“Well, firstly I don’t want to be sold to!”, laughed a CEO of a multibillion organisation, as I interviewed them as part of a Voice of Customer (VOC) video for one of Consalia’s customers, a global professional services company. “The thing is, though, that we run very lean and are hugely reliant on our suppliers for innovation”.
This got me thinking: if supplier-supported innovation for customers is so vital, why are so many B2B buying experiences so poor? Why aren’t customers screaming from the rooftops about it? My belief is that we are already in a new world of buying and selling. One where the buyers world has become more demanding, more uncertain. Basically harder. There are actually lots and lots of signals that they’re giving off. Unfortunately, sales organisations are often deaf to them, or at least often regard them as inconvenient truths.
One of our customers, for example, found their account managers increasingly unable to engage with their key decision-makers – CIOs. What characterised these CIOs was a tenure that was short and a need for an ecosystem, including suppliers, that delivers on the digital transformation agenda. What the CIOs were getting though was not a good enough basis for co-creating, for innovating jointly with suppliers and thereby really extracting value from the relationship.
The following quotations, taken from VOC videos of our customers’ customers tell the story.
Salespeople don’t research their needs before they come and talk with them: “I don’t understand why they don’t even do some simple google research before they turn-up, I know I would” – IT Director of a major retail chain.
They present powerpoints and don’t listen anything like well enough – “I just want a decent conversation” – IT Operations Director of a logistics company.
“They know us and our business really well. If only they would suggest some things that worked for companies like ours – we’d love to talk to them about this.” – Head of Back Office – global professional services company.
Organisations have unwittingly set-up sales organisations that can’t hear this and can’t react fast enough to these changes even if they could. Company leadership tells sales to “execute, hit the number” with a perfected system of top-down organisation, reward, recruitment and performance to do just that. Although we measure the hell out of every other aspect of the sales cycle in CRM, very few sales organisations measure the metric that matters most to the customer: the quality of the buying experience as the sale progresses. Consequently, they have no real idea how well this is working for the customer in a way that can be measured, tracked, reported on, or used as an improvement tool.
This leaves sales flying blind, with no feedback mechanism yelling back to executive leadership that “something is badly broken – fix it urgently”. The default response to any lack of sales growth has been more enablement, digitally re-skill the salesforce, often in the standard PowerPoint-based value propositions that marketing has developed. This is, at best, a partial solution. Likely nowhere near enough.
Another early warning sign that we’ve all noticed is how often sales loses to a “no decision” as more and more people on the buyer’s side get involved in the purchase: around 7 currently.
If sales could just insert ourselves as the 8th member of that buying group, to influence the decision-making process, we could be much more effective. The trouble is, the bar keeps getting higher. Primarily because buyers are being really careful: who can be trusted from outside our organisation? Most suppliers have amply demonstrated over the years that they cannot.
Don’t believe me? Don’t just wait for the Net Promoter Score numbers at the end of the year. Just ask your customers directly how they want to be sold to and how well you are doing at the moment. They will be happy to tell you – they need you to be the best supplier you can be.
Image by Anemone123 from Pixabay