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The problem Customers don’t need you the way they used to. Over the last three decades, B2B selling has evolved from a transactional (product-price) approach, to a relationship-based process, and to a solutions-based model. Today, this way of selling is being challenged by procurement-savvy teams that cut the grass under your best sales reps’ feet. Our legacy The new reality B2B used to be about relationship, product, and solution selling Armed and skilled customers make you come short in the sales cycle In the current economic environment, B2B customers have learned to buy with greater care and reluctance than ever before. With increasingly sophisticated procurement teams and the help of procurement consultants, B2B customers can readily define solutions for themselves. According to a recent study*, nearly 60% of a typical purchasing decision – researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, benchmarking pricing, etc. - is completed before even having a conversation with your sales teams. To win a deal, you have to get ahead of the RFP. But even if you can, it is increasingly no longer sufficient. It is very likely that you will not get away of the RFP process and that you will have to play by rules set by your customers, or its procurement consultants. Relationships continue to be key, but good relationships are more the result and not the cause of successful sales. Since the 1980’s, best practices in B2B selling and marketing moved away from the traditional transactional and then relationship-based approach to a more solutions-oriented one. Sales reps have become experts at discovering customers’ needs and at selling them “solutions” based on a relatively complex combination of products and services. Part of the deal is to find and nurture an “anchor” within the customer organization who can help navigate the company and drive the deal to completion. The whole process is focused on attaching your company’s solution to a customer problem, on justifying why it is better than the competition, and on providing “evidence and reference” to the expected benefits. (*) CEB research, 2012 – Panel of 1,400 companies
The problem Solutions selling has been the holy grail for a long time… Solutions selling is largely driven by suppliers’ attempt to escape a dramatically increasing commoditization of their products and services. The product-solutions selling continuum Most companies have the ambition to be positioned as solutions providers Silo-Based Product Sales Product Bundling Advice & Service Wrap-Around Needs-Based Product Customization Customer Process Enhancement Fully Integrated Partnership Product Selling Solutions Selling • A shift to solution selling results in customers’ expecting you to actually “solve” a real problem and not just to supply a reliable product. This implies that you not only understand the customer’s underlying problems or challenges as well if not better than they do themselves, but also that you can identify new and better means of addressing those challenges, articulate clear benefits form using limited resources, and determine the right metrics to measure success. Straligence, Adapted from CEB research, 2012
The problem … but it has increasingly become a burden to both customers and suppliers Selling ever bigger, more complex, disruptive, and expensive solutions requires a lot of “discovery” time and effort, from both sides. The result is a “solutions fatigue”: traditional, time-tested sales techniques have become a burden to both customers and suppliers, and an alarming number of half-completed deals remain on the table. This has lead customers to react and engage with suppliers in a very different way. Solutions Fatigue Customer buying trends The solutions-based discovering process has become a burden Customers have been taking initiatives and four major trends are emerging What is keeping you up at night? What are your competing challenges? The problem with providing an answer to these questions is that it can often take the feel of a protracted ping-pong match between the supplier and the customer. The customer explains their needs, the rep summarizes their understanding, the customer confirms whether or not the rep got it right; a proposal is made, the customer reviews and amends it, and on and on. This requires a huge amount of customer involvement at an early stage… before they see any value. Consensus-based sales Increased risk aversion 1 2 The payoff of complex solution is uncertain and C-level executives increasingly require the widespread support of their teams in a large purchase decision. This leads to even longer selling efforts to align the interests of all involved parties. The uncertainty of a pay-off in large and complex deals pushes executives to ask for a shared-risk and reward agreement. Here the lead KPI is the performance of a customer’s business, not the one of the supplier’s product or service. Greater demand for customization The rise of third party consultants 3 4 A solution approach implies that customers look for an offer that is tailored to their needs. They see customization as part of the solution, and do not intend to pay a premium for it. To the sell-side, this implies longer times and higher efforts and costs. Customers increasingly rely to a neutral third-party to “extract maximum value” from the purchase decision, i.e. help them reduce the risks, costs and complexity linked to the solution. Needless to say, this adds pressure to the sales rep and can extend the sales cycle. Straligence, Adapted from CEB research, 2012
Searching for a solution Can one type of sales rep make a difference? Among different profiles of sales executives, the one that has a much higher chance of being successful today, particularly in complex sales, is the “Challenger”. This is the one who uses a deep understanding of a customer’s business to serve them and to teach them, pushing their thinking, and providing different views on how to manage and compete. The Relationship Builder TheProblem Solver TheHard Worker TheLone Wolf The Challenger • Builds & nurtures strong advocates in the customer organization. • Generous in giving time to help others. • Gets along with everyone. • Highly reliable in responding to internal and external stakeholders. • Detail oriented. • Ensures that all problems are solved. • Always willing to go the extra mile. • Doesn’t give up easily. • Self-motivated. • Interested in feedback and development. • Tends to follow own instincts instead of the rules. • Self-assured. • Difficult to control. • Always has a different view. • Has a deep understanding of the customer’s business. • Loves to debate. • Pushes the customer. Sales Profiles 7% 12% 17% 25% 39% Top performers The highest percentage of top sales performers is found under the Challenger profile High Low In complex environments, the Challenger is by far the profile that is most likely to succeed. The Relationship Builder is highly unlikely to succeed in complex sales environments. In environments with low complexity, the most successful profiles are the Hard Worker and the Lone Wolf. Complexity of sales INSIGHT SELLING Straligence, Adapted from CEB research, 2012
Insight selling The Characteristics of Insight selling Insight Selling is about targeting customers that can act quickly and decisively, teaching them something new and provocative about how to compete in their market. Messages are tailored to the specific metrics and economics of the company and its key individuals. All along, the Challenger is in control of the sales, pressuring the decision making cycle. Insight vs Solution Selling • Targeting based on the potential for change, not to buy. Focus on customers that can act quickly and decisively, that are not paralyzed by structures or relationships that hamper change. • Firms where demand is emerging, pushed by organizational or market/industry drivers. TARGET Traditional solution selling is based on finding a hook to a recognized need. Insight selling challenges the customer and makes it aware of unknown needs. • Delivering insight that reframes the way customers think about their business and their needs. • Teaching customers something new, thought provocative, and valuable about how to compete in their market. TEACH • Communicate sales messages in the context of the customer, focusing on customer value drivers, economics and performance indicators. • Messages are tailored to different types of functions and individuals within an organization. TAILOR TAKE CONTROL • Using control, diplomacy, and empathy, the Challenger pushes the customer out of its comfort zone, focusing on the value added, not on price discounts. • Challengers pressure the customer’s decision making cycle to reach a decision more quickly and kill ‘indecision inertia”.
Insight selling Insight selling in practice The best sales conversation present the customer with a compelling story about their business first, teaches them a new perspective, connects this with their reality, and then leads to how it can be realized via unique differentiating capabilities. The insight-based sales pitch Warm up Reframe Rationalize Bind emotionally Present what’s needed Why your solution is unique 1 2 3 4 5 6 Build credibility: “I know your world” Surprise with a new perspective, making them wanting more Leverage Fear Uncertainty & Doubt via data based on value drivers Make the customer see the challenge /opportunity as their own Present the capabilities required to seize the opportunity Demonstrate how your solution is better than anyone else’s • Present industry challenges experienced by similar companies. • Introduce your assessment of the customer’s key challenges. • Leverage benchmarking. • Introduce a new perspective that connects challenges to either a bigger problem or a bigger opportunity than the one the customer ever realized. • Lay out the business case why the new perspective is worth considering. • Leverage data that directly connects to the customer’s economic drivers, i.e. present ROI in terms of solving the challenge, not on buying a solution. • Paint a picture of how other companies went down the same road by connecting the pains in the story to the pains in the customer organization. • Point by point review of the specific capabilities the customer would need to grow, to save money, or to mitigate risks. • Introduce the capabilities that are truly unique to your organization and that can help the customer seize the opportunity and/or face the challenge.
Insight selling The advantages of Insight selling By proactively proposing a solution tailored to specific customer needs and leveraging your unique capabilities, you are more in control. You are likely to gain faster widespread buy-in, to increase your chances to win the deal, while gaining the loyalty and respect of your customers. Before the deal After the deal You proactively pitch to your own unique strengths Insight selling strongly drives customer’s loyalty Greatest drivers of loyalty Accelerate time to decision Much of the heavy lifting is done before individual reps go in front of the customer, considerably reducing “solution-fatigue”. • Supplier has widespread support across my organization • Helps me avoid potential land mines • Supplier is easy to buy from • Helps me shorten the buying cycle • Helps me navigate alternatives • Offers unique, valuable perspectives on the the market • Matches communication to my preferences With a pitch tailored to the specific interests of the company, those who most benefit from it become your internal advocates and allies within the customer organization. They help you sell your proposal to the different stakeholders. Increase and accelerate widespread support • Collaborates with other suppliers • Educates me on new issues and outcomes • Provides ongoing advice or consultation • Portrays a realistic picture of purchase costs & difficulties DECISION MAKERS • Excels in diagnosing our specific needs • Helps me quantify financial value As you craft a proposal that combines customer’s challenges and your unique capabilities, you are less likely to go through a competitive bid, incl. the formalities of the procurement department and/or third parties. Increase your chances of winning • Helps me improve my professional standing and meet KPIs • Remains readily accessible • Advocates for me within the organization • Supplier adjusts to our unique needs and specifications • Proactively accelerates decision making • Demonstrates a high level of professionalism Weakest drivers of loyalty As you are being proactive, you are more in control of the sales process, guiding the customer on how to make it happen. Take control Weakest drivers of loyalty Greatest drivers of loyalty END USERS AND INFLUENCERS Straligence, Adapted from CEB research, 2012
Insight selling Think about the possibilities Insight selling gives you a “Blue Ocean” way of competing where you are in the lead of customer proposals and you play by your own rules. Imagine if you had the insight and capabilities ofa management consulting firm in your go to market model. • Imagine if you could: • Know your customers’ industry as well as, or even better than, they know it themselves. • Combine the strengths of a management consulting and research firm with your unique business capabilities. • Trigger a series of workshops together with key customer executives to challenge the status quo and imagine new opportunities. • Proactively propose insightful solutions to multiple industries and customers, widening your portfolio of opportunities and increasing your win rates. • Keep competitors at bay by proposing solutions that strongly fit your unique capabilities with the economics and operational/growth targets of your customers. • Turn the sales process upside-down by having customers come to you for your unique advantage instead of having your sales-reps make cold calls.
Organizing for Insight Selling Winning at Insight Selling requires specific capabilities Insight selling requires ad-hoc resources, processes, and tools in strategic planning, marketing (insight & ideas generation), sales and HR. Only a handful of large, often international, players are capable of hosting these capabilities in-house, particularly in terms of insight generation and the relative ability to create innovative proposals underlined by a deep industry and customer knowledge. Area / Function Capability / Requirements Multinational player Large national player Small – Medium player StrategicPlanning • Differentiating capabilities that are clearly defined, understood and communicated. • Target industries and customers segmented also based on needs. • Ability to leverage insight and supporting data across industries and markets. Insight & Ideas Generation Machine (Marketing,Sales, R&D, Operations, Accounts Mgmt, etc.) • Ability to generate and quantify customer-specific insight, incl. competitive, financial, operational challenges. • Innovation capabilities to define a new point of view on the customer’s business, products, business model, etc. • Ability to quantify the economic impact of your proposal on your customer’s bottom line. • Ability to define the impact of your proposal on your customer’s organization. Sales • Processes and sales metrics adapted to insight selling. • Sales culture supporting insight-selling and “Challengers”. • Performance metrics and processes that include a link to the customer’s business or operational performance. Post-Sales • Recruitment process optimized to hire “Challengers”. HR • Marketing and business development staff capable of supporting sales rep in the identification of new opportunities and the generation of new insight and proposals.
Organizing for Insight Selling How can you build these capabilities? Choosing the right build, buy, rent and partner model depends on the economics of your business, the breadth of your target markets and your ability to enter an adjacent business in a sustainable way. Description / Example Issues, who is it for Build Recruit industry professionals and consultants in view of creating a dedicated team responsible for generating insight and supporting your sales reps. Equip the team with the industry databases, knowledge tools, and processes required to perform their analysis. Time and effort required to build the team and supporting processes and tools. Suitable if you are restricting your activities to a highly specialized niche market. Buy Acquire a specialized consultancy with the skills and resources to generate insight in the markets you compete in. Acquire and extend the industry databases and knowledge tools required to generate insight. Potential cultural mismatch jeopardizing your effectiveness and return on investment. Suitable if you are restricting your activities to a specific market and have a high-margin business justifying the investment. Rent Partner with a consulting firm that is capable of covering your industries with rented resources and tools. Ad-hoc collaboration, typically on a time and material basis. • Address conflicts of interest cased by the core business of the partner, i.e. consulting activities with your target customers. • Suitable for ad-hoc, large strategic pursuits, and new market / services development. JV / Alliance Relatively independent go-to-market JV leveraging the capabilities of the consulting firm and your key competences. Collaboration based on a shared risk-revenue model. Willingness of consulting firm to limit its services to your company and your markets. Suitable if you cover a large number of customers in multiple industries.
Opportunity Partnering Partnering with a management consulting firm could be the most effective shortcut to building insight-selling capabilities. INSIGHT-BASED GO TO MARKET Solution specialists Sales Marketing andbusiness development support Your teams Ad-hoc research on customer industries, markets and customers Co-development of insight with your marketing, sales and technical staff Development of industry thought leadership collateral for sales & marketing efforts Facilitation of innovation workshops with your customers and your staff Collaboration with your teams on proactive proposals and on answering competitive bids Consulting firm’s services On demand, based on your specific needs Medium to long term partnership linked to a specific industry / market Collaboration mode Partnerships – Joint Venture