Sales reps focus relentlessly on their product and the value it provides, but they should also keep in mind a few disadvantages they face that have nothing to do with product per se.
Becoming aware of these disadvantages can help them predict common challenges and objections while understanding the perspective of their buyer. Through role-playing, coaching and sales training, reps can then prepare for these challenges and overcome them.
In the book Heavy Hitter I.T. Sales Strategy by Steve W. Martin, he interviews over 1,000 key IT decision makers to gain insight into what goes on within their side of the sales process. What he discovered was that many IT salespeople lose out not because of their presentation or their product, but rather because of several of the aforementioned challenges.
From that list, here are five of the most pressing challenges sales reps should be prepared for:
People generally prefer sticking with what they know, and that includes procurement decisions. Just like someone may want to go out to a restaurant they have tried before for a special dinner rather than risking a bad experience at a new one, internal decision makers may prefer to select from familiar choices no matter how tempting the alternatives appear.
Put simply: the buyer has already gone through most of the sales cycle with an incumbent, whereas they have to start close to the beginning with a new solutions vendor.
Martin’s research revealed that only one in five challengers to incumbents succeed, on average.
Inability to Remove Risk
Another reason sales reps lose out to other companies is that the company’s solution may have a lower perception of risk. Perhaps the winning vendor is an incumbent or a more-established player. Perhaps their solution sounds more tested compared to an innovated one.
Sales reps need to learn how to read signs of insecurity and fear within leads in order to detect risk-related objections. Even if the lead doesn’t voice their concern, listing elements that remove risk can help them overcome their internal fears.
C Level Executive Access
Getting in front of a C-suite employee is the biggest test for most reps. Without their input, the deal cannot go through. Yet, they may never get their foot in the door if they are unable to send the proper signals that a meeting will be worth the executive’s time.
“Every salesperson is trying to get into my office and explain how their wonderful products will save me tons of money,” one CEO told Martin. “Very few do because most don’t understand what it takes to sit across the table from me.”
Lack of Internal Coach
Coaching for sales reps naturally applies to mentors and leaders on their side of a deal, but reps also need an internal representative on the other side. This person can disclose priceless information, like how the company makes procurement decisions, who the gatekeepers are, what competitors are in play and more.
With this information, the rep can respond strategically rather than fumbling in the dark.
Overcoming Challenges Through Practice and Experience
Some of these challenges will be insurmountable to sales reps in certain instances, such as if they face a particularly big incumbent vendor. But, thinking from the perspective of clients and knowing why they might say “no” to you even if they like the product can help you overcome the odds and increase win rates for tough deals.