Capitalize in the VOID – Why Salespeople Fail

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on RPG’s blog here

Why are so many salespeople struggling? I have answered this several times, each time, a little different. Here is a consolidated response based on those answers…

“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” – Jack Welch

Selling has not changed at the same rate buying has changed… Does that sound familiar?

That point, when the buyer first engages with the seller is what we call The Void. This is where deals are won or lost. It only takes a fraction of a second for the buyer to make a decision, but salespeople aren’t equipped with the right messaging or tools to capitalize in The Void. Salespeople use antiquated techniques because that is what they’ve been trained to do by sales trainers. These sales training systems were developed 40+ years ago for a world that no longer exists. The buyer has evolved, but sales hasn’t and it is saddling your sales team with three distinct disadvantages.

Disadvantage #1 – To your prospect, you’re all the same

The first thing to consider is that the buying process has radically changed over the last 20 years. Before today’s age of accelerations, buyers relied on sellers as their source of information. Today buyers ignore salespeople for as long as possible, completing nearly 70% of their buying process before engaging a salesperson. Similar to what we have seen in the retail space where consumers are less reliant on the in-store experience, B2B buyers are using the Internet and other methods of research to form their interpretation and opinions on a narrowed-down list of potential vendors based on their needs before they ever talk to the seller. The bad news: at the point of engagement, they now believe you and your competitors are all the same.

Disadvantage #2 – You get one shot

Once engaged, the seller is now introduced to their 2nd disadvantage, being relegated to a single conversation or meeting in order to get a pass to the next. That means one presentation to make an impact and distinguish themselves from their competitors or risk being eliminated from consideration. RPG refers to this moment of truth, this one or done, as The Void. It is that transition point in the buyer’s journey moving from research to solution consideration. The pressure is on and if sales teams don’t deliver, they’re done.

Disadvantage #3 – The easiest decision is to do nothing

Can you win the battle and still lose the war? Absolutely!

It’s one thing to win the “Why you” battle, where you show superior capability and performance against your direct competitors. How is your team at establishing priority? With B2B decision teams now averaging 6.8 people, your salespeople have to contend with each meeting participant bringing their own priorities to the table. Most aren’t capable of winning the “Why now” war.

These 3 disadvantages are the direct result of what we, at RPG, call the Three Deadly Cs: Commoditization, Consensus Decision Making and Compressed Selling Time. Everybody looks, sounds and acts the same, decision-making teams keep getting bigger and your salespeople are ignored until the very end of the buying journey.

Your sales team is being sent to the battlefield carrying a plastic knife.

Here’s an epiphany… sales isn’t to fault, not entirely anyway. This is a problem that must be solved by the company. Since the buyer is ignoring or blocking access, for the first 70% of their journey, then marketing holds as much, or more, of the burden of failure as the sales team does. Once sales is allowed in, they’re positioned for failure. They’re stuck with the following:

  • Antiquated training: 7 of 8 sales training programs developed before the Internet or cellphone was invented
  • Wrong messaging to spark curiosity, create differentiation and drive priority: These are not keywords or website copy!
  • Wrong selling tools to pitch and engage the brain: This should not be created by the marketing team

In order to stay relevant and keep pace with buying committees, your sales team must contend with The Void. The place to start is aligning the entire team so they can quickly and easily articulate “Why you, Why Now?”

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