The financial crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession that followed have created a “new normal” in the U.S. economy. In addition to the widespread de-leveraging in the consumer economy, B2B sales professionals are facing a new reality of selling to businesses as well. Businesses are more cost-sensitive than ever before, and procurement managers are more savvy than ever before about how to make buying decisions. Buyers have a greater sense of transparency into what they’re buying, which raises pressure on the sales team to demonstrate value for money and be able to answer tough questions from customers.
Fortunately, there are still big opportunities for sales teams that are willing and able to grow, change and adapt to the new realities of the “new normal” of B2B sales.
Here are four ways that your sales team can survive and thrive in the “new normal:”
- Let your sales reps focus on selling: Sales reps need to sell. Some companies are still asking their sales reps to take on account management responsibilities, but this is not the best use of the sales team’s time. Let the sales people focus on what they do best, and expand your customer service team if needed. Hopefully your sales reps will be able to sell more if they can focus only on sales.
- Demonstrate broader value: Every B2B sales conversation needs to take on broader implications for the client’s organization, or else your company will be relegated to a simple price competition where the lowest price always wins. You need to show your customers why they should be happy to pay for the unique value that your solution can deliver to their company. Take a fresh look at all the aspects of your buyer’s organization that are impacted by your solution: can your solution improve productivity, increase efficiency, boost speed of production or save time on delivery and implementation? How can you put a dollar value on some of these “hidden benefits” of your solution? What are some ways that your solution can help your clients that they might not be aware of?
- Sell more to fewer customers: With new business hard to come by, you need to take a fresh look at how you can boost your upsell and cross-sell activities. If a customer has agreed to buy from you before, chances are they will do so again – if you can offer them a solid value proposition for additional services or products. Upselling and cross-selling cannot be simply an add-on or something to think about once you’ve closed a sale – it needs to be integrated into your sales process from the very beginning. Look for ways to upsell and cross-sell. Categorize your clients according to who is most likely to buy additional solutions and services, and follow up with them just as if you were nurturing first-time sales leads.
- Go from being “sales people” to “industry peers.” Are your sales reps merely “sales people,” or do they truly know the industry and the niche markets that they serve, with solid credentials, industry experience and expertise? In B2B sales, the biggest rewards often go to sales teams that have specific expertise and can have the most meaningful and well-informed discussions with customers. Your sales team can build the strongest relationships if they are respected as industry peers of your customers, not just sales people dialing through a calling list.
The Great Recession may be over, but B2B sales professionals will be navigating the aftermath of the recession for some time to come. Prepare your sales team for the new realities by adjusting your sales strategies today. There are still big opportunities for sales organizations that can adapt and evolve to new ways of selling.