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November 29, 2016

For Sales Learning, It’s All About the Journey

 

Gone are the days when B2B sellers had the upper hand in the power struggle with buyers.  This is because the buying landscape has undergone dramatic changes in recent years.  With the sudden cascade of information available at the touch of a button – on devices we carry in our pockets – buyers are walking into sales meetings with unprecedented levels of knowledge about our offerings before our reps have even had the chance to introduce themselves.

The question arises: How can sales leaders leverage these same technological developments to shift the power back into their corner?  Any effort to do so has to involve an individual rep improving his or her selling skills, while simultaneously becoming much more of an expert on the product itself.  There is no way around it – without intensifying our focus on sales learning, our reps will never be able to properly control the dynamic of conversations with such savvy buyers.

The Seller’s Journey

We often think about the sales cycle in terms of a journey that buyers go on.  According to the framework developed by SiriusDecisions, the typical buyer’s journey involves an initial education phase, then solution exploration, and finally selection.  In order to most effectively influence the buyer, sales reps need a method of training that will prepare them to sell at the different points in the cycle.  The use of a coaching tool which leverages interactive content can dramatically shrink time to competency for each of these phases.  Reps in the field are connected to headquarters as well as to each other, and the right tool can provide field-generated, management-approved learning content that is fresh and relevant for each of these stages of the seller’s journey.  Increasingly, leading organizations are turning to mobile-video sales learning platforms for this.

Education

In the education phase, the buyer is in a state of openness to possible changes in the status quo within their business.  They are exploring their options at a 30,000 foot view and are not 100% clear on what they would need to solve their business problem.  They usually begin this phase by simply searching the internet or signing up for live webinars from a few vendors.  The sales rep is not involved in these initial steps of the buyer’s journey just yet, but they need to be prepared for the next part of the phase when the buyer starts to search the company website and look for things such as case studies, brochures or recorded demos.

Once the buyer has moved into this part of the phase it is likely they will have their first interaction with a sales rep.  The kind of conversation they have should be much more heavily centered on general education about the buyer’s business problem and possible solutions.  It’s not always the time to immediately launch into a full pitch about the specific solution you are offering, but often more of a time for building trust, educating the buyer, and establishing yourself as an expert on this particular business problem that the buyer has before presenting your particular solution.

This is why it is essential for sales managers to ensure their reps are prepared to give the right kind of presentation for this phase.  Managers can instruct reps to record and share bite-sized videos that demonstrate their presentation for this part of the journey.  Management can then share with the rest of the team the videos of reps they deem to have best “hit the nail on the head” at coming off as an educator, showing expertise and empathy for the buyer’s situation, and then subtly guiding the presentation toward the actual offering.

Solution Exploration

This next phase is characterized by a more serious look into particular solutions that the buyer thinks will best solve his or her business problem.  The buyer will explore particular solutions on YouTube, watch promotional videos and read white papers.  When a rep meets with a prospect in this stage, the presentation needs to be focused on directing them toward the type of solution they are offering, and then positioning themselves as the leader in this market.

A manager can look through the deals in the various stages of the pipeline, and pick out the reps with scheduled sales presentations for accounts in stages that correspond to this phase in the buyer’s journey.  The manager can then create a gift card contest for these particular reps and have them record themselves giving the presentation they prepared for their upcoming call and subsequently review submissions for appropriate messaging and understanding of the core business problem and/or substitute solution threats.  The manager can then pick the winner and share the video with the rest of the reps as an example of how to best position the company’s particular solution type for whatever business problem the buyer is facing.

Selection

In this last phase of the journey, the buyer has decided on a particular solution and is moving toward justification and vendor selection.  They are convinced that the particular solution type is going to best help them solve their business problem and are turning to value actualization tools, customer references and analyst reports to decide which vendor to go with.

This is the stage in the seller’s journey when managers need to be especially sure that reps have a comprehensive knowledge of the competitors in their space.  Presentations need to be fine-tuned to demonstrate that reps possess unparalleled expertise with regard to the ins and outs of this particular solution type in order to convince the buyer that their company is the clear choice when it comes to vendors.  Sales training initiatives need to equip reps with a high level of mastery more than ever for this final stage.

Managers can utilize remote role play and feedback capabilities of mobile-video sales learning platforms to truly give their reps the edge here.  Practice makes perfect and everyone needs a great coach, but when teams are geographically dispersed and schedules are packed, it is often too costly to provide the level of coaching and feedback necessary to ensure our reps are the market experts.  Having the ability to use inline feedback functionality to embed text and audio comments at different points throughout a rep’s submission video at this stage allows managers to coach and train reps without having to be there with them.  Manager can then ask reps to re-record their presentations implementing their suggestions, and can also send out automated periodic flash drills to further reinforce learning.

Gear Up for Success

With the right preparation, reps can succeed at any stage of the buyer’s journey.  It is incumbent upon sales leaders to ensure that they are giving their teams the right set of tools to properly prepare them for the myriad challenges they will face in the modern B2B landscape.  For modern sales training, it’s all about the journey, and providing reps with the right content – and subsequent coaching, feedback and reinforcement – for each particular stage of the seller’s journey can often be the difference between success and failure.

For more on how industry-leading organizations are using mobile-video sales learning platforms to revolutionize sales training, click here.

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