Sales Leader Rules of the Road (When The Customers Are Driving)

Sales Leader Rules of the Road (When The Customers Are Driving)

Sales Leader Rules of the Road (When The Customers Are Driving) Customers take the wheel

Customers are in charge. Gone are the days of catching unknowing customers off-guard just to make a sale.

The truth is clear.

Salespeople need to be flexible. Adapt with the times—especially when it comes to customer behavior.

Now that customers are empowered and educated more than ever, selling off scripts and pushing information and features down their throats will not result to a sale most of the time.

In an article on, sales expert Tiffani Bova writes that the evolving relationship between buyers and sellers necessitates a change in traditional sales leader rules.

In particular, customers are turning increasingly to their “trusted network for recommendations and information.” And, unlike the good old days, the sales process places less weight on interactions with sellers.

If you’ve worked in sales for the last decade, you’ve felt this. Customers know much more than they did before. They make a conscious effort to educate themselves to make the best possible decision. It’s not surprising that in the world of business-to-business sales, customers are already 67 percent into their decision-making process before they even make contact with a salesperson.

This change is continuously causing ripples in the sales world.

The big question is this: How should the sales world respond?

There is no choice but to adapt.

Of course. The good news is that sales professionals can adapt their existing methods to stay competitive in the sales field.

Here are a few helpful sales leader rules to stay ahead of the curve.

Recognize that customers have done their research

Customers want to talk to salespeople who know better than they do without making them feel stupid. While talking about product features your customers have already heard about will make you look incompetent, talking to customers like they know nothing is a surefire way to get on their bad side. Worse, it probably costs salespeople more sales than they think.

Now, the key here is to nail the perfect mix of being an authoritative source of information without being condescending.

Customers these days can and will inform themselves before making buying decisions.

Remember: When and how you make first contact to your customers is important. For any salesforce, this is crucial. It’s important to remember that all the information customers need to form buying decisions can be found online. The moment customers connect with any member of the salesforce is probably not the first time they interact with anything connected to the product.

In the business to consumer space, the world of online reviews is fledgling. Amazon, Yelp. TripAdvisor. In the b2b space, business blogs, articles, videos, news reports—customers can virtually get the perspective of users from a lot of angles, probably even ones close to their own.

Now, when you do make the first touch with the customer, you have to reaffirm their knowledge and help them see your product in their context. Remember that they have all the information but they might not have the knowledge to identify which of their problems your product have solutions to. 

It’s important to identify touchpoints as well so you know how to approach customers from different contexts.

Here are other customer touch points that can open up selling opportunities and how they possibly got to connect with you:

    • Customer needs something and looks up a service online. They can find options through search engines, mobile search, social media and websites.
    • Customers select a particular company after an encounter. The encounter can either be a review, an online demo, a video on Youtube or any of the avenues online where a company and product are presented.
    • Customer accesses support live chat. They might be an existing customer or a rep for a business who uses one of your products.

      Be flexible

      As a sales leader, you have a huge say as to how members of your sales team spend their time. It’s easy to fall into the trap of having a rigid routine, especially when it feels like it’s working well for your organization.

    • Don’t bind your sales team to a timeline and goal schedule that isn’t rooted in customer behavior. Using systems and methods just because it has worked before or just because it was what was passed down by previous sales leaders isn’t only lazy—it’s dangerous! Imagine if you use resources, time and energy connecting with customers that are not receptive to your approach. How would it affect your performance? Imagine if you’re trying to connect with customers without taking into consideration their situations?Keep your eyes on the goal: Sales are what you need, and being flexible about your operations allow you to explore ways of getting to your goals.Bova stated in her article that to stay competitive, ““sales organizations must shift from trying to control their internally driven sales cycle and truly embrace the new customer-driven buying cycle.” Being flexible is just that. Knowing when to adjust and knowing what to adjust.You and your sales team need to embrace the truth that each buyer is unique.Not one customer has the same experience as another. They could’ve started with a need or may have encountered a product you have in one of the avenues of content online. Whichever it is, each customer requires a personalized combination of “human and digital interactions.”To help with this flexibility and nimble response-reflex, your methods and metrics need to delve into customer behavior so that your team can begin to see patterns in a seemingly unpredictable consumer-base.

Capture customer data

Understanding your customers on a qualitative level is awesome and is the core of competent sales teams. However, collecting qualitative data is a largely subjective process. With how data-driven business has become, not bringing in the power of data to back up your decisions and moves is unacceptable.

No matter how diverse customers’ needs and methods are, it is still crucial for a sales organization that they identify patterns in behavior.

Reaching customers with 1:1 personalization is only possible if sales organizations dip into the big well of analytics. Customers expect more, more than ever. They are acutely aware that every connection they have online and in any channel is a ploy to get them to buy. Some of the savviest customers know that each step of their decision making is tracked and measured even when they are not in contact with a salesperson.

Customers ignoring marketing and sales campaigns are not unheard of.

Customer data analytics is made more important by the need for a two-way conversation when selling. Like we’ve established, a one-way kind of selling is not going to fly with customers these days. When you know what is going to work, you use that to personalize your conversations with your customers.

Why is customer data important?

  1. It deepens your understanding of your customers.
  2. It enables you to connect with customers when they are open  to conversation.
  3. It ensures that you are consistent with your message across touches and channels.
  4. It makes customers feel valued and creates an always-on feeling in your relationship with them.For companies on the enterprise level, Big Data is of big use. There’s a reason Big Data analytics has boomed in the last few years. IN a nutshell, Big Data uses science on big collections of data and processes it so the most important pieces of information float away from the fat. Collecting data from millions of customer interactions results in very precise findings that help huge sales organizations find their best customers and reach them with the right message at the right way.

Now, in smaller organizations where Big Data isn’t as applicable yet, multi-channel online analytics provides great support to in-CRM and field data.

For companies that are just beginning to tap into the rich well of analytics, simplicity and adoption are the two key things to consider when looking for analytics solutions.

There are hundreds of analytics tools around, what with the boom of marketing technology and Software-as-a-service companies. Analytics companies fill the gaps where analytics giant Google Analytics has been lacking. However, Google Analytics is a great tool when beginning to adopt analytics as a part of your sales strategy. They have also released new features that make the platform very useful and very robust, giving insight to interesting angles in the customer’s buying journey.

User ID, Enhanced e-commerce, Flow reporting, Data import and more polished Audience Reporting are just some of the improved components of Google Analytics. GA paints a dynamic picture of your customer’s journey and allows your sales organization to coordinate with marketing in order to reach customers at the right time with the right message.

Challenge the status quo

Your sales team needs to be open to testing new ideas in real-time. There is not one good reason to stop reviewing methods and just stick to one strategy. Basing all your actions to customer behavior is the foundation of a strong sales process.

Aside from the obvious goal-oriented benefits of being flexible and not being dogmatic about sales processes, being flexible helps develop the critical thinking skills of your team. Critical thinking is a crucial skill in sales. Knowing what to say when, turning buying cues into action, picking up signals—all of these are amplified in effectiveness when used with critical thinking in play.

As a leader, it is your task to institute ways to encourage and liven up critical thinking in your team.

Try the following tactics to shake up your team’s routine.

  • Reconsider whether the structure of your team is hindering or helping innovation. 
  • Collaborate closely with your marketing colleagues to create materials that support sales
  • Pilot new methods during each new sales interaction

As you experiment, your team can discern the best approach for your business—and then put it into play.

Stumped on how to implement quick change?

Agile sales teams support new sales leader rules

Just think—we now live in a fast-paced world, with technology driving massive changes in the way we communicate and do business with one another. Needless to say, companies that fail to adapt to the rapid changes in business conditions could find themselves in a lot of trouble. This is especially true for the sales industry.

Let’s look at buyer behavior as an example. Before the internet, salespeople were the main source of product information. Buyers based their purchases on information passed on by the salesman, and the success of the sale often hinged on how effectively the seller was able to present solutions to the buyer’s problem.

But now, studies show that 57% of average buyers learn on their own, and are done with 60% of the sales process even before they initiate contact with sales professionals. They use the internet to choose among companies that supply the products that they need, and use social networks to cross-check the product’s quality. Other findings show that the chance of connecting with is lead are 100 times greater if sales reps reach out within five minutes.

Quick-thinking companies have adapted to this by changing the way that they sell. Tech-savvy executives are now focusing on developing CRM systems that will help their sales teams produce high-quality, shareable content that will attract the right kind of leads and potential clients at the exact moment that they are ready to purchase.

There is another casualty of changing consumer patterns that is often overlooked, an elephant in the room if you will, that sales professionals need to pay attention to if they want to stay on top—and this is the gradual erosion of the traditional sales process.


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Patrick Hogan

Patrick is a Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Tenfold.