Look at this chart above. It’s from this blog, and as you can see at the bottom, it’s based on data from the Q4 2013 North America and Europe Executive Buyer Insight Online Survey.
If you scroll down some of the results, this is the big takeaway:
- Executive buyers — or people that can make fiscal decisions — need to cut through a lot of clutter, noise and lead generation to even be willing to sit with a salesperson.
- They narrow it down to just the right salesperson for what their business needs.
- 70 percent aren’t prepared for the questions they ask.
- 75 percent aren’t knowledgeable about the business at hand.
- 77 percent don’t understand the issues the buyer is facing.
- 78 percent don’t have examples or case studies on hand that might provide context.
What the shit?
Basically, business is often set up to “chase leads” or “find qualified leads” or “put leads in the funnel,” or whatever else you want to say. But once the leads are there for the sales side … the sales side seemingly has no idea what to do with them? That’s a bit ass backwards, right?
Start with the caveat: this is one survey reported on one blog. I am sure you could find 49 other surveys that contradict this survey in terms of how prepared salespeople really are. As such, you need to take this a bit with a grain of salt. But if it’s even remotely true, what could be the reason? Here are a few theories:
- The Busy Trap: Everyone is very busy — or, at the very least, believes themselves to be very busy. It’s the same with salespeople. So if they’re running around and juggling 20 different leads, their ultimate focus is on converting “the big fish” — that will help them look better, earn more, etc, etc. — so it’s possible they meet with some other executive buyers and just aren’t prepared as a result of how much stuff they have on their plate.
- Junk Science: It could be, honestly, that sales and advertising are a junk science and we, as a society, are just starting to understand and realize that. It’s much more about “telling a story” right now, and much less about the hard-hard-hard go-go-go upsell. If “telling a story” hadn’t become relevant, would content marketing even be a job title you can search for? Probably not.
- Vernacular Problems: The entire vocabulary of sales is a joke. People love to talk about how they “closed” a sale. You know what “close” means? End. A sale is supposed to start a relationship, not end a relationship. Goes to the bigger problem: people are contextualizing the role of sales all wrong.
- Structured Debriefs: Wrote about this here, but the basic idea — you come back from a sales meeting that was a total bomb. What do you do? You talk with colleagues and managers about how to get better. You won’t see numbers like “78 percent don’t have examples/case studies” if people were doing structured debriefs. 78 percent negative means people are making no effort to improve; a quick rundown of pros and cons of a meeting will get you down from 78 in the negative column.
- The focus isn’t on forming a relationship: Goes back to the issue with vernacular above, but honestly, a “cold call” is just that — it’s cold and bland and thoughtless. And yet, in 2014 — with all the data and social and Google search ability we have around different people you’re looking to sell to — we still do stuff like that. Nope. Invest in the relationship and think for 20-30 minutes — believe me, you’re not that busy — about what the client needs. That will bring the numbers above down as well.
Everything is a sale. Everything.
And there’s a lot of clutter in that space — an average white collar employee sees 5,000 marketing messages per day. Can you imagine how many calls/e-mails someone with buying power gets?
So think about this: how do you cut through clutter?
- Know the product
- Know the client
- Know their needs
- Know their concerns
- Know the words they want to hear
- Know their price points
- Know how they like to build relationships
See what all those began with?
In other words: be prepared.
And when you’re not prepared, go back to your team and explain what happened — and let them help you be more prepared the next time out.
None of this is truly rocket science, at all; it’s about building relationships around common needs. The numbers above should never be that high.