Logo - Business Development Bank of Canada - BDC

The world of sales has changed

5-minute read

In the last 20 years the world has changed drastically, and the working life of a sales professional has changed right along with it.

Customers have become more cautious and consequently their buying decisions have become more complex.

There’s a culture of risk aversion. It's no longer: “We like you, so we’re going to give you a try.” People want to see a return on investment and proof you’re going to make a difference in their business with what you’re selling.

There's also a rise of consensus-based decisions in business today, meaning there’s not one decision-maker anymore. More often than not, there is an entire boardroom full of people who want to weigh in on a buying decision.

There’s not even a sales process anymore. Now, there’s a buying process. Nothing exists in isolation. Everything can be looked up, researched and compared.

Too many business owners and salespeople forget that a customer’s path to making a purchase today involves many more touch points than it did in the past. In fact, research shows that buyers will interact with your business 10 times on average for every purchasing decision they make. That’s a lot of separate opportunities to win or lose a sale.

So with all that in mind, how will you succeed in this multiple touch point, offline, online world?

Here are a few questions you might ask yourself.

  • Do you help your salespeople with consistent messaging and easy-to-use tools?
  • Does your online presence (i.e. website/social media properties) support your salespeople and the sales process or does it add barriers?
  • Could you integrate the online experience into the sales process by supplying your sales reps with tools such as tablets that could act as an extension of your website?

The buying process is happening before you hear from prospects

In 2012, Forrester did a famous survey of B2B buyers and found that 74% of business buyers conduct more than half their research online before making an offline purchase. This is a very important statistic if your sales team is actively hunting for new prospects or trying to convert inbound sales leads.

What it means is you must give prospects enough information so they can adequately research your product or service before contacting you.

There’s no longer room to keep information off your website in hopes prospects will call for it. They probably won’t. Instead, they’ll go to your competitors’ websites where they can find the information they seek.

How to close more sales

As a business, your closing ratio will improve when you have a solid online presence where prospects can do lots of research before talking to you. In fact, given customers’ desire to educate themselves, it should be a priority to offer them as much information as possible, as efficiently as possible.

They should be able to understand exactly what your product or service does by reading and/or watching a video on your site. They should also be able to find insightful content that helps them solve their challenges by using your product or service.

Case studies, guides, blogs, videos, testimonials, customer reviews can all help your sales team by adding value to your discussions with prospects. If there are common questions or objections you get from prospective customers, why not use them as inspiration for content?

The tools your sales team needs

At BDC, we know there are many different types of businesses with diverse sales strategies. There is not a one-size-fits-all way of approaching this. At the same time, we also know that arming your team with the best tools to close business can be challenging. Here are some examples of what you can easily do.

Create streamlined product or service catalogues that can be:

  • Opened on a tablet during a sales call
  • Sent as a link before or after a call
  • Used by resellers, brokers and agents

Create sales focused FAQs. For example: “Why buy from us? Top 10 reasons.”

  • This kind of document helps align sales and marketing teams with consistent messaging. It’s also useful for training new sales staff.

Create standardized email with links to blogs, white papers, ROI documentation and other content.

  • This becomes part of the “sales process.” (It’s easy for salespeople to send to prospects.)

Shoot videos of product functions or a virtual tour of your production facility.

  • Sales people can open and play this during a presentation to build credibility and engagement with prospects.

The bottom line is quite simple. For your customers, information is power and they will get it one way or another. Most of that information will come from Google and the digital assets of the companies they are interested in dealing with.

Today’s customers want to know a lot about you and have formulated an opinion even before you get up to bat with them. Are you ready to meet the challenge?

How have sales changed for your business? How have your sales processes changed? Leave a comment below.