I once read that when salespeople fail to close, it’s most often because they never ask for the sale.
In today’s business climate, I think there’s another reason why even seasoned salespeople have trouble closing: They’re not selling what the customer really wants to buy.
The problem isn’t that sellers lack skill or knowledge. It’s that customers are profoundly uncertain about all of their options. You’d think that customers would have an edge over salespeople, given all the supporting information that’s now available to them.
According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, customers are feeling overwhelmed rather than in control, precisely because they have so much information and so many choices. Their attempts to solve this problem may actually make it worse:
- Customers don’t know where to start, let alone what to do.
- To achieve more certainty, they consume more information but that just creates a vicious cycle leading to complete overload.
- They may also consult more of their colleagues but that just introduces further priorities and variables into the mix.
The result is tentative, risk-averse purchasing and lots of post-purchase remorse. It’s not surprising that buying decisions are taking longer, if they ever happen at all.
How can salespeople remain successful as customers change what, when, and how they buy? More importantly, how can sales leadership equip sales teams to contend with these forces?
Many sales organizations are adapting through sales enablement. They’re seeking to provide tools and training that will empower their salespeople to adjust and thrive in this new sales environment.
But for sales enablement to succeed, it must avoid the “too-much information” trap. Responsive selling (providing every possible option) makes the problem worse. An enlightened form of prescriptive selling avoids the problem and makes buying from you up to 62% more likely—by making purchasing much easier.
Here are five keys to successful sales enablement. Sales leadership must equip and train salespeople to:
- Ask powerful questions to identify the results that customers are seeking and who’s involved in decision-making.
- Differentiate your company based on your willingness to understand the customer’s situation and provide just the right amount and type of information.
- Prescribe approaches with talking points that clearly refer to the customer’s needs and situation (not one-size-fits-all solutions).
- Selectively use sales tools and success stories to explain what your company does and how you’ve addressed similar challenges for other customers.
- Sell outcomes, not just products or service. Salespeople should only distribute information that reinforces their recommended approaches, not a range of options.
Finally, in order to “seal the deal”, executives must engage in aggressive internal promotion. Asking salespeople to operate outside their comfort zones is never easy—even when there are clear benefits. Communicate consistently to:
- Make a case for why change is necessary.
- Ensure salespeople are aware of sales-enablement resources.
- Explain the content and purpose of each asset.
- Show how resources will make selling easier.
After all, the most successful sales enablement resources are those that salespeople actually use.
Vice President of Strategy and Creative Services for more than 20 years specializing in strategic counsel, creative development, and graphic design. I like to say I help explain technical stuff to non-technical people. Beyond ENC, I love learning—about Grace, the guitar, music, science, photography, and occasionally, even stock car racing.