Drawing on research by Gartner, Pete discusses how traditional buying cycles and sales models are fading in favour of a far more collaborative approach.
Whether we like it or not, every professional is in sales to some extent, customer support, product management, internal communications, PR and so on all draw on aspects of selling to a degree. Sales used to be a well-worn, singular path – identify a target, make an approach and find a reason for them to buy.
Companies are no longer traditionally structured, whilst many have centralised decision making boards, more and more are leaving the purchasing power to specific teams and recognising this change is a critical ‘sales’ skill. You could be wasting your time trying to reach the CEO when another department is the driving seat for your product, it’s so much more important to ensure you’re speaking to the right people rather than assuming certain hierarchies hold the purse strings.
How has the sales process changed?
So how has the sales process changed? We have always thought of sales as a pipeline, but now it is far less easy to define, the buying cycle is driven by customer demand rather than being supplier controlled and every day I see far less predictable interactions with partners and their clients. Selling is now a collaborative arrangement, which is reflected in daily language – we discuss relationships and partnerships as opposed to projects and deals. As with any relationship we need to put the work in to ensure we stay together with our partners and be flexible enough to change and adapt to their needs to maintain it.
Another trend I am finding is the requirement for overall business acumen – an understanding of marketing, finance, products and sales. These skills are crucial in having new conversations and keeping up with progressions and getting joint PR benefits out of these – seeing how we can help jointly promote new benefits, from what could have been an original deal starting years ago.
I think customers expect more from a ‘sales pitch’ than ever before, it is no longer about trying persuade them to fit in with an off-the-shelf product, now we need to put the customer much more at the centre and fit in around their needs instead. Sales are driven around helping with customer pain points and collaboration is adapting to fit their needs. Customers are now at the heart of the conversation rather than focussing on the brilliance of a product or service. It could be less about the chase if you like and more about lighting up the pathway and letting them find you – pushing them down the road is far less effective than walking along it with them.
This model detailed above is what we use when we engage with our partners. With the Channel and especially C4L’s Partner network, our partners and their customers know that they can discuss options without any obligations so we can pave the way for their growth and ease of use.