Jan 8, 201912:41 PMOpen Mic
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Challenges and choices in sales 2019
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Over the past four decades, I have had the privilege of working for some of the most professional and successful business-to-business sales and marketing companies. From 1970 to 2010, the dominant sales cycle model was based on the consultative sales process. However, today new sales processes are emerging to challenge the consultative status quo. Many companies are now experimenting with transactional and conceptual sales processes.
Here is a brief description of the three competing sales processes:
Transactional sales occur when a customer independently evaluates suppliers and their offerings, makes a choice, and places an order. Amazon exemplifies transactional sales.
Consultative selling involves the interaction of the buyer with several potential suppliers to select the supplier with the best product or service for their specific needs.
Conceptual sales are boundary-changing events. The buyer and seller meet to discuss an idea or concept that would help the buying company change a process to achieve better results. Outsourcing a process to a vendor is a typical example.
Why are companies evaluating and testing new sales processes?
Around the year 2000, the consultative sales process started to become less efficient because of two macro changes: severe limits on workplace time and the tremendous amount of information available on the internet. The consultative sales process requires multiple meetings between the buyer and the seller to: 1) build a credible and positive relationship, 2) probe the client’s specific needs, 3) deliver a well targeted proposal, and 4) discuss client concerns and finalize the sale.
The amount of time and coordination required by this process has become a barrier to effective and efficient outcomes. Buyers can now find suppliers and detailed product and service information in a few minutes on the internet and avoid lengthy meetings with sales representatives. The transactional sales process is efficient and is driving down the cost of product or service acquisitions.
The conceptual sales process is also influenced by the “need for speed.” In this sales process, a sales person calls on a client executive with a high-impact idea or concept that will change the client’s operation and improve their ability to achieve a specific and relevant goal. The challenges are: 1) having an idea that will change the client’s business outcomes, 2) getting a meeting with an executive, and 3) having the resources and ability to execute the idea quickly and produce the results as promised. Conceptual sales messages can turn an industry on its head overnight! As an example, a materials management company pointed out to large manufacturers that they purchase “C” parts with the same detailed purchasing procedures they use to purchase “A” parts. By simply outsourcing the purchasing of all “C” parts to the materials management company, a large manufacturer could save a quarter of a million dollars a year in purchasing activity cost.
Today companies are faced with challenging sales transitions
If you are like most business-to-business (B2B) companies today, you are predominately using the consultative sales process. How effective is this traditional method and should it be continued, enhanced, reduced, or replaced? Should we consider becoming more effective at transactional sales? And, what exactly is a conceptual sales message and could we execute one?
About your existing consultative sales force
Most B2B companies still have a large existing consultative sales force. These sales forces are making calls on existing accounts to increase customer loyalty, troubleshoot problems, justify pricing, and maintain sales volume. In short, they are making customer service calls. If the company expects their current consultative sales force to grow existing accounts and develop new ones, they are in for a disappointment.
Consultative sales people built quality relationships with buyers and the individuals who develop product specifications, such as engineers, not with executives who bring major changes and improvements to their organizations. In fairness to the existing sales force, they have not been expected to call on executives, trained to call higher, or provided their company’s conceptual sales message because most companies didn’t have one.