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customer experience
Shaun Smith
  • By Shaun Smith
  • Mar 09 2009

Why your sales are failing: and what you need to do about it

Our smith+co subject expert John Aves continues our occasional series on how to reinvent selling to make it an essential element of a differentiated customer experience…

Business Failure

What three things make you different?

List three things that differentiate your sales experience from your competitors. Sorry, can’t hear you. No, still waiting. Question not clear? Let me re-phrase it…

If someone asked your customers what are the three things about how you sell that make their experience of being sold to by you different and better from the competition, what three things would they say?

You probably don’t have an answer. If you do, feel free to prove me wrong by using the ‘comment’ section, below, to let us know what those three differentiators are.

Most selling is undifferentiated

It’s clear that most sales are undifferentiated – most organisations sell using the same concepts, sales training and ‘systems’ as their competitors. So, at a time when selling is as hard as it has been in living memory in most sectors, what are you doing to set yourself apart and improve your success rate?

Typically, sales functions are going through efficiency measures in response to the economic downturn. If that includes your organisation, then you are missing the bigger picture. If you think efficiency measures and getting sales people to work harder at digging up sales will get you where you need to be in this recession, you need to rethink urgently. Your starting point needs to be why sales fail.

Why sales fail

There is one simple, overpowering reason that accounts for around half of failed sales.

In over 50% of cases, lack of trust is the primary reason the customer decides not to buy. The next highest categories for not buying, ‘No need’ and ‘No desire to change’, both hover around 10%. ‘No urgency’ and ‘No budget’ trail even further behind. ( Source: The book Conceptual Selling, by Miller, Heimann et al)

So, the 200 lb gorilla in the failed sales department is absence of trust.

We have known this for years of course. Well over twenty years ago, J D Powers’ surveys in the car sales market told us that customers would buy a car they liked but weren’t mad about from a salesperson they trust rather than buy a car they love from a salesperson they did not trust.

What customers want

Of course, in the current climate, ‘No budget’ will probably have moved up the scale of reasons. But, trust is still the big issue you have to work on to get the most out of your sales effort in these unprecedentedly tough times.

Customers are looking to work with (fewer) suppliers who really understand what they need and value, and in whom they can trust because the consequences of failure are even more traumatic in uncertain times.

Three things that differentiate

In working recently with a business-to-business financial services client, we discovered that their Relationship Managers needed to do three things to differentiate themselves from the competition:

1. Take personal ownership for the client experience

2. Create solutions that were customized to the needs of clients

3. Develop personal relationships that inspire trust and sustain confidence

So that raises two key questions for you:

1. Do you know the three things that would differentiate your sales people in the eyes of your customers?

2. What do your sales people need to do to create stronger loyalty and new business opportunities in the marketplace?

If you don’t know the answer to these questions, there has never been a better time to find out.