The Power of Being Prescriptive in B2B Sales
Conventional wisdom says providing customers with more information throughout the sales process will overcome objections and close more sales.
Well, 2017 research undertaken by CEB and published in the Harvard Business Review suggests that isn’t the case. Reacting to a customer’s evolving needs and adjusting the product was found to result in an 18 per cent decrease in how easy a customer thought the buying process was.
In this article we’ll look at the problem with selling in a responsive way, as well as how your organisation can set up a prescriptive sales strategy.
The Problem with Responsive Sales
According to the report “most sales reps wrongly believe that satisfying customers’ every request for information and support makes buying easier”.
It found that taking a responsive approach not only decreased ease of purchase, but also increased the likeliness that a customer would experience purchase regret.
It appears that the more information customers have and the more options you give them, the more likely it is that they will become overwhelmed. This can lead to them taking longer to make a buying decision or simply not buying at all.
How Prescriptive Sales is Better
According to the report, using a prescriptive selling strategy increased purchase ease by 86 per cent. While it acknowledges that every sale is different, it says that by learning from challenges and the sales process of a small number of similar customers, organisations can create a scalable prescriptive sales strategy.
This sales process should identify obstacles to buying in advance and then take steps to remove them. By guiding customers through the decision-making process, not only did the report find ease of purchase increased but there was also a decrease in the likeliness of purchase regret.
Four Ideas on How to Set Up a Prescriptive Sales Process at Your Organisation
The report contained four steps that sales teams can use to implement a prescriptive sales strategy. Here is a summary of each of them:
- Organisations looking to introduce a prescriptive sales process should map out the customer journey. While many businesses already do this, CEB recommends a ‘supplier-agnostic’ customer journey. By creating a customer journey from the buyer’s point of view, sales teams gain a greater understanding of the process that buyers go through when looking to make a purchase.
CEB recommends surveying existing customers or speaking to high-performing sales reps in order to gain the information required to make some of these changes.
- The next step is to identify pain points and barriers to buying, something that may also occur during the first step. CEB recommends collecting data from several customers so the sales team can identify themes that point to the type of challenges potential buyers may struggle with.
CEB also mapped out some common challenges buyers might experience at each stage of the buying process. These are:
- Early in the buying process, the main challenge faced by buyers relates to information. They may struggle to identify what information is useful for their purposes and what is unhelpful, as well as finding it hard to understand conflicting information. Knowing when they have enough information is another problem faced by purchasers.
- During the middle stage of the buying process, the problem often comes down to people. Different priorities, purchase criteria, and views on whether the change is needed can complicate the buying process.
- Later on, the issues often boil down to choice. Customers are overwhelmed by an influx of purchase options.
By identifying these obstacles, businesses can create prescriptive sales strategies that help potential buyers overcome these objections at each stage of the process.
- The next step CEB suggests is to create prescriptions for each challenge. It recommends not making the solutions promotional as this is likely to cause potential buyers to mistrust the information.
Instead, the material must make a customer’s life easier through the introduction of useful information, while also reducing indecision and compelling action (e.g. demos, conversations with reps, content or workshops). The prescription should push the customer down the buyer’s path, but should do so without being promotional.
- The final step of creating a prescriptive sales process, according to CEB, is having a way to know exactly where a customer is on the buying journey. This enables sellers to see when customers may be about to encounter a problem and take action to remedy this.
In order to do this, CEB recommends setting up indicators that tell the sales team when a customer has moved to the next step of the buyer’s journey. These indicators should require active participation from the buyer to show they have committed to taking the step. The steps should also be clear and binary to minimise the chance of confusion.
A Prescriptive Approach Requires Data
Implementing a prescriptive sales strategy requires the marketing and sales departments to work together. This is critical when identifying buyer personas, mapping out the customer journey, and identifying potential obstacles for buying.
It is, therefore, important that all team members engaged in the sales process have access to the same data so they can work together effectively. Red Flag Alert can help with this by integrating its in-depth business data into a company’s CRM, ensuring everyone in a business is on the same page.
Additionally, Red Flag Alert provides:
- Detailed data that can be used to help segment your customers and create prescriptive strategies for each type of prospect.
- Data on every business in the UK that allows you to target the most relevant prospects.
- Financial data, which is incredibly useful when spotting buyers’ pain points, thus coming up with strategies to address these challenges.
- Red Flag Alert will help you set the system up and train your organisation to ensure you get the most from the dataset.
To see how Red Flag Alert can help your business create a prescriptive sales strategy, set up a free consultation with Richard West on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0344 412 6699.