Sellers who win sell radically differently than sellers who come in second place. That’s according to What Sales Winners Do Differently, a new research report from RAIN Group, a sales training and consulting firm. In its research, RAIN Group analyzed more than 700 business-to-business purchases to find out what separates sales winners from second-place finishers.
As I reviewed the results, it struck me just how much more marketing can do to help turbocharge results in this new world of selling.
Here are five things RAIN Group found that sales winners do better than second-place finishers, as well as how marketing and sales can collaborate to maximize sales results:
1. Sellers who win connect the dots between buyer needs and the seller’s solutions.
Mike Schultz, the coauthor of the report, notes the Harvard Business Review recently published an article titled, "The End of Solution Sales." RAIN Group’s research, however, found quite the opposite. In many cases, sellers are often left to their own devices to make the connection between customers’ needs and how their products and services can act as solutions to those needs.
Yet, in most organizations, the marketers are assigned responsibility for analyzing and communicating how their company’s offerings can improve their customers’ condition. Marketers should create tools and playbooks that do this basic work for the sales team. These tools should include a grid of company offerings, how these offerings solve needs, the impact (or benefit) of solving those needs, and questions sellers can ask to uncover those needs. This has a huge impact on a seller’s ability to connect the dots between needs and solutions.
2. Sellers who win persuade buyers they will achieve worthwhile results.
Case studies that demonstrate how your company created client results are gold to sellers. When marketing can provide these studies, the new buyers will a) see the results are possible, b) desire the results for themselves, and c) go a long way to being convinced they can achieve similar results.
3. Sellers who win minimize buyers’ perception of risk.
This was a surprising finding. As Schultz said to me, "The concept of risk reduction has shot up in recent years in its importance to winning sales. Buyers have been burned in the past by promises not kept and are still feeling the sting of the Great Recession. Risk reduction is more important than ever." While the seller is essential in building trust with the buyer, marketing needs to be responsible for its brand, thought leadership, and communicating a history of results that build trust in the company itself and its offerings.
4. Sellers who win convince buyers they are the best option.
In a word, this is differentiation. Marketers can have a huge impact on helping sales communicate how their offerings—and their company—are superior to other options. Getting competitive positioning right takes great effort, but produces great results. It’s often better for marketing to do it once and allow the whole sales team to leverage it, than it is for the sales team to try to get it done themselves in their spare time.
5. Sellers who win collaborate with buyers.
Consultants from CEB published The Challenger Sale, which recommends that sellers focus on challenging (and generally being more antagonistic) toward buyers. I wrote about this topic on FastCompany.com earlier this year. RAIN Group found the opposite in their research. RAIN researchers found that collaboration, not confrontation, gets better sales results. Creating events where buyers, prospects, and sellers can connect offline provides many possibilities. Blogs, private live events, and breakfasts; online meeting technologies such as Google Hangout; and online collaboration communities (like what CDW did here to improve sales prospecting) provide marketing leaders with myriad options.
All marketers should read What Sales Winners Do Differently. Consider sending the brief report to your sales and marketing teams. The more they know about how sales professionals and buyer behaviors are changing, the more they can sell like the top performers.
When marketing and sales collaborate with prospects, the race to the finish line happens with more ease. Don’t make selling more challenging than it needs to be.
[Image: Flickr user Pier-Luc Bergeron]