Have you ever walked into a grocery store to buy something, saw the number of options available, and then spent an hour comparing every single one until you were sure you were getting the best product? Or refused to buy a product in-store until you had done a detailed comparison online?
In this data-driven age, this isn’t uncommon. This can be seen through the power of review sites; various research conducted has put online trust in review sites at a 80-90% range. Everyone is bombarded with information, and trying to find more information that will tell them which information is best.
If that sounds confusing, it is. Knowledge might be power, but too much knowledge can lead to indecision. And this extends to B2B businesses, where approval and feedback can result in a never-ending loop of “here’s my feedback, please give yours before we proceed”. We’ve seen this in businesses with complex configuration and multiple approval gates; the delays caused can lead to inefficiencies, even at the quotation and tender stage.
Multiple Decision Makers In The Kitchen
Businesses have reacted to this deluge of information in a variety of ways. Some manufacturing businesses have embraced Industry 4.0 solutions; with Machine Learning and Big Data forming the baseline, smaller decisions can be made in a decentralised fashion, without the need to inform management at every turn.
This decentralised decision-making is especially useful on the factory floor, but what about departments where decisions aren’t as clear cut? For example, discounting in sales?
In this case, businesses have swung the other way, by including more stakeholders in decision making. Per the Harvard Business Review, ‘the number of people involved in B2B solutions purchases has climbed from an average of 5.4 two years ago to 6.8 today, and these stakeholders come from a lengthening roster of roles, functions, and geographies.’
As we’ve mentioned before, the result of this is: longer buying cycles, and more problems for sales teams, who are trying to close sales as soon as possible.
The Responsive Approach
It would make sense, then, that to appease all these stakeholders, sales teams would have taken the responsive approach: Focus on providing all the information that these stakeholders need in order to make the right decision.
After all, this shows exceptional customer service, which is always important for B2B sales teams. If a sales rep can provide data and information the moment the prospective customer needs it, it shows prior planning and preparation. Even if it means providing possible alternatives and comparisons, it is necessary to provide support to ensure the positive connection is set. That’s what being customer-centric and focused is all about.
However, when it comes to results, does the responsive approach work?
Not according to HBR’s survey of more than 600 B2B buyers, which shows a 18% decrease in buying ease. This is because sales teams have forgotten the very problem that started this all: the buying paralysis that comes from information overload.
Yes, you might be providing stakeholders with information to assuage their concerns, but you are also providing them with so many options that decision-making can take even longer.
Everyone Wants To Know Which Product Is Best
So, what can sales teams do to provide as much information as possible, while avoiding the paralysis that comes with information overload?
Try the prescriptive approach.
According to HBR, the prescriptive approach increased purchase ease by a whopping 86%, compared to that 18% decrease with the responsive approach.
The prescriptive approach works like this: provide a clear analysis of the business, and suggest a recommendation that eliminates challenges. After that, prescriptive suppliers ‘present a concise offering and a stable view of their capabilities; and they explain complex aspects of the purchase process clearly.’
The point that separates the prescriptive approach from the responsive approach: the prescriptive approach focuses on proactivity. By being proactive with their recommendations, the sales rep demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of the prospect’s business and challenges.
This translates to an easier sales process, as the prospect is given a full story about what the problem is, and what the solution is. Instead of worrying his mind over all the alternatives, the prospect just has to make a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ decision.
After all, as per HBR, ‘Purchase ease is by far the biggest driver of deal quality’, and sales reps that ‘make buying easy are 62% likelier than other suppliers to win a high-quality sale’.
Don’t confuse the prescriptive approach with old-fashioned pushy sales: the prescriptive approach must be founded on an unbiased analysis of the business’ challenges. The aim here is to be helpful, to help the prospect obtain all the pertinent information he needs through you, so that you can focus on solutions. Specifically, solutions that your business can provide. Do not be overly promotional, and don’t waste time on prospects if they are a bad fit. Your customer service standards and reputation will suffer in the end.
Implementing The Prescriptive Approach
So, how do you implement the prescriptive approach?
This can be achieved through a range of technologies and methods: by using prior customer data (for repeat purchases), predictive analytics and targeting, and by holding demos and workshops, your sales team can learn about the business and create a customised sales pitch that will help the prospect with their unique business challenges.
In the end, this can work for all businesses as they work to surpass their competitors.
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