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Why Selling Will Never Be the Same

Why Selling Will Never Be the Same

Traditions die hard. How else do you explain the outdated sales tactics still in use by sales professionals? Traditions are great for Thanksgiving and July 4th. But the trouble with traditions as sales professionals is that they prevent us from learning and implementing the required new skills. Consciously or unconsciously, sales professionals defer to outdated tactics that hinder performance. In this article, we will explore the antiquated sales tactics that no longer serve sales professionals or their customers.

Sales leaders love tradition. Remember the white-button-down starched shirt, with the dark suit and boring tie? Then there are the sales mantras continually repeated, ABC (always be closing), dialing for dollars, and BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing). Of course, not everything in sales has changed. Fundamental sales and dialogue skills are more valuable now than ever. But technology has changed the way clients access information and make decisions. Buyers are smarter today and have access to more information. Sales professionals can sell smarter by replacing old-school tactics.

Sales Was a Numbers Game

Sales is no longer a numbers game because the math no longer adds up. When selling was a numbers game, there was no Google, LinkedIn, or the Internet. If you wanted more business, you had to talk to more prospects. The more prospects you talk to, the more meetings you generate, and the more deals you close. Companies that teach their sales reps to play the numbers game, without a highly targeted approach, are losing to organizations who figured out that you can generate more sales with fewer prospects.

Let’s do the math: Company A believes sales is a numbers game. The Total Addressable Market (TAM) for their solution is 10,000 prospective customers. Their Go-to-Market business model is, “If we obtain just 10% market share, we’ll be extremely profitable.” Then they attacked the market and started selling and marketing to the entire 10,000 companies.  

Their sales team started with limited success (by selling on price), and the company began growing. However, they are growing just enough to make the herculean effort worthwhile. The business challenges they face include poor cash flow, low margins, high sales rep turnover, and high customer churn. They eventually get to the 10% market share. However, it’s a grind. The high turnover of clients and sales reps leaves the business in a perpetual mode of stagnation.

Company B believes sales is a value game. They recognize the TAM has 10,000 prospective customers and decide if they obtain 5% market share, they will be extremely profitable. They identify the top 20% of potential customers and begin selling and marketing to 2,000 companies.

Their sales team is having success (selling at the highest price point in the market), and the company is scaling. The business challenges they face include onboarding new clients, finding talented customer support personnel, and finding office space for the new staff. They reach 5% market share and begin planning the next vertical to target.

The above scenario is not hypothetical, but one we see every day as a sales training company. The sales as a numbers game Go-to-Market strategy assumes all customers have equal value. Therefore, they sell and market to the entire industry. However, selling and marketing to the entire market is extremely expensive. It also assumes any customer is a good customer.

Company B recognized that different customers in the TAM carried different values to their organization. They didn’t want just any customers, only the best customers. They did not focus on volume, instead they focused on quality. For sales organizations still playing the sales is a numbers game, eventually they learn the game is now called, The Race to the Bottom.

BANT Should Be Retired

BANT is an expired sales tactic. Marketing departments and sales reps who qualify prospects with budget, authority, need, and timing are doing a disservice to their clients and hindering their own performance. Why? Because when a sales rep qualifies with BANT, they have drastically oversimplified their clients’ buying process. Today’s environment is more complex and requires a more targeted qualification approach. Let’s review each stage.

Budget: Most companies make an annual budget for the coming year. What percentage of those companies make unbudgeted purchases during the new year? Studies suggest the number at 50% or greater. Why did these companies make purchases without it being on the budget? Because when the problem is big enough, they find the budget. 

The pace of change has increased so greatly that the buying process was forced to adopt. In the past, companies would plan annual budgets and follow the budget to the penny. If a CEO followed that strategy today, their company and his employment would be in jeopardy. Budget is less relevant in the modern buying process, and sales reps should remove it from their qualification process.

Authority: Complex purchase decisions are no longer made by a single authority. Today, multiple stakeholders are involved. The reason? Business departments are now tightly integrated units, and no longer segregated islands by themselves. This dynamic makes it very difficult for a single individual to make a purchase, even for the smallest companies. Purchase decisions are not linear and require consensus and approval from multiple stakeholders.  

Need: If there is no need, there is no sale. You can’t possibly remove need from the qualification process, right? All companies at one point thought there was no need for personal computers, high-speed internet, CRMs, and every other technology innovation over the years. In today’s modern buying process, selling to unrecognized needs is paramount. Solutions that buyers know they need, they most likely already have or are in the process of selecting. Modern buyers want sellers to help them uncover their unrecognized needs. 

Timing: Timing remains an important component of the modern buying process. The best sales reps would struggle to sell a customer a cheeseburger after they just finished a Ribeye. However, if you find your sales team asking prospects questions like, “How much time will you need to make a decision?” then you are likely to hear replies like “Probably sometime next year.” Timing, like budgets and needs, are relative. If a doctor quotes $25,000 for a face lift, you might say, “Let me think about it.” On the other hand, if you are in the emergency room with a broken arm, there’s no time to think about it.

In Conclusion

Modern buyers tend to favor changing the sales process more than sellers. In the past, the balance of power favored sellers because they retained control and influence. This allowed organizations to create simpler sales processes for their sales reps and focus on volume. This process was easy for sellers to navigate. The model allowed sellers to talk to as many prospects as possible, qualify with BANT, and play the numbers game.

That balance of power has shifted in favor of buyers, which creates an exponentially more competitive sales environment. Buyers now have the luxury of playing the numbers game with sellers because finding a new seller is only a Google search away (24/7). Once a buyer short-lists their potential providers, the sales reps are forced to handle more decision-makers, who are better informed, with less opportunity to influence the buyer’s decision. This paradigm shift, while still shifting, is an opportunity for a handful of companies, an inconvenience for some, and a catastrophe for others.

The new buyers’ journey requires sales professionals to be more targeted, more creative, and better prepared to find value buyers recognize. With the changes so obvious, the question becomes, why continue selling the old way?

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