The business world has changed remarkably over the last 20 years. From the times where there was a dominance of large corporations, to lean start-ups littering the landscape, to the current digitisation of business units; the world is dealing with unprecedented levels of competitiveness and upheaval.
The Buying Cycle Has Become Significantly Longer
One trend that is having a huge effect on the sales cycle is purchase behaviour. A research study by Harvard Business Review (HBR) reveals that ‘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.’
Looking at that statement, we can already see a number of potential delays in decision-making. With so many cooks in the kitchen, the broth will take much longer to bring to a boil, if it doesn’t spoil in the process.
Why is this the case? An IDC paper has predicted that 'the world will be creating 163 zettabytes of data a year by 2025', so that should be giving buyers ample information to make quicker choices. The amount of information available online should make buyers more empowered, not paralysed, but the latter is exactly what happens.
The research and negotiation phase drags as buyers look for the absolute best deal, leading to a much longer buying cycle.As per HBR, ‘No matter the choice, some stakeholders will always find aspects of an alternative more appealing.’ Sales teams have to deal with buyers who all want increasing levels of customisation at a low cost.
Juggling Stakeholders To Sell To
With this level of customisation required, your probably can't use your usual sales deck. At the same time, that sales deck would not work for the variety of different stakeholders who have to approve it. Your sales team will most likely have to walk a fine line between the technical and the business end. Juggling feedback from different stakeholders will also require different skillsets; the challenges that the Head of IT is concerned with would be vastly different than those from the Head of Sales.
In this case, how can your sales team juggle all this, and still close the sale in a relatively short amount of time?
- Know all the stakeholders involved. After connecting with your prospect, ask to see who has the power in making large purchases; there’s no point in spending weeks talking to the Head of Sales if he needs the Head of IT’s go-ahead. After all, if you need the Head of IT's go-ahead, the amount of detail and preparation would differ, and you might require technical support even in the pitching process.
- Run a demo of your software to the correct stakeholders. There’s nothing more convincing than a demo, especially when your product is customisable and depends heavily on self-administration on the customer's end. When you run a demo, each department can get their questions answered on the spot, and you won't have to spend weeks emailing back and forth as they question the types of customisation or servitisation scenarios they might need. At the same time, your sales team can observe the power balance in play, and know who to concentrate their next efforts on.
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