At the same time, more data requires greater stakeholder participation in buying decisions. The result is varied options and competing opinions.
It doesn’t stop there. Technology has created a divide between the buyer and seller. In fact, Forrester forecasts that by 2020, 1 million B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service e-commerce.
The good news: Sellers can leverage seven key traits to bring the buyer back to the table.
7 Ways to Bring Buyers Back
1) Avoid seller-centric behaviors
Many sellers believe they’re customer-focused. However, their behavior rarely reflects this belief. Research from McKinsey revealed B2B companies averaged less than 50% on a customer experience index rating. In other words, the customer is not feeling the love.
Become more customer-centric by avoiding the impulse to jump to the sale. Instead, start with incisive questions like, “What are your business goals this year?” or “What roadblocks are preventing you from meeting those goals?” This dialogue uncovers business needs that get to core challenges. In the end, sellers can position the product when the time is right.
2) Use consultative selling
Move from transactional selling to consultative selling, or learning about the buyer’s challenges before discussing your product. This shift enables you to accurately diagnose their pain points — which is important because these business challenges are often obscure even to them.
With an understanding of both stated and unknown needs, the seller can leverage the most cogent data to reach a solution. This “data distillation” is critical in today’s world of information overflow where only relevant data counts.
3) Lead with a plan
Outline your plan early. Sellers can demonstrate credibility by starting with a well-articulated outline for the conversation. An organized approach also signals your respect for their time, so be sure to prepare not only the outline but how you’ll present the material.
It’s crucial these initial remarks grab the buyer. Why? A 2017 survey from Richardson revealed 26% of buyers believe “combating the status quo” is the biggest challenge when making a purchasing decision. Overcome inertia by engaging the buyer’s sense of practicality.
4) Get smaller commitments leading up to the close
Big decisions are difficult, but sellers can ease this burden by eliciting feedback from the buyer. Request their opinion on your insights and you’ll gain incremental commitment. As a result, instead of asking for the sale all at once, the seller asks in pieces.
This process creates alignment between the buyer and seller. Feedback also helps identify objections early when sellers are best equipped to respond.
5) Ask smart questions
The successful seller is the informed seller. This information must come from the buyer, so sellers need to ask the right questions. But because buyers are increasingly pressed for time, it’s imperative to start with critical questions first.
Most importantly, questioning provides the opportunity to float ideas. Buyers may be more willing to entertain new ideas when the seller frames concepts as questions, which makes effective questioning the core of a consultative approach.
6) Understand the neuroscience behind how buyers buy — or don’t
Despite the widening divide between buyers and sellers, both groups are joined by a few fundamental needs. The Social Determination Theory assumes all people are fundamentally motivated to integrate new experiences into their lives and develop mastery over their work. It also illustrates our common need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Insightful questions help sellers respect these needs.
To help the buyer feel autonomous, avoid manipulative leading questions. Reinforce their sense of competency by focusing on their concerns and ideas, and create an emotional connection by mentioning your commonalities and empathizing with their situation.
7) Work from facts, not assumptions
Anchoring bias is our natural tendency to favor one piece of information over another as we make decisions. It’s a challenge sellers are overly familiar with, but it’s not insurmountable. Sellers can overcome this problem simply by talking with the buyer openly about why they favor certain information when making decisions. Learning why your buyer relies on these facts will give you greater insight into how to move the conversation and the sale forward. Avoid anchoring bias by practicing mindful listening, and you’ll be better positioned to offer a solution.
Information and solutions are limitless, and analysis is scarce. Effective sellers demonstrate their value by leading customers through the decision-making process, and these seven practices help the seller and customer work together to find the solution that best fits their needs.