For me, reading the Bain and Company white paper, Is complexity killing your sales model? was like being splashed in the face with cold water. The ideas presented here about relationship selling were counterintuitive, at least for this former sales force communications manager. After all, I was used to the sales success mantra of—Relationships are everything! Then I read:
“Buyers can readily gather basic information about products online. Then, in the vendor selection stage, total cost of ownership and return on investment trump relationships. Purchase decisions that were previously controlled by one manager now involve a web of stakeholders.”(page 1)
But after I read the entire paper, I realized Bain was telling me how we need to rethink current B2B sales relationships and stop creating complex, inefficient sales models that use these relationships ineffectively.
- The changing shape of demand means that customers are researching more before they buy, expecting to find solutions for their business problems, not just one-time products. The sales relationship thus becomes more consultative and the relationship even more crucial
- Smart sales models reward their sales personnel for expanding the customer relationship through cross selling but also put a high premium on the difficult process of landing that new account.
- Early in the sales cycle, smart sales organizations are loading their sales bench with specialists who are industry experts. That’s how they avoiding losing sales because customers fear salespeople “don’t know their industry”
- Sales models that include a specialist and a generalist create a team that will grow with the product line. The relationship that a specialist builds with the “new kid on the block” is also rewarded somewhere in her compensation, to ensure that the knowledge needed to close deals expands across the company, across time, and in tandem with the sales cycle.
- Make sure the relationship between the back office and the sales organization is seamless. According to Bain, the back office is the company’s “secret weapon” in protecting customer loyalty and freeing up to 30% more of the sales representatives’ days for actual selling. (10) Allowing a well-staffed, expertly trained back office to protect the relationship with new and existing customers can save money, untold heartache and, yes, Virginia, I’ll say it — relationships. To download the entire Bain and Company white paper, click here.