When Markets Shift and Buyers Change their Habits

Overcome B2B sales appointment setting challenges. Reverse the trend and get more sales appointments.

The trouble with change is that it sneaks up on you. It would be easier to deal with if it happened in a predictable manner, like a bus or train arriving at its final destination. After a major change, we don’t need historians to tell us that it was inevitable and that the writing was on the wall for all to see. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. For those in the midst of change, ‘after’ is difficult to define. Long after, we can put dates on things but while they are happening, there is always the hope that the situation is just an anomaly.

‘The World is Flat’. This is the title of an award winning book by Thomas Friedman that chronicles the march of globalisation and its impact on the way we do things. I had barely read a chapter before I felt I understood why Freiedman's work has won such acclaim.

The enabling technology behind the recent acceleration of globalisation, the flattening of the world, is down to easy, cheep, and almost instantaneous data transmission between every major city. In short, the World Wide Web did it and continues to do it at a pace.

Twenty years from now, historians will look back and point to all the unexpected consequences and say we should have seen them coming. So what are the unseen consequences for salespeople?

It seems to have become much more difficult to get into someone’s schedule - anyone’s schedule, not just those of senior people. Everyone in business and in most other disciplines must get more done or cease to compete. Decision makers don’t need salespeople like they used to. Information is easy to obtain and hardly a day goes by without some new free way to manage it becoming available online.

Sales professionals must raise their game but how?

Is the answer just more messages, sent to more people, more often? I hope not. The more messages people get, the less likely they are to notice the important ones.

People are less inclined to pay attention to sales messages. Why should they? All the important information in the world is only a few clicks away. Some might think we should just give up and concede that Google has taken over the world. Fortunately, people often don't know what they need or even what to look for. There will always be a demand for new ideas. We are all grateful when someone presents us with the right idea at the right time.

Sales people need to be in the ‘good ideas’ business.

Perhaps we always were. What has changed is the rate at which we have to come up with new ones. The fuel of any business relationship is the value of it. The more useful we make ourselves to customers and prospects, the more time they will allow us. The token of access is a good idea. We need a new ‘good idea’ for almost every time we contact a customer. You will have heard the saying that a salesperson is only as good as his last quarter/month/week, depending on the measurement period. From a customer’s point of view, a salesperson is only as good as his last good idea.

Sales meeting appointment setting hasn't changed. The critical factor remains getting the right message in front of the right person at the right time. We all hate junk mail, paper and electronic, yet when the message is just what we need and arrives exactly when we need it, it ceases to be junk. Best practice remains the same. All that is necessary is for salespeople to make more use of it.

The pace is accelerating. In the old old days a little relationship building down the pub went a long way. These days few customers and salespeople have the time for it. The token of access is accurately anticipating a customer’s immediate need for information, an idea, or solution then presenting it in a way that suits the customer.

If this is the modern right of access, then we can set about fulfilling it. The information, idea, or solution doesn’t have to be brilliant or original. It only needs to be the right thing at the right time.

Let me give you a personal example.

In my business I am conscious of paying more than I need to for landline telephone services. I have known for some years that there are many alternatives that could reduce my costs. Several times a month someone rings up to sell me cheaper telephone calls, yet I stay with the incumbent national supplier.

I have three issues to deal with. The first issue is choosing an alternative supplier who I can trust; the second is understanding my potential savings; the third is making sure that the facilities I use will still be available. Checking these things is often labelled due diligence. It takes time and there is always something more interesting or more important to do.

If a sales person were to anticipate these concerns and articulate them, he or she would achieve rapid rapport with me. If he or she also had some information, ideas or solutions to help me resolve these issues quickly and without hassle, I would be easy to sell.

Forgive the well worn cliché – ‘this is not rocket science’. My concerns about changing telephone service provider ought to be relatively simple to anticipate, if not by the individual salesperson then by their company’s sales and marketing brains.

Whatever you sell, providing you are approaching people who can benefit from what you have, you or your organisation ought to be able to get inside your prospects heads and anticipate a large proportion of their concerns, opportunities, and problems. Then it is simply a matter of constructing an approach that addresses these things and offers information, ideas, or solutions to resolve them.

This is certainly not the whole story. Salespeople have to continually raise their game, like everyone else. Selling - helping people do what they want to do - involves a broad spectrum of skills, methods, and abilities, none of which are any use if you can’t gain access to begin with.

Article by Clive Miller

If you need to set more sales appointments or develop B2B sales appointment setting skills, we can help. Telephone +44 (0)118 983 3887. We will be pleased to learn about your needs or talk through some options. Alternatively Send email to custserv@salessense.co.uk for a prompt reply or use the contact form here.