CEB’s latest update to its Challenger sale approach suggests that a more prescriptive approach to selling is the key to success. Does that mean ‘off the shelf’ solutions are the only game in town?
If you’re a fan of CEB’s Challenger approach to B2B sales (and here at TMP, we’re strong advocates of this model, having used it successfully for campaigns on behalf of clients such as Salesforce and SAS), then CEB’s latest research, “The New Sales Imperative”, probably falls into the ‘required reading’ category.
The New Sales Imperative continues CEB’s quest to help companies get inside the ‘purple arrow’ (see diagram): this stretches from the start of the purchase process to the point at which a prospect typically engages with a supplier – 57% of the way through the process. The Challenger sales approach stipulates that only disruptive commercial insight will earn the right to engage earlier in the sales process, and the New Sales Imperative builds on this to suggest that ‘[t]oday’s best suppliers help customers consider not just what to buy but how.’
Drowning, not waving
According to CEB, the number of stakeholders involved in the purchase decision has increased from 5.4 to 6.8 and a typical solutions purchase now takes twice as long as customers expect. In other words, the process has become a ‘painful’, ‘frustrating’ ‘minefield’. The answer is, of course, to make buying easier, but customers are now awash in information and the traditional ‘responsive’ approach to sales (giving them more information) is akin to pouring water on a drowning man, actually reducing purchase ease by 18%.
Instead, CEB recommends a ‘prescriptive’ sales approach, characterised as ‘giv[ing] a clear recommendation for action backed by a specific rationale; present[ing] a concise offering and a stable view of their capabilities; and explain[ing] complex aspects of the purchase process clearly.’ CEB claims that this prescriptive approach increases purchase ease by 86% and provides a 62% greater chance of making a high-quality sale.
Off the shelf?
Essentially, CEB is saying that more and more is required of the supplier. It used to be enough to say, ‘What is it that you want us to do?’ and rely on a superior offering to provide a more compelling answer to that question than your competitors. Then you had to come up with a disruptive commercial insight, to tell the prospect something they didn’t know about their business. Now you have to go one step further and anticipate and provide solutions for problems that haven’t yet arisen – for prospects whose business you do not yet fully understand. So, does that mean that this prescriptive approach asks a supplier to provide ‘off the shelf’ solutions for complex problems?
Thankfully not. At the heart of The New Sales Imperative is a focus on the buyer journey – an analysis not just of what they buy, but how they buy it. So, while you may have limited knowledge of your prospect, you will have sold to companies like them in the past and will understand the typical hurdles and challenges they will face in in the process of buying from you. Sharing that experience is at the core of the prescriptive sales approach.
The next meeting
At TMP, we spend a lot of time with clients on the ‘next step’. So, if the prospect ultimately needs to get senior stakeholders to sign off a proposal, we make sure that the meeting will deliver enough value to justify their involvement. If a large group of people need to agree on the buying decision, we might develop meeting agendas or presentations that help to facilitate consensus. Essentially, we work hard to ensure that the first meeting will lead to a second, something that chimes with CEB’s prescriptive B2B sales approach and allows you to go to your prospect with solutions that are on the money, not off the shelf.