What buyers expect from salespeople and what it means for sales enablement

Over the last two weeks, I’ve shared some of the highlights from our first ever Buyer Preferences Study. First, I discussed if salespeople are relevant to the modern buyer based on the buyers’ perspective. We have seen that buyers don’t necessarily perceive salespeople as business partners. If buyers have to solve a business problem, salespeople are only number nine (!) on the list of preferred resources.

Last week, we looked at the specific buying situations in which buyers would prefer an early engagement with salespeople. Yes, these buying scenarios exist (new, risky, and complex buying situations), check them out here and learn what it means for sales enablement to equip salespeople accordingly.

Today we discuss what buyers wish salespeople would do differently and more consistently. These are the top four behaviors buyers expect from salespeople:

  • Understand my business and know me before you engage with me.
    This is the key behavior that opens or closes the doors. This buyer statement says it all: “Well, I’d certainly appreciate a seller who did all necessary research into our industry needs beforehand, and did not ask unnecessary questions!”
  • Be an excellent communicator.
    This is the category of foundational, professional selling skills that are relevant in all communications, face-to-face and audio, video or phone conversations, and in written, whatever channel is used.
    “Many times their strength is in talking, not listening, so a good listener is refreshing!” was the feedback of a study participant.
  • Don’t run away when a deal has been closed; focus on post-sale.
    For a buyer, the buying decision is just a milestone on the way to something that’s more important: the implementation and usage phase that actually creates the value they bought. This is why all our enablement frameworks always cover the entire customer’s path.
    “It isn’t enough to just sell a company a product. There has to be a continued interest in its success.”
  • And, of course, give me insights and perspective.
    That’s what makes the difference. Adding insights and perspective in the context of the buyer’s challenges, presenting what your solution MEANS in THEIR context. “Propose an additional alternative solution that brings value, even if not fully in the initial scope.” I discussed the relevance of perspective in various blog posts, especially here and here.

 

Is this list a surprise? No. Are there any new skills and behaviors listed? No. Are these behaviors unattainable? No. However, the combination of the expected behaviors might be different compared to the focus many enablement teams might currently have, because the buyers’ desired behaviors don’t mention the word “product.” Yes, exactly. The buyers’ desired behaviors are not centered around products! They didn’t say, “Tell me more about your product.” Instead, the buyers’ desired behaviors are all about the idea of, “Put your expertise into my context and share with me what your products and services mean in my context to achieve my goals.”

The buyers’ expected selling behaviors require sales enablement leaders to check and sharpen their enablement strategies and services. Here are four things enablement leaders should focus on:

  • Get the relevance of product knowledge right, and develop business acumen
    We are not saying that product expertise is not important. We are just saying that product knowledge by itself doesn’t offer value, relevance and differentiation in a buyer interaction. Pure product knowledge is a prerequisite, but it is not valuable and differentiating as such. It is capability knowledge that covers all the capabilities your organization’s portfolio has to offer. However, in the age of the customer, buyers are primarily interested in what your product and services MEAN in THEIR context. And that requires connecting the dots to their business context. Your enablement strategy should ensure that all customer-facing and enablement content assets, and all product and all value messaging training services, are consistent to each other. And then, design your sales coaching approach to drive adoption and reinforcement.
  • Make value messaging a top priority:
    Value messaging is the glue that holds various enablement services together. It’s the way to master the challenge of making enablement services consistent with each other and effective for salespeople. Value messaging has to cover the entire customer’s path, often owned by marketing, ideally orchestrated by sales enablement to ensure that there are not only marketing messages but also sales messages tailored to all phases of the customer’s path. Check out this three-part series on value messaging: Why Your Enablement Services Must Be Aligned On A Value Messaging Level, Five Steps to Improve Your Value Messaging Approach, How to Design Value Messages Along the Customer’s Path.

 

Stay tuned: Next week, we will discuss one of the expected behaviors, focus on post-sale, and what it means in the buyers’ context and for the alignment of sales and service.

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 address the buyers’ expected selling behaviors in your sales enablement strategy?
  • If not now, what are the next steps you are going to take to get there?
  • How do you develop product knowledge? As capability knowledge only or integrated with the related value messaging (how to sell) approach?

 

Related blog posts:

 

 

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