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05 FEBRUARY 2018
Research reveals why salespeople lose deals

by Steve W. Martin: Founder of the Heavy Hitter sales training program & author of the Heavy Hitter series of books on the human nature of complex sales. Teaches sales strategy at the USC Marshall School of Business.

I recently had the privilege to spend some time reviewing my latest B2B buyer persona sales research with Tiffani Bova, ?Global, Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist for Salesforce. Here’s some key excerpts from her Huffington Post article below titled, “The Truth About Why Salespeople Win and Lose Deals.”

Tell me about this research project - how did you go about analysing buyer behaviour?

The goal of this study was to determine and define the different types of buyer personas. What are buyers’ perceptions of the salespeople they meet and how do they ultimately choose between them? To accomplish these goals, over 230 business professionals who evaluate the products and services their companies use participated in this research project. Study participants completed an extensive 76-part survey on a variety of subjects to understand their personality tendencies and were asked to provide opinions on real-world sales scenarios. The questions were intended to discover what they like and dislike about salespeople. 

What can we learn from this study for more effective selling? 

The most important lesson is to understand how B2B buyers perceive salespeople. Put yourself in the position of the experienced buyer who has met with hundreds of salespeople. What percentage of salespeople would you say are excellent, good, average or poor? The study participants were asked to categorise all of the salespeople they have met into four different categories. Overall, they rated 12% excellent, 23% good, 38% average, and 27% poor.

Customers can think of a salesperson as someone who is trying to sell something, a supplier with whom they do business, a strategic partner who is of significant importance to their business, or a trusted advisor whose opinions on business and personal matters are sought out - and listened to. Obviously, a trusted advisor enjoys significant advantages over the competing salespeople. However, just 18% of the salespeople they met over the past year would be classified as trusted advisors whom they respect.

Salespeople frequently meet with lower-level and midlevel employees at companies whose business you’re trying to secure, but it’s the rare conversations salespeople have with C-level decision makers that directly determine whether they win or lose the deal. Therefore, it is critical to understand how C-level executives think and communicate - and that you adapt your use of language to match theirs. Unfortunately, buyers report that fewer than one out of three salespeople can hold an effective conversation with senior executives.

Buyers don’t just seek information to aid a strategic decision; they amass information that helps them justify their preconceived ideas of strategic value (gaining a competitive edge, increasing productivity, decreasing costs and risk). In other words, your product’s strategic value comprises the reasons and arguments buyers give to senior management and others in the company as to why the product should be purchased. Buyers say just over half of salespeople they meet with can clearly explain how their solution impacts the business.

What are the Key Takeaways from the Study?

Nearly every evaluation committee has a single dominant decisionmaker.

After analysing hundreds of sales cycles while conducting win-loss analysis for my clients, one finding is that one member of the selection team is able to exert their will and determine the vendor selected. I have coined the term “bully with the juice” for this person. This is not necessarily a negative term, nor does it mean that the person is physically intimidating. It is simply a description of a person who will tenaciously fight for their cause in order to get their way. This person isn’t afraid to be politically incorrect or ruffle some feathers to ensure their personal desire is met.

Simply put, this person has charisma and is a natural leader. These buyers are not always the highest-ranking people involved in an evaluation, but they are usually on the winning side. Typically, only one member of the customer’s evaluation team fits this description. Single-handedly, they impart their own will on the selection process by choosing the vendor and pushing the purchase through the procurement process.

In order to quantify the frequency of when there is a singularly dominant individual, from the buyers’ perspective, study participants were asked about their selection committee experiences. Overall, 90% of respondents confirmed that there is always or usually one member of the committee who tries to influence the decision their way.
Useful resources:

Steve W. Martin
Steve W. Martin is the foremost expert on "Sales Linguistics," the study of how customers use language during the complex decision-making process. Visit our InfoCentre or website.

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