I recently had the honor of appearing on a Vendor Neutral expert panel, to discuss the changes in buyer behavior and sales in 2020, and how we think this will play out into the New Year and beyond.

Here’s a roundup of the questions, my advice, and what it means for your 2021 sales enablement plans.

What have you observed as one of the big changes in 2020 as the crisis unfolded and started to impact business?

Through the crisis, buyers are much more emotionally stressed. And although you absolutely need a certain amount of emotion to get buyers to shake from status-quo and make a decision, studies have shown that too much stress can freeze customers from taking action at all. Under stress, the perceived complexity of different options, cost and risk of change is dramatically amplified.

So it you walk in with a typical approach – pop-up that traditional PowerPoint, Give that “show everything demo … “show up and throw up” sales approach…. Think how you will be perceived through the lens of a stressed buyer?

Too much, Too complex, Too risky.

Seems straightforward but Forrester indicates that 80% of sellers still pitch products / services while only 20% are focused on what buyers really care about – a focus on the buyer challenges and potential business outcomes.

So what do we recommend?

First, ditch the pitch – you have to move to a more interactive and collaborative engagement, making the conversation not about you, but about the customer first,

Second, you have to SIMPLIFY what you present, demonstrate and propose. Less is indeed more through crisis.

Third, you should improve discovery – be sure sellers are asking the right questions to help the buyer self-realize their issues and priorities, and focus the discussion around the top challenges

And finally, align to priority projects – priorities are the only initiatives getting attention, resources, funding and approvals, so being sure you are aligned and focused on those will help you and the buyer.

What are some of the biggest new challenges amplified from the 2020 crisis?

Through the crisis Frugalnomics is now in full effect, where buyers are now much more risk averse and economic focused.

    In fact, a recent survey from Demand-Gen Report indicates that

  • 71% of buyers say they now have a formal buying committee to evaluate all purchases across the organization
  • 47% admit to being been forced to put off purchases due to crisis induced budget freezes.
  • and 68% report that when they do decide to make a purchase, more people and hurdles are involved leading to extended decision-cycles and many more “no decisions”.

With these challenges, gaining new business, or even assuring renewals is difficult. We believe Frugalnomics will require you and your team to not just better communicate, but credibly quantify the savings and business value impact of any proposed solutions.

In fact, according to the Rain Group, 66% of buyers say making a clear ROI case highly influences their purchase decisions, however, only 16% of sellers are very effective at this.

Bad news that most sellers are not effective. Worse, if your sellers can’t deliver, and you leave it up to buyers to develop the financial justification required for approval themselves, 2/3rds of buyers don’t have the research, knowledge or tools needed to do so on their own.

So what should you do to overcome the Fuigalnomics challenge?

First, it is important to work on and refine your value messaging – Based on the role of who your sellers are engaging with, enabling your sellers to communicate a relevant value story about the challenges each role faces and the value your solution could deliver to help overcome the challenge.

And secondly, provide interactive tools to help make communicating and quantifying value easier – helping your sales reps and customers to perform better value discovery, value quantification and ROI analysis.

What would you recommend to effectively close out 2020

When I was a performance driving instructor, we had a phrase to help drivers go faster on the track, but seemed counterintuitive: Go in slow to come out fast.

Many companies have had to run, not walk their digital selling transformation programs forward. What might have been a 3-year goal pre-crisis has now become a 3-month rapid transformation.

The challenges such rapid transformation can create are extreme. Think about the difference between a step-by-step road to a healthier life-style long term, and a crash exercise and diet program.

Will the new habits rushed into practice out of necessity be effective longer term? Will they stick when you have had little time to properly manage the change, and assure readiness, enablement and integration?

Forced to change so quickly, which could be good, after all, why waste a “good” crisis … however, on-top of all the tactical changes to “lose the weight” via the current crash diet, we need to think somewhat strategically about longer-term wellness, making sure good habits are developed out of the quick transformation to help avoid fallout and burnout.

So my advice in closing out 2020 – slow down. Pause. Take a step back from the craziness to gain a new perspective, and reassess for the longer term. You hustled through early 2020 out of necessity …. Now go into 2021 slow to come out fast.

What do you recommend, go forward into 2021?

According to Forrester, 80% of B2B sales will now be digital and remote (Forrester)
Not just in the near term but permanently. Couple that with continued economic pressure and you have quite a bit to proactively address in order to get your sellers prepared, ready and successful.

    I believe a rethink, to address the remote, digital and frugal shift with a value mindset is critical to 2021 success. We recommend leveraging sales enablement priorities to help better:

  • Connect your value: Align and codify your value messaging to a new set of priority challenges post-crisis.
  • Communicate your value: Ditch the pitch, evolving to more customer-first, visually inspiring, value-focused storytelling
  • Quantify your value: Leveraging interactive assessment tools to better discovery, communicate and quantify value
  • Teach your value: Transform and elevate all sellers with training, readiness and coaching, to be digital, remote and value successful.
  • Optimize your value: leveraging usage, consumption and impact intelligence to quickly know what content, tools, conversations, value drivers and more are working or not, taking action to optimize and better invest.

Checkout the On-Demand panel discussion on this topic here to see what all the experts had to say on each of these key questions:
https://vendorneutral.com/closing-out-2020-and-positioning-your-sales-org-for-2021/

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