Diametrically Opposed Forces: Selling Value in a Buyer Controlled World

Updated: March 31, 2011

Alinean just had the pleasure of wrapping up a webinar with SiriusDecisions analyst Jim Ninivaggi, and this session contained important research and advice for developing the right B2B sales enablement strategy and tools to address key buyer changes into 2011 and beyond.

Here's our three key takeaway opportunities:
1) Buyer Facilitation versus Selling,
2) Buyers, Fueled by the Internet, Firmly in Control,
3) Most Prominent Inhibitors to Sales Achieving Quota is "Inability to Communicate Value Messages".

Buyer Facilitation versus Selling
The majority of B2B sales teams have faced an elongated sales cycle over the past few years. But the problem is not "why sales cycles are getting longer", it's why buyers are taking longer to make decisions.

However, solving this problem will be difficult for most teams, as sales remains inwardly focused on the traditional funnel based selling process, rather than having a keen understanding of how customers make decisions and actually buy - the buying lifecycle.

Understanding how to facilitate this buying lifecycle, especially how to connect and engage today's economic-focused executive, is a key to sales success, and establishes a roadmap for sales enablement.

Sales teams will need to analyze the buying cycle, understanding the key steps buyers take to make decisions, and implementing engagement methods and tools to help facilitate the process.

Buyers, Fueled by the Internet, Firmly in Control
With a wealth of information from vendors, analysts and peers, buyers are doing more research on-line. Executives and other key stakeholders are using the Internet to help them identify issues and opportunities, set goals and strategy and explore possible solutions.

At the same time, buyers are indicating that sales is often not prepared for meetings, and not adding value above and beyond what they can research on their own. As a result, sales is being invited later into the decision making process, if at all.

By not engaging early, sales is left responding to proposal requests versus helping to set strategy and recommend solutions - a sure recipe for smaller deal size and less competitive advantage. In order to succeed, sales needs to provide unique diagnostics, insight and advice to earn the right to engage with these empowered executives during critical early decision cycles.

Engaging earlier requires that sellers have the skills, processes and tools to "earn the right" to present earlier, and deliver unique value during the dialogue.

Most Prominent Inhibitors to Sales Achieving Quota is "Inability to Communicate Value Messages"
With two economic downturns in the last decade, B2B buyers have become more austere. Now over 90% of buyers are economic-focused, requiring quantifiable proof of bottom-line impact in order to prioritize, and invest in proposed solutions - a condition Alinean coined "Frugalnomics".

At the same time as economics are a prominent decision factor to customers, sales is indicating that they are having trouble communicating value messages to customers, and that, according to SiriusDecisions, this value communication inability is the number one inhibitor to achieving quota success.

These economic-buyers are significantly involved early in the buying process as the driver/catalyst for change, and again later in the buying cycle, to justify the investment and drive financial accountability. In early phases, especially in today's risk-adverse environment, it is often easier for these buyers to do nothing versus investing in a change. Therefore, sales must engage early to quantify the "cost of doing nothing" and to "make the case for change" in order to loosen the status quo.

According to SiriusDecisions, most sales are getting stuck in the last part of the buying cycle - justifying the decision & making competitive selection - the biggest cause of elongated sales cycles. Later in the sales cycle, sales needs to be able to provide a ROI business case for the particular recommended solution, as well as quantify competitive advantage, often using total cost of ownership (TCO) comparisons.

In order to fight Frugalnomics, successfully selling to these economic-buyers, requires new skills, processes, and tools.

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