Changing B2B Marketplace Calls for New Sales Skills

There are three key moments when salespeople can maximize the value in a customer relationship instead of allowing it to leak out, according to Corporate Visions, which announced a new sales skills program on Thursday.

Those three turning points occur during deal negotiations, when securing customer renewals, and introducing strategic price increases, the company said.

“Traditional negotiations training programs have focused heavily on deal negotiations,” said Tim Riesterer, chief strategy and research officer at Corporate Visions, “so they’ve covered the first of the three areas.”

Sales Process Evolution

Certain egregious sales behaviors — including indiscriminate discounting to secure a deal — have led both companies that bought training and those that offered it to believe focusing on negotiations was sufficient, “with documented payback in reduced discounting and increased deal profitability,” Riesterer told CRM Buyer.

With the sales, purchase and usage process evolving into more of a Products as a Service experience, he said, “the pressures and the opportunity have shifted to the other two areas — renewals and price increases.”

Training vendors by and large have not updated their intellectual property or programs to reflect this trend, and enterprises “have been slow to realize the need and potential crated by these situations,” Riesterer pointed out.

“Neither have done the research to realize the psychology of those moments requires new skills and competencies to be effective,” he maintained.

Many of the training programs available in the market focus on general sales strategies or negotiation techniques, noted Cindy Zhou, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

Corporate Visions’ Course

For deal negotiations, Corporate Visions’ Capture Value skills program will teach salespeople how to accomplish the following:

  • Creatively manage negotiations from a low-power position to create pricing uncertainty in commoditized markets;
  • Expand deal size by introducing unconsidered needs and capabilities;
  • Drive agreement and consensus in multibuyer decisions; and
  • Avoid unnecessary discounts.

“My research shows that the average number of decision makers involved in a B2B sale has grown from five people to seven over the past year,” Constellation’s Zhou told CRM Buyer. The ability to navigate multiple decision makers and build consensus among them “is a necessary skill set for modern B2B sellers.”

Renewals have become an important part of growth, as more companies sell multiyear agreements, managed services, and other recurring revenue products and services, especially because the first years of the initial agreement usually are the least profitable, Corporate Visions’ Riesterer remarked.

Selling renewals requires “additional skills to reinforce their status quo bias; demonstrate progress, results and business impact; as well as to position your new advances and capabilities,” Riesterer said.

Increasing pricing without jeopardizing the customer relationship “calls on yet additional sales conversation skills in positioning, presenting and securing the desired price increase,” he added.

The Corporate Visions course costs US$2,000 per person, with discounts for larger groups. It is offered in three formats.

Automation and the Sale

The typical B2B sales cycle can “be upwards of a year, depending on the size of the purchasing organization,” Constellation’s Zhou noted, and B2B sales are most complex at the enterprise level.

That complexity could be why B2B sales increasingly are being automated and going online — and possibly one reason Amazon Business Marketplace surpassed the 1 million customer mark wtihin 15 months of its launch in April 2015.

Startup firm Qurious offers an eponynously named artificial intelligence sales platform that shows salespeople real-time battlecards in response to customers’ questions and objections during a sales call.

When the Qurious platform detects a trigger during a phone call, such as a buying signal or objection from the customer, it displays a contextually relevant battlecard to help guide the conversation.

Each battlecard is tracked and linked to outcomes, so salespeople can see what’s working and conduct A/B tests on different battlecards. Qurious also offers best practice templates.

Corporate Visions’ training program would be more for “complex, enterprise B2B field salespeople rather than inside sales reps who are more vulnerable to automation,” Constellation’s Zhou observed.

However, the course’s principles “can be equally applied to inside sellers or account managers,” Riesterer maintained, as well as “customer service or success managers.”

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