyers are truly able to engage with sellers less and less. In a report published in Q1 this year from Gartner, in a complex B2B purchasing decision, the stakeholders spend only 17% of their time with suppliers. If you are in a competitive situation with, say 5 potential suppliers, this means that your buyers are only engaging with you about 3.4% of the time. This is downright depressing for the seller that prides themselves on developing relationships and spending hours poring over each word on a slide to potentially have such little mindshare in return from our customers. This also means that every moment spent is of the highest value on both the buyer and seller side.
So, what do you do with that 3.4% of the time? How can you persuade the deal AND gain a competitive advantage AND drive greater customer engagement and mindshare? Here are some guiding principles, that may seem basic, but are often overlooked. These will ensure a tailored customer-centric experience with every interaction you get with the customer to give you a greater chance of success:
- Pre-call: Plan and Prepare – these are different!
- Plan – what is the purpose of the call, what is the outcome you are seeking, and who needs to be on the call as a result? What is the unique value you are going to create with this interaction? What is the call to action you want them to take after speaking with you?
- Prepare – what is happening in the customer’s environment? What research do you need to do in advance of the conversation and more importantly, what is your point of view on it that you can share to facilitate a discussion? Lastly, what supporting documents do you need to have at the ready to share with the customer?
- During the call – you are the value!
- Assume they already know about your company. Instead of opening the conversation with a canned slide about global presence ASK if have done research and what they already know. This also gives you a chance to clear up any misperceptions they might have picked up along the way. Then mention any key points that are important for them to know, based on their buying role, as part of your introduction.
- Ask why NOW? Often customers dive right into specific questions they have about your capabilities, especially if they have done their homework already. It can be tempting to take the bait right away. But asking if it is alright to come back to the question in a moment and reframing the starting point for the discussion is equally as important. Understanding the driver behind why they have decided to act now is critical. Maybe it is an issue they have been wrestling with for a while. Probe to find out what got things put into motion to solve the problem now.
- Create insights! On top of the Gartner data mentioned above, the 2020 McKinsey data says, “70% of B2B decision makers say they are open to making new, fully self-serve or remote purchases in excess of $50,000, and 27% would spend more than $500,000.” So, when a customer agrees to spend time with you it’s a CHOICE. What are you going to do in this conversation to drive customer engagement and create a unique and valuable experience for them?
- Ask for what you want or need to be successful. No need to save it until the end. If there are things that you need or next steps that are clear as the conversation unfolds, go with the flow and ask for them. The worst that can happen is that you are told no!
- After the call – Show your SAY:DO ratio
- It is all about promises made and promises kept. Keep this in mind from the famed Greek storyteller, Aesop, “When all is said and done, more is said than done.” Demonstrate your reliability and expect the same from your customers!
While the world has gotten faster for sellers and buyers, coming back to these basics can be a good reminder to put the thought, time, and attention into every customer interaction. They are not just evaluating your company. Frankly, they have probably already done so before chatting with you. They are also evaluating you. How you engage and the value you can create is a chance to elevate your personal brand with people who are CHOOSING to spend time with you.
Gartner – https://emtemp.gcom.cloud/ngw/globalassets/en/salesservice/documents/insights/the_chief_sales_officer_1q22.pdf
McKinsey – https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/growth-marketing-and-sales/our-insights/these-eight-charts-show-how-covid-19-has-changed-b2b-sales-forever
Before each customer call, write down the question, “What is the unique insight I am going to provide?” Answer that core question as the beginning for your call planning!