In my last blog post, I revealed the top four sales challenges of 2015 based on a recent Richardson study that surveyed more than 370 sales professionals and their leaders. Now I'd like to dig into the issues salespeople grapple with in terms of retaining their clients.

Losing clients right and left without even the faintest clue as to the reason? One of these three common culprits could be to blame. 

1) A lack of understanding about the decision making process. 

According to Richardson's research, the preeminent challenge concerning client needs involved understanding the buyer’s decision making process. Specifically, reps struggle with uncovering complete information about that process.

This has become increasingly difficult in recent years because more and more buying decisions are being made by groups. Within these groups, the members can change as can their relationships and individual preferences. Additionally, companies are adopting stricter sourcing processes, with more gatekeepers -- including procurement officers -- involved in the mix.

For seasoned salespeople, this new environment can be particularly difficult to understand and navigate, as relationships built over time with a single buyer lose meaning. Now reps have to deal with a much more complex buying process, with more moving parts and more players, who often change roles within the organization.

For salespeople at any stage of their career, it can be awkward to probe for information about how buying decisions are made and who has decision-making authority. Often, salespeople avoid or dance around the topic, so they end up with incomplete or inaccurate information about how each person fits into the larger process. This makes it tough to implement an appropriate account strategy. There’s also a skill to this line of questioning; both skill and strategy are necessary for plotting the right course of action to connect with the right people and leverage the right relationships.

Understanding and navigating the decision making process requires patience, a deeper knowledge of the buying organization, and a game plan that maps out where the opportunities and risks lie. Effective questioning skills and delivery of insights, adapted to the different decision makers, takes practice.

2) Too much hunting, and not enough farming.

Another challenge cited in the survey results was the ability for salespeople to balance their responsibilities in new business and account retention. Whether the focus is on prospecting, keeping existing clients happy, or some combination of the two, it’s clear that salespeople need good time management skills. Additionally, time spent early on in qualifying prospects can pay huge dividends, helping salespeople to focus on the right accounts -- whether they be existing clients or potentially new ones.

3) Delivering insights that aren't exactly revelatory.

In terms of expanding client relationships, among the greatest obstacles cited was providing insights and challenging clients. This may be because there is confusion about what constitutes a relevant insight.

Rather than self-promotional information, clients are looking for ideas about business, regulatory, industry, and/or financial issues. They want to hear how developments might impact their organization, and how the salesperson has helped others in this situation. Without a clear sense for how and when to develop and present an insight, salespeople are finding these interactions not only fail to deliver the "wow" factor they were expecting, but backfire.

To download your free copy of the full Richardson report, 2015 Selling Challenges Study, click here

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Originally published Sep 14, 2015 7:30:00 AM, updated February 01 2017

Topics:

Competitive Sales