Opportunities to engage buyers early exist. Are your sellers prepared?

Here we go again with more facts based on our 2018 Buyer Preferences Study.

Last week, I discussed the question of how relevant salespeople are to the modern buyers when solving business problems. More than 70% of buyers usually engage with salespeople later along their customer’s journey, after their needs are already clarified. Why? Because buyers find other resources more relevant and more valuable than talking to salespeople. That means that buyers are spending less and less time with salespeople. And that’s what buyers told us: Only one-third found that one seller would outshine the rest. For two-thirds, salespeople start to look alike in the eyes of the buyer. Read more about the dangerous apathy loop in our 2018 Buyer Preferences Study.

So, the challenge for salespeople to be relevant, valuable and differentiating is increasing, but they have fewer opportunities to show these attributes. How can salespeople get more opportunities to be in touch with the modern buyer?

The surprise is that it shouldn’t be difficult for salespeople to engage earlier with buyers, because 90% (!) of buyers said that they would be open to engaging with salespeople earlier in their buying process. And buyers also named the specific situations when they would be open to an earlier engagement.

The best opportunity to engage early with buyers is a challenge that is new to the buyer or the buying team. As we are in an ever-changing world, opportunities to engage early because of new challenges (34.1%) should present themselves in abundance. And even if the challenge itself is not new, it may be new to a particular buying team. And that means that in every industry, there should be many opportunities to engage with buyers earlier because the challenge is new to them.

Risky challenges have to be carefully analyzed because risk comes in two dimensions. A risky buying decision can also be risky for the organization. Think about outsourcing your whole finance department to another country as an example. And there are buying decisions that are primarily risky for the individual making the decision to buy. Think about being the sales leaders, being under lots of pressure and implementing this new sales coaching initiative to push the sales force in the right direction.

And, of course, buying decisions that are complex in nature, and require the involvement of several buyers from different departments, are always a great opportunity to engage earlier.

How can sellers effectively engage buyers early along their customer’s path? What does it mean for sales enablement and sales management?

  • Homework is mandatory for sellers
    “Understand my business” and “know me” are the modern buyer’s requirements. Buyers do not tolerate any useless questions that could be answered online if sellers only had taken the time to do their homework. As we all know, it doesn’t happen by accident.
    Sales enablement should provide enablement content and training regarding the challenges in the target industries, about typical buyer roles and their most important challenges. Sales managers should coach their salespeople regarding these steps of preparation and ensure that salespeople go prepared into early engagement calls.
  • Early engagements are about the buyers’ challenges, the related business impact and their desired outcomes
    Based on the homework and the provided content and training, salespeople are theoretically prepared to have business-level conversations. Sales managers have to coach along those lines to continuously improve seller behaviors and skills for these conversations. Product pitches are an absolute no-go in these early engagements.
  • Early engagements have to be inspiring for buyers
    “Give me insights and perspective, show me how I can achieve my goals; I’m looking forward to learning something new about how to solve my business problems.” Inspiring conversations require well-prepared salespeople who have the confidence and creativity to connect the dots and inspire their buyers.
  • Value messaging must be tailored to an early engagement
    As discussed in many different blog posts here and here, these interactions have to be prepared and designed along the entire customer’s path. A consistent value messaging approach is the glue that keeps enablement services consistent, and sales enablement should be orchestrating this.

Have a look at our new book Sales Enablement – A Master Framework to Engage, Equip and Empower a World-Class Sales Force. Lots of “how to” information to address the challenges mentioned here.

Questions for you:

  • How do you prepare you salespeople to have early engagement conversations with buyers?
  • How to you collaborate with your sales managers to ensure a consistent sales coaching practice?
  • How do you listen to your buyers in your industry?

Related blog posts:

 

 

2 Comments
  • Sangram Vajre
    Posted at 09:53h, 25 June

    This is GREAT! I couldn’t agree more with sellers needing to have early communication with their potential customers. Not only that, but research in front of the communication needs to happen in order for there to be a proper open dialogue between the two. What a stat: “90% (!) of buyers said that they would be open to engaging with salespeople earlier in their buying process”. Of course they would be. They want to know what you can offer them that no one else can give them. They want to be assured that what you have to sell can fit their needs and potentially solve a problem or problem (s). I also agree with the importance of value messaging. That is the name of the game from start to finish.

  • Tamara Schenk
    Posted at 13:08h, 26 June

    Thanks for your feedback, Sangram! Glad you found our research valuable.

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