About Pascal Persyn

Pascal supports organisations in delivering commercial excellence in the areas of Sales Enablement, Content Strategy and Buyer Journey Enablement. His pet projects are about helping companies overcome challenges due to the empowered customer and thus evolving into buyer-aligned organisations. His executive experience in private, VC-backed and public companies enables doing the right thing at the right time with the right people. Don’t hesitate to contact Pascal for expert advice: pascal@perpetos.com

In the beginning of February, we launched a successful kick-off event for an EMEA program deployment with 30 teams. Our aim: to bring the customer to the heart of the organization.

During the event, we worked with the customer to get up to speed with proactive selling. 6 Perpetos people on stage, a high-energy event, and an exceptionally motivated audience. We’re grateful for having realized another success.

Implementation & results

Since COVID, Perpetos has proven to be a global boutique for implementing commercial excellence. Yet, we are humble and grateful for being able to co-pilot critical programs for international and global organizations. Our boutique size, our proven methodology, and our team of field experts formed the winning combination of this event.

Implementation is key in everything we do. Supported by tools and technology, we implement change at a speed that allows our participants to pick up the message fast and make it their second nature. On top of that, we value authenticity, and respect cultural differences, while still ensuring our one way of selling.

Pascal Persyn, CEO of Perpetos comments:

We always want to bridge the gap between our advisory position – providing knowledge – and the practicalities of implementation. In other words: we want to see results too.

Motivation is key

According to Pascal Persyn, the willingness to change and the motivation to overcome the inevitable hurdles are critical.

The question is not whether we can prevent these hurdles, but whether we are ready to deal with them when they occur. That’s one of the reasons why experience in the field is a must.

Stay tuned for more!

All together, we experienced a vibrant kick-off event and we are ready to meet more teams all over EMEA. No doubt, sales and implementing commercial excellence are team sports. 

In our next blog post, we will go more in depth on how we brought 30 teams up to speed with the art of proactive selling.

We have never faced so many unpredictable parameters changing at the same time:

  • Market pivoting from avoiding supply chain risk to price decrease
  • Buyers are confronted with suppliers (having/still) passing on price increases
  • Some material indices are currently going down (eg. due to the oil price)
  • The supply chain starting to normalize but still volatile depending on region and business
  • Increased pressure from customers’ top management for procurement to “lower cost”
  • Increasing need to defend value which require moving from cost-plus to value-based pricing models

All of above leading to customer conversations being tougher than ever before.

The challenge for sales teams can be divided in 3 large buckets:

1. Doing the right things at the wrong time leading to poor impact

  • Trying to influence the customer perceived value during the negotiation
  • Accepting concessions while there are still unsolved obstacles
  • Lack of preparation needed to have a good A/B win strategy

2. Wrong or no assessment of the Balance of Power

  • Mis-reading the level of power you have over the customer
  • Not having access to key influencers and allow purchasing to keep you from talking to the business leaders
  • Lacking strong ‘why stay’ messaging to defend and increase the share of wallet

3. Taking negotiations tactics too seriously

  • Techniques such as good cop/bad cop, pencil sharpening, red herring and selective memory are no more than tactics to get discount
  • Discount does not exist. It should be an exchange of value
  • Lack of confidence in the offering, services and pricing as if the competitors don’t have their own problems. A reality easily forgotten during the negotiation game

The most important insight to gaining rapid impact on upcoming negotiations is acknowledging that Negotiation is no more than a game with lot’s of activities before and after. In other words, detect and change selling tactics depending on being ‘in’ or ‘out’ of the game as shown on the customer journey image below.

Sellers spend way too little time in the Why Change phase which is the only time to sell value as explained in our blog “How to get started with value selling

Negotiation, like the game of chess, is a matter of making a move and anticipating the next move of your customer.

Most sellers believe the balance of power lies with the customer. As a consequence, they often make unnecessary price concessions to win the business. Recent research shows that less than 25% of professional buyers award contracts to the lowest bidders. Clearly price isn’t the only issue buyers are concerned about. Power is critical to any negotiation. Having the upper hand on the balance of power allows you to control the endgame

The balance of power in any negotiation is in the minds of both the buyer and the seller and comes from several sources:

Conducting an analysis of our strengths, and the risks the customer faces, may reveal we have more power than we think

Negotiation is the process of coming to an agreement. Remember the quote from Benjamin Franklin:

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail

Interested in improving your negotiation skills?

Book a meeting with one of our negotiation specialists

Times have never been more uncertain. Unpredictable events have become the norm, and effectively responding to disruption could be the difference between success and failure in 2023.

The number of crises, and the frequency of these events, make it ever more important to be prepared to respond.

In a recent survey (source: Alix Partners Disruption Index) 85% of the CEO’s interviewed agree it is becoming increasingly challenging to know which disruptive challenges to prioritize.

Here are 4 take-aways to help you navigate through uncertain times:

1. Align with your customers long term strategic vision or better yet, help them create it

Make sure you truly understand the issues of your customers. Be aware that content is a significant driver in the buying decision. Value contribution has to be the #1 focus, and it takes deep relationships to understand your customers and to help them become more successful.

2. Broaden your buying center relationships since more people are involved in the buying process

Depending on the research source and business complexity , between 6,8 and 19 people are involved in B2B buying decisions. The length of the sales cycle increased by 22% since 2010. Make sure you are communicating with everyone involved, and connecting on a personal level with internal and external people that influence the buying process.

3. Be sure to get involved with the customer buying journey early enough to enrich their vision of a better future state

The following illustration outlines the customer journey. Getting involved early when the customer is investigating root causes of challenges, ways to solve and establishing decision criteria is really the only time to influence the path the customer will ultimately take when selecting a solution and a supplier. If you can help shape that vision you are more likely to be the supplier your customer chooses.

Remember selling is all about ‘earning the right the influence’.

4. Start from the customer’s point of view and embrace their perception of their current situation

Put yourself in the shoes of your customer by “taking your shoes off” so you can put your own needs aside and act in the best interest of your customer.

It’s not about what your service or product can do, but about its value to the customer. Knowing how your solution impacts their organisation and how you can help them achieve the results they desire is at the heart of helping customers in their buying journey.

We at Perpetos strive to support our customers in continuous improvement and help them navigate through uncertain times.

Koen is part of the Perpetos team since December 2020 and has over 30 years of experience in sales & marketing management.

What is a typical challenge today, that touches both Sales and Marketing

What is a typical challenge today, that touches both Sales & Marketing

Throughout my career I have seen the need for a better collaboration between the two, and this is where I believe I made a difference. All too often Sales and Marketing are still siloed in many organisations, leading to inefficiencies and missed opportunities. 

Looking at today’s marketplace, where the increased complexity to reach existing or new clients requires a commercial approach with different sets of sales messaging. This has become more than ever one of the big challenges to tackle.

I have all too often seen a disconnect between (product) marketing and sales, limiting the messaging to the traditional presentation, brochure, data sheet as usual suspects. When considering the current speed of the market, most ‘sales collateral’ is not adapted to the context at hand or gets outdated quickly, often leading to every salesperson adapting marketing materials to their own insights and not using the latest approved versions.

This leads to a multitude of messages that are not necessarily representing – completely or partially – what the company, products or solutions stand for. Add to this the need to align sales messaging to the different buying phases individual stakeholders are in. And it’s clear why in this continuous change and increasing complexity the gap between Sales & Marketing remains in many cases.  

At Perpetos we implement journeys that align sales and marketing actions in every buying phase of each stakeholder. This allows the use of a common language and process, which automatically lowers complexity and eliminates the silos.

Can you give an example of a challenge you see in the market today that is industry neutral? 

Example of a sector neutral challenge you see in the market today

During my career, I noticed that in each of the companies I worked for, the (sales) processes were different but the customer buying processes showed even more differences. It is necessary to observe and interact with all people involved aligned with their individual buying cycle as not everyone is on the same page nor evolves through their buying cycle at the same speed.  Hence the need of a common sales and marketing approach, including process, which stimulates aligned activities with the right messaging.

Scientific research has shown buyers go through the same buying phases while taking decisions. The sales challenge is that everyone goes through these different phases at a different speed depending on the experience and impact your product or service has on each stakeholder. Read more on this topic: Improve your sales with a better understanding of the buying cycle

In my experience, 9 out of 10 salespeople, and sales organizations in general, still pitch too much from their or the company’s point of view and the reason why customers should choose them. While actually many opportunities require an approach taking into account that the customer hasn’t decided yet or that they want change.

Starting from the needs and aspirations, influencing the need for change, can shorten the decision-making process and increase conversion ratios. Read more on this topic: 3 answers that every Sales rep needs to know

Knowing what you know today, what would be your suggestion to do differently?

What would be your suggestion to do differently

When companies look at optimizing their commercial performance, they usually focus on max 1 or 2 aspects. A typical example, of course, is sales training focusing on closing skills and objection handling or with more emphasis on the sales process itself.

Historically there has been a focus on improving the individual sales while today, more and more, we should score as a team.

Over the years, I’ve seen the best results coming from a systemic approach to increasing commercial performance.  

Each day, I see more and more proof that a systemic approach spaced in time, delivers the best and most sustainable results. An important additional advantage is that the changes are implemented at the speed people can absorb and translate the new approach to their workplace.

This leads to a much higher adoption. This also remedies budgetary issues and increases return.

In this article we will focus on commercial forecasting, i.e. we will look at unsigned orders and contracts. Sales forecasts are never easy. However, in uncertain times it’s no exaggeration to speak about “unpredictability”. This is certainly true if the following factors are combined:  

  • Project and/or recurring sales 
  • Direct and indirect sales, co-selling and working with agents 
  • Complexity of the deal (product mix, size,…) 
  • Buying cycle variety:  number of people involved – buying experience,… 
  • Length of the selling cycle 
  • Experience of salespeople and their management 
  • Composition of the territory, regions and product mix per salesperson 
  • Market share, brand awareness and competitive strengths  

A brief survey during our webinar has made it clear that when making their forecasts, enterprises mainly struggle with delays in making decisions and the reliability of data. This leads to all kinds of complex processes, Excel worksheets outside the scope of the CRM and uncertainties.  

Fortunately, there are ways to drastically reduce this unpredictability and at the same time enable management to undertake action in time and proactively. This is even more important in uncertain times.  

An “agile forecast” is best composed of:  

  • 3 parallel scenarios that allow an analysis of the frictions as well as timely decisions. These scenarios are typical: the worst possible result, the most realistic outcome and the scenario that is feasible with some luck.  
  • No targets and forecasts on the basis of the calendar year or the fiscal year. It’s preferable to work with a rolling forecast of four quarters. In other words, a new quarter is added after every quarter.  

The combination of proper visibility and accuracy and the continuous improvement of the quality of your sales require a number of conditions or criteria to be met:  

  • The same mechanism should be used, from the individual salesperson up to management level 
  • There must be a constant visibility of 4 quarters 
  • Several parallel scenarios (as mentioned above) 
  • Use buying phases as a process rather than the salesperson’s selling phases. This is crucial as a solution for the continued delay in the decision-making process. More information can be found in the blog and the webinar about (CTA to blog 2) 
  • The criteria for the calculation of the scenarios must be based on verifiable customer information. A typical example: Has the budget been approved and is it available?  

A forecast made in this manner has major permanent advantages:  

  • Better use of the selling time and support 
  • Maximum visibility, and the possibility to make adjustments in time…  
  • Less complexity thanks to the uniform process and way of working throughout the company and the avoidance of parallel work in CRM and Excel worksheets 
  • Continuous process that significantly simplifies the annual planning, while avoiding the complex quarterly business reviews (QBR).  
  • Uniform system that makes consolidation possible in spite of high diversity 

The coaching and developing of sales talent is a major secondary effect of this way of working. Good salespeople will use this system for self-coaching and thus achieve even better results.  

View the complete webinar for more detailed examples of this way of working. 

Perpetos Webinar

Dealing with an unpredictable forecast

  How to handle supporting, monitoring and coaching commercial employees
  Quickly adding scenario’s in your reporting for better founded corporate decisions
  Enable management to implement changes

In times of uncertainty or economic recession, winning new customers is even more important than usual. As existing customers reduce or cancel their orders, there is a sudden need for new orders. This is not easy in times when everyone is concerned. Buying from a new supplier implies unknown factors and increases possible uncertainties, making it even more difficult for suppliers to win new customers. Moreover, this is not part of the sales and marketing routine.  

In the article and the webinar “value creation in times of considerable uncertainty”, we will discuss the required knowledge and skills and the pitfalls relating to this topic. The basis to win new customers is customer confidence. And the fastest way to win new customers is to know what the challenges and aspirations of the potential customer are before the first contact. However, there is no approach that works for every situation, as it depends on the experiences of the customer, the impact and therefore the importance of the purchase and the complexity of the solution, as represented in the figure below.  

Criteria influencing sequence design

An adequate sales sequence is necessary, in line with the foregoing. For that purpose you need to know the number of touchpoints, the media, the duration, the spacing of the touchpoints and the message you will use.  The figure below illustrates the components on the basis of which the sequence must be developed.  

Customer acquisition sales sequence design

Finally we will provide you with some must-do’s for the development of your sales sequence:  

  • Mix the media you use (minimally 3) 
  • Telephone calls are still an essential element 
  • A minimum of 6 contact attempts spread over time are necessary for a satisfying result  
  • For complex sales to large enterprises, you may even need 14 to 16 contact attempts spread over 22 days  
  • The follow-up of requests or reactions must take place on the same day; if not, the chance of a breakthrough decreases dramatically and the cost of sale will become much too high.  
  • The messages used must be adjusted to the industry or sector. Research has shown that capitalising on the role of the individual or enterprise results in a lower conversion  
  • During the first contacts, you enter an unknown phase of the customer’s buying cycle. Determining this phase as quickly as possible and adjusting your messages is of crucial importance in the digital era. Your LinkedIn profile must be attractive and must clearly reflect your potential contribution.  
  • Focus on building a relationship and trust by giving away “free” knowledge and experience. Selling the “arrangement”, which was the essential element for a long time when prospecting, has lost a lot of its success, is absolutely “not done” in times of uncertainty and will lead to procrastination. For example: “Call me back in autumn” 

More detailed examples are given in the webinar “How to win new customers today”

During periods characterised by insecurity the general attitude towards salespeople changes. In addition, customers’ focus shifts to short-term solutions and the reduction of risk. Both constitute an opportunity for enterprises and salespeople who manage to adapt to this situation quickly. Adding value while responding to this situation and at the same time focussing on enhancing customer confidence.  

There are four elements that play a role in creating value for the customer:  

  • How can we improve our insight into the customer’s situation?  
  • What are the techniques we can use?  
  • How can we keep all conversations relevant?  
  • How can we ensure that customers are prepared to pay for it?  

In this respect it’s important to have a good insight into the customers’ “Buyer Journey”.  

Waarde creëren in tijden van grote onzekerheid

A few important things to take into account:  

  • A late entry in the buying cycle does not provide much room for value creation, as the customer already knows what he wants and has a preferred supplier with whom he compares other suppliers 
  • If you enter the cycle before the trigger moment, your chances of success are much better.  Nevertheless, your focus should be on messages that increase the willingness to change, i.e. messages that break through the status quo and the “loyalty loop”.  
  • As a salesperson, you must be able to guide the customer through his buying cycle by aligning the activities and messages to what is important to him.  

When you have contact with a customer, you can find out where he is in the buying cycle by asking a few questions. It’s not possible to reverse the cycle. If the customer is already at the end of the cycle, you need very strong conversation techniques to create an opening. Unfortunately, the consequence is that the price is a very important factor, unless you are lucky enough that others before you have made a significant mistake.  

The value wedge combined with the phase in the buying cycle indicate how the added value can be created.  

value wedge

First let’s discuss the typical pitfalls and mistakes that are made on the basis of the value wedge.  The salesperson:  

  1. doesn’t distinguish himself from the competition, just tells the same story 
  1. tries to convince the customer with strong points of the competition that are not at all strong points of his own offer, as it is clear how important they are to the customer.  
  1. is too focused on outdoing the competition by focusing on strong points they both have but that are not relevant for the customer 
  1. fails completely by presenting entirely irrelevant advantages and messages on the basis of his own convictions or non-identical situations, causing irreparable damage to customer confidence.  

If the right conversations take place in line with the specific phase in the buying cycle, the essential confidence will be built quickly, and the critical insights will be acquired that enable the salesperson to focus on the messages that are important to the customer and that the competition overlooked.  

A few “must-do’s” during conversations:  

  • Tell a clear story about similar situations and thus quickly build confidence for the next steps.  
  • Use the right interview and conversation techniques to not only have full knowledge of the situation but also to quantify. This will have a major impact on the price the customer is willing to pay.  
  • Once preparations are complete, your first contact in the active sales cycle is preferably the person who is exposed to the most disadvantages and at the same time has the highest decision-making power. This way you structurally increase your chances of quickly breaking through the status quo.  
  • Ask closed questions to validate your assumptions and monitor your rapport with the person concerned.  
  • Provide a solid underpinning for a possible change, so as to make it easier to minimise discounts and therefore to sell at a higher price than the competition. 

Do you want to know more about these essential elements?  

Perpetos Webinar How to acquire new customers today

How to acquire new customers today

  What are customers open to? How to find out and create sufficient trust to discuss?
  Which mix of digital, virtual and physical conversations work best?

Customers are currently concerned with the uncertain situation and short-term results. In order to be able to act as leaders in current times, we will discuss a few questions in detail:  

  • What do we know today, and which changes will be permanent? 
  • What are the 5 new skills that every salesperson needs?  
  • What are the 4 main pitfalls?  

In our very first webinar at the start of the lockdown, we discussed the procedure for remote sales, as well as the way salespeople can support their customers while being productive themselves:  

  • Contact as many people as possible 
  • Assess the customers who are active and are even ready to make investments 
  • Subdivide your customers in groups based on similar needs and set priorities 
  • Set up small-scale campaigns in line with this temporary subdivision 
  • Be prepared and be sure to practise, as the contents of the conversations is totally different than usual and physical conversations are not possible 

A brief survey in this webinar indicated that enterprises mainly struggle with (in descending order of importance):   

  • Filling the pipeline to limit the impact to a minimum 
  • Acquiring several contacts with the same company in order to acquire a clearer insight 
  • Mixed feelings about the continued remote sales 
  • Focus on short term rather than on long term 

According to an investigation by McKinsney, 96% of enterprises have adjusted their “go-to-market” model to the current situation. 80% even state that the new approach will be applicable at least 1 year. Within the context of this new approach, it’s a challenge for salespeople to remain relevant and create value immediately.  

3 important components of leadership are:  

  • Way of selling: it’s essential to have several contacts in a company, but that’s only possible via a hybrid interaction model. This means less face-to-face contacts, less travelling but more digital contacts.  
  • Timing & opportunities: proper time management has more than ever become crucial for setting the right priorities.  
  • Value creation: In these uncertain times there are 6 factors customers are extra sensitive for. Responding to one or several of those factors with value-driven messages is an important way to have more impact.

These 6 factors are the following:  

  • Social responsibility 
  • Reducing anxiety 
  • Availability 
  • Stability 
  • Risk reduction 
  • Flexibility 

This new approach also means that salespeople need a number of new skills:  

  • Building bridges for customers: By combining the insights of the different contacts within the company and linking them to the additional value your company offers 
  • Talking to customers with a beginner’s mindset and avoiding the pitfall of pre-covid assumptions 
  • Combining proactive interactions with replies to the rather reactive questions.  
  • Being able to provide structure and react to unfiltered customer information, so that the colleagues think along and work on the basis of the new insights 
  • Making use of the video meeting experience acquired in order to introduce a hybrid interaction model with more virtual contacts alternating with physical meetings 
  • Closing the gap between knowledge and competencies 

The most important pitfalls in the current situation are:  

  • Changing too slow due to a delay in translating the impact into a new approach 
  • Getting stuck in replying to short-term reactive questions 
  • Underestimating the required new knowledge & competencies 
  • Not letting go of the experience and insights acquired before covid-19 and thus missing or misjudging new opportunities 

Do you want to know more about how you can face the current challenge? 

Perpetos WebinarHow to Move Stalled Sales Opportunities?

How to Move Stalled Sales Opportunities?

  Procrastination comes in different guises. 3 steps to avoid procrastination
  Dealing with Late Cycle Concerns

Pascal Persyn, CEO of Perpetos, and Prof. Dr. Deva Rangarajan (Director of Professional Selling, Ball State University) discuss how traditional commercial employees should adapt to the new, digital approach to sales.

The CEO of Perpetos sees COVID-19 as an opportunity. Traditional salespeople are now confronted with a new reality, the perfect opportunity to step outside their comfort zone. This will eventually accelerate the general transition to a new approach to sales for many commercial teams. When the current situation ends, a number of people will obviously switch back to more traditional methods. However, the advantages will speak for themselves. Both customers and salespeople will realise that multichannel communication can generate added value.

Perpetos will in the near future present a five-step strategy to facilitate the transition to this digital era:  

  1. Select active customers and/or customers who see the current situation as an opportunity for extra leverage
  2. Divide customers into groups based on similar reasons to buy a product or service
  3. Set priorities based on their willingness to buy spread over time
  4. Develop short campaigns that include multiple touchpoints  
  5. Make sure you are very well prepared by practicing with colleagues 

How can you teach salespeople new skills during a lockdown period?

This is a question that many ask themselves! Perpetos has been offering virtual training, e-learning and micro-learning in collaboration with Qstream and Showpad for quite some time now. These teaching methods are often used by international companies that make use of small commercial teams spread across the globe. Perpetos supports you and your company in this transition and in the creation of momentum during the restart.

Learn more on this topic:

Watch Webinar:
Selling from home

An action-oriented webinar full of tips and tricks from sales in remote selling jobs since many years yet adapted to the current times.

Discover our Remote Sales Resource Center

Find all the info in one place, get valuable insights from practice and enjoy free webinars.

Customers’ buying behaviour has changed considerably in the past few years. How can companies respond to this challenge? How do you organise sales in a digital world? Are you still sending your salespeople out like talking brochures, or will you take action? And how? A diagnosis.  

Time for a sales reboot 

Since 2012, the results of a multitude of studies about the changing buying behaviour of customers have been published. However, many companies only take action when the impact really becomes painful. And it’s often too late by then. It is therefore advisable to take action proactively. But can you motivate people and organise your sales in such a manner that the transition can take place in a timely and painless manner?  

Avoid a reaction that is either too soft or too hard 

There are two ways to react to the reality of changing buying behaviour.  

  •  (Too) many companies continue to assure their clients that with some adjustments, the existing commercial solutions are immune to the changes. Unfortunately, the sales pipeline is like the arteries in our body. If we do not adopt a healthy lifestyle, they slowly get clogged up. The consequences in the long term are disastrous. Holding on to old habits is not the solution.  
  • Others call for a revolution. The world is no longer the same, which is why a drastic transformation of sales is required. We have to start over! That means completely redesigning the processes and systems and preparing for the future! That may be so, but… intrusive action often triggers a shock effect, which in turn has serious consequences.  

Opt for the human approach!  

How can you react to the constantly changing world? Doing nothing is not an option. Starting all over again is not the right solution, either. Actually, the answer is simple: we have to evolve together with our customers. Selling is and will always be a people business, even online. The impact we are noticing with our customers and prospects shows that the changes are real. It is therefore necessary to develop a change process as soon as possible. This way, the changes can be implemented gradually and on a human scale. Without disruptions or all too radical actions.  

Toward a new role for salespeople  

All change processes are based on insights. Customers are still overwhelmed by salespeople who are sent out by their employers like some sort of talking brochures, although they don’t care about salespeople bombarding them with arguments and the benefits of the products they try to sell. Some consultants take advantage of this fact by stating that salespeople will disappear altogether. Nothing could be further from the truth, but it is true that the role of salespeople is changing drastically.  

60% of the sales opportunities come to nothing because the customer does not buy or does not change suppliers.  

The sales cycles have become 22% longer since 2012 and your biggest competitor is no longer your direct competitor, but customers who do “nothing”.  Recent research has shown that up to 60% of the opportunities are simply closed in CRM because the customer doesn’t buy anything or is not willing to change suppliers. You can imagine the impact on the sales cost.  

Sales are needed as long as you:  

  • … incorporate the right mix of digital and human touchpoints in the entire buying cycle of the customer. This depends on the complexity of the product or service you offer, but mainly on the impact on the customer.  
  • … use an interpersonal approach focused on supporting customers and creating added value. This requires the salespeople to have contact with an increasing number of different persons with the customer and at other moments during the buying cycle.  
  • … adjust the sales pitches to every moment during the buying cycle and to the profile of the persons with whom the salespeople are to engage in dialogue.  

Do you want to find out how you can prepare your commercial staff for the future without having to take all too radical actions? Contact us or read more in our eBook:

7 Criteria your sales process has to meet

Are you looking for a new Sales process to find a (new) way to reduce your cost of sales, stop margin erosion or better align your approach with the customer’s buying cycle? Learn how to make sure that the selected process is right for your business.

Commercial excellence means you know your customers so well, that you fully understand them as well as their context. This allows your company to anticipate their needs and expectations. And via sales and marketing to communicate the right thing at the right time, and to show the impact and value of what you have to offer.

To achieve commercial success, it no longer suffices to promote your company. Nor to merely listen and ask questions. Buyers increasingly expect the right information at the right time. And a number of elements are important in this regard.

Commercial Excellence: really know your customer

We need to align activities to the customer’s expectations. Any contact with your company, personal or online, needs to contain the right message aligned to the customer’s readiness to buy. You can accelerate the sales process considerably by meeting their expectations with every contact.

In terms of results

It’s not about what your service or product can do, but about its value to the customer. How does it impact their organisation? What specific results can they expect?

Highest market price

A customer-oriented organisation strives for the highest market price for its products and services. But at the lowest cost from the customer’s perspective. Commercial excellence has a positive impact on your cost of sales and enables you to get results twice as fast.

How can you achieve this? You may ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do your product developers and officers understand the importance of your products and services to the customer?
  • Do they know how the customer will work differently? And what improvements he will accomplish?
  • Are all persons involved aware of how your strengths will contribute to a better result?
  • Can you say whether your products or services will give a better result than those of your competitors?
  • Do your customers recognise the link between your strengths and their accomplishments?

Becoming a customer-oriented organisation

Not every industry has noticed crucial changes in customer behaviour yet. Determine to what extent your customer target groups are already part of the experience economy. To what extent do they use the Internet and social media to inform themselves? If this is the case, follow these four steps to achieve a more customer-oriented approach:

  • Ensure that your market is segmented on the basis of equal needs and reasons to buy. So that your sales messages can be used on a wider scale and are at the same time aligned in detail to each segment’s unique character
  • Map the obstacles preventing your employees from embracing new ways of working. Also map possible motivating factors to change work patterns
  • What current processes and KPIs obstruct a more customer-oriented approach?
  • Develop and implement a change project taking into account all of the above. Take special care to implement the required changes on a human scale. And clearly communicate the benefits for each person involved so as to stimulate willingness to change.

Reach your full potential and create commercial excellence: benchmark your company against ‘Best in Class’ with our Sales Performance Benchmark

You can achieve a higher conversion rate and an increased deal margin by avoiding the following 3 mistakes:

1. Incomplete needs analysis

Unfortunately, this is a classic mistake: questions are limited to strict requirements in order to draw up an offer. This results in conversations that do not offer any added value for the customer. The customer gets an offer based on a rather superficial diagnosis, which will look identical as the one from your competitor.  

In order to differentiate, we also need to interactively discuss the context with the customer. A few additional questions might help to better map the context: 

  • Who else is involved? 
  • By when should you be able to use the solution? (this is a customer-oriented version of the question “when will you decide?”) 
  • What do you wish to achieve? 
  • What is the ideal solution for you? 
  • To what extent do your colleagues share this view? 
  • How will you know that the best solution for you will be chosen?

2. Making too many price offers too soon

The Sales rep continues to push the customer. While first he had not made sufficient inquiries into the context and then explained what the ideal solution would be from his/her own perspective, now the time has come to try and prove these claims through an offer. Whether or not the customer has already made up his/her mind does not seem to matter. 

The fact that a customer requests an offer, does not automatically mean that the customer is ready to buy. Throughout the history of interactions, customers learned that if they require more information, they just need to request an offer in order to get all the information they need.  

However, a request for an offer is no indication of the buying readiness of the customer or whether he/she is only interested in your product. You can easily identify these deals by the following 2 situations: 

  1. The customer delays the decision date once or several times 
  2. The sales rep makes several offers for the same opportunity

It is quite easy to measure both and these two symptoms can help you determine whether offers where made too soon. 

3. Not providing the customer with what he/she really needs

Imagine yourself going to the doctor, who immediately gives you a Imagine yourself going to the doctor, who immediately gives you a prescription because you are the tenth patient that day who has come to see him with a runny nose. This makes a diagnosis superfluous, or does it? You would not accept this from a doctor, but many salespeople still behave like all-knowing oracles. They concentrate on what they want to sell to the customer, and only hear what they want to hear. 

This creates an area of tension between the salesperson and the This creates an area of tension between the salesperson and the customer, who sees the salesperson as a talking brochure trying to convince the customer and discussing technical details. But does the customer feel understood? Does the customer know more now than what he could find on the internet himself? In this context, it is crucial to imagine yourself in the customer’s situation. Empathy demands you to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and thus take off your own. In other words, are you prepared to put yourself in the customer’s place? If not, your sales costs are at risk again. 

The Goal: Lower Cost of Sales, Higher Conversion Rates and an Increased Deal Margin 

It’s all about interacting with the client, understanding his/her context, defining the best solution together, and facilitating the customer’s buying process. Salespeople who are capable of doing that can shorten the sales process and, through increased trust, reach the intended results: lower cost of sales, higher conversion rates and increased deal margins.