I don’t know when exactly it happened, but it definitely happened in the last 15 years – selling changed. While there has always been complexity in business to business selling, the proliferation of information and connectedness amongst people has created a far more sophisticated buyer. Whether you’re buying a 4K TV at your local Best Buy or you’re buying your next enterprise application for thousands of users on behalf of your company, you have access to a wealth of information, you have many choices, and you expect a personalized experience designed for your needs. These expectations require a different approach to selling.
Great selling has always been about understanding people and their problems. The subscription economy has only accelerated the focus and amplified the importance of understanding and getting it right for the customer. Today’s B2B sales teams must earn the customer’s business every day or they can choose to turn us off. Understanding the customer, focusing on their desired outcomes, and enabling a great experience must be at the center of everything we do. The only way to sustainably grow revenue is to have a relentless focus on the customer.
Our new Benchmark research study validates that the thirst for revenue growth is the top business priority (89%) in 2019. For the past several years we have reached out to hundreds of business executives and sales professionals to learn more about the changing dynamics in the world of selling. This year we’ve found that while growth for new customers is the top priority, customer retention (87%) is a close second. As businesses continue to move to subscription models, growth and retention will continue to be closely linked.
Our research also uncovered several other factors that should give executives and sales leaders pause as they consider their operational strategies and investments in 2019:
- Technology disruption is on the rise. Digital Transformation and the rise of Artificial Intelligence continue to increase in priority as the most disruptive technology trends for the third year in a row. Having a strategy is no longer optional.
- Sales teams often lack a clear plan and need more investment. The study found that that 40% of sales people are going to customers meetings without a clear plan for success. It also found that only about 50% of companies are spending enough to improve sales effectiveness. These statistics suggest a great opportunity to improve revenue growth and performance.
- Customer trust is in decline. No longer is the CEO of the vendor or the employees in that company at the top of the trust tree. The most trusted resource when people are buying, by a factor of 2:1, is a peer in another company that acts as an unbiased reference. This only reinforces the need to focus on customers long after the initial sale.
What I have experienced, and what the data from our empirical research supports, is that selling is about understanding your customers’ business. Deep understanding provides key insights on customer needs and informs how best to do business with your customer. The customer and their business problems and desired outcomes must be at the center of your selling efforts, and it requires a team to be successful.
Sales is no longer a ‘lone wolf’ pursuit. The complexity in understanding customers’ business problems and the people you need to influence within the customer demands that B2B selling is a team sport. A carefully aligned relationship strategy with deep insights on the different influencers within the customer becomes critically important. To win, everyone must be part of the revenue team.
While we would all agree that our front-line sales executives need more coaching, only 51% of the respondents we surveyed felt their company was doing an effective job at coaching. Time is most certainly an issue, but shouldn’t there be a system and process to help drive that coaching on a daily basis? Shouldn’t this system be smart enough to guide the revenue team on what to do next in advancing the opportunity to the next stage?
We believe there is a whole new category emerging for Customer Revenue Optimization. This is where the customer is at the center and everyone is part of the revenue team. Our approach is best understood in how we optimize the revenue of our customers and this only happens when we truly understand their business. Welcome to the new science of selling where software meets methodology that is guided by artificial and augmented intelligence, and fully mobile enabled so the revenue team gets continuous guidance to deliver the right outcomes.
Altify is the global leader in Customer Revenue Optimization and is committed to helping you win the opportunities that matter, grow revenue with your existing customers, and aligning everyone on the revenue team. Today we are releasing our Customer Revenue Optimization Benchmark Study 2019 and making generally available our Altify Spring ’19 release. Welcome to the future of selling.