Selling in the New Normal -Changes in the Customer’s Buying Process

Selling in the New Normal -What We Know Has Changed - then a picture of a hiker looking at a mountain range

Selling in the New Normal; Part 1: The Buying Process has Changed

The economy for Business to Business sellers in a lot of industries isn’t dead, despite the unemployment claims, restrictive business conditions and new levels of oversight. In many cases it has simply changed and at times in ways that require not only a new approach but a new insight into how business is getting done. Welcome to Selling in the New Normal.

In fact, selling in the new normal may be here to stay for quite a while. Each Thursday for the next 10 weeks we’ll be: sharing information on the market conditions, the feedback we are getting from consulting and coaching clients, and also best practices to help you not just survive but thrive when selling in the new normal.

Business Conditions have Wide Variation by Industry and Segment 

“Some will win, some will lose

Some were born to sing the blues” Don’t Stop Believin by Journey

Today’s focus is on understanding what has changed. Stop kidding yourself. The levels of approval and what’s important is nothing like it was 60 days ago. Some facts to back that up? Buckle up baby it’s going to be a wild ride, according to Cleveland Research.

“From January 2020 to March 2020, Total U.S. Retail Sales declined 9%, similar to the 10% decline over the one-year period from November 2007 to November 2008. In the chart below, you can see the clear differences between the two recessions to this point, especially within food-at-home and food-away from-home categories.” (Source Cleveland Research – “U.S. Retail Sales Outlook –Comparing the 2008 Recession & Current Economic Data in East Asia” published April 23rd of 2020.4.29

The reality is that some segments of business are getting crushed; Restaurants, Retail, and Furniture. It hit on the supply side first and then the retail impact followed. And yes, there are others but in many other segments growth may have been calmed down but there is still growth.

Companies on both the seller side as well as the buyer’s side have and will continue to make hard decisions revolving around cash flow and solvency. Bad debt will rise as Barclay’s called out to the Financial Times recently stating that retail and corporate clients were the cause of the risk.

Yet other industries have done well. Streaming and cloud providers have seen dramatic jumps. In Tech a short term run to empower work from home has helped reduce the declines expected in the laptop segment, driven some additional cloud spend, and as usual many parts of the IT security segment will benefit.

Here’s what our coaching and consulting clients have been sharing with us about selling in the new normal.

Here’s what our coaching and consulting clients have been sharing with us.

Expect extra scrutiny, including eyes from the Corporate Officer level. “What was once a rubber stamp $10k deal, now goes to the CFO”, one client told us. Another example of that can be found at every turn.

Look for solutions that include both line of business and traditional “customer” roles. Within IT, CIOs are reallocating budgets using emergency funding and accelerating cloud migrations to meet the business needs. Companies are preparing to do more with less. If you can help in that mission and get your message across to new, higher, and wider parts of the organization, you have a great advantage when it comes to selling in the new normal.

You can’t assume your old contacts will still be there. There is a hard reality that long cared for and cultivated customer contacts may take on new roles, have additional pressures and in some cases may simply not be there anymore. If you have been reaching out and checking in all along great, but now is not the time to rest on what has always worked. One example of this is a very successful rep found themselves having to sell to an entirely new team on the project that was set to make their year. They had gotten comfortable with both their business contact as well as the purchasing person. 10+ years and poof…they are on the outside looking in due to a lay off. Right now we are helping to get them back into the game, but literally their sales world had changed and they were not out in front of it like they should have been.

Projects must be a priority to get funded/stay funded

Companies are facing very tough choices in terms of staffing, survival, cash flows and positioning to accelerate coming out of the downturn caused by the crisis. Despite the rounds of layoffs that keep coming across industry segments and the 3.84 million new unemployment claims data that was released on April 30th, we see clients staying the course and adjusting how they sell. Who they are selling to after all that is part of the changes in the customer buying process that is selling in the new normal.

Priority Projects for some of our sales coaching clients have included:

Enabling remote workers both for the immediate need of getting them rolling (PC, Phones, Cloud Services) but also securing (IT), managing (contact center as well as simple day to day operations), and optimizing their efforts (middleware and 3rd party apps allowing them to take on new or additional tasks).

Cost Saving Measures – sad but true.

Moving projects from hired employees to contracted. Outsourced and off shore labor demands are rising. In some cases due to pure cost savings. In others to keep long term expenses off the balance sheet.

Supply Chain Optimization – From raw materials delivery, to getting the finished goods out the door and to customers in a timely fashion matters as much or more than ever.

Enabling them to reach more and new customers – Web Stores, Portals and Platforms to make ordering easier.

Leadership Needs to know to answer more than ever How Much? How Fast? How Sure?

In talking to Business owners, CEO’s and Sales leaders they are literally being challenged by the day to understand the market and their customers. It has a literal impact on what they do next in the overall business. We are being asked to spend more time in the trenches with the reps who are on the front lines of “must win” deals. Often we have called these game changes and that has never been truer.

Selling in the new normal “How Much” is a much broader question than how big the win will be. Increasingly, how much is not just dollars but what else it will take to close the business. Make no mistake, we are seeing downward price pressure but we are also seeing terms, entitlement, and support add ons/extensions as part of many decisions.

“How Fast” is as many would expect about POs in the door or signature on the dotted line. Some segments of our clients are at the other end of that as they have seen surges in demand and are literally trying to balance supply chain and inventory levels against customer expectations. They are stretching installers, programmers and project managers to the brink. Scarce resources in some segments are clearly niche as others are making sweeping changes to their businesses

How the customer’s buying process has changed is a key indicator of how sure you can be of the sale. As we work through our Opportunity Management program one of the first areas of focus goes back to understanding who the players are and what their individual buying criteria is. Then of course the priority or perhaps even necessity of what you are offering. Selling in the new normal, like many other down turns, requires the smart positioning. If you let your contacts linger and didn’t spread higher and wider long before this hit, it may not be too late but it also may be a dead sprint to catch up.

We use the question “Would you bet your job on this deal coming in?” Not as a scare tactic but as a level set for when optimism may be out pacing the reality of the opportunity. We are being asked to go back and do a deep dive pipeline review on all of the key deals that are being committed to make sure the opportunities presented are well founded, well qualified, and most of all bankable.  It’s not an exact science but working through the process improves the win rate, lessens the forecast call down and makes things as sure as possible.     

Best Practices for Selling in the New Normal

First a quick review of what we already said presented in a different light.

Understand what has changed in the customer buying process. Who approves, when and at what dollar amount.

Don’t let the grass grow under your contacts. Yes we talked about spreading out but here is the reality. We are seeing people who had 20+ year relationships on the outside looking in because they relied on who they always worked with and didn’t do a good job of building out their internal network at their customers.

Find a way to keep connected in a meaningful way. Even if your faithful old friend in purchasing is still there, the cases we see means often times their peers are not and they are being saddled with a greater and greater workload.

Establish your product as a critical vendor and your value as a needed solution.

Consider reaching out to their sales leaders and understanding some of their challenges. Perhaps what you do benefits their efforts.

Whatever Selling in the New Normal Means to you here are 5 ways I can help you grow when you’re ready:

1. Register for and watch my free webinar on Opportunity Management.

It will give you three things you can use today to begin transforming your business and close sales faster. Learn how to identify your best opportunities. Know Who the Decision makers are, and what their buying criteria is. — Click Here

2. Subscribe to my “Weekly Sales Leader Newsletter” – Click Here

  • Join the Bowties and Business Facebook Group to connect with other Sales Professionals and business owners that are focused on growing their careers, businesses, and sales too.

It’s our new Facebook community where top performers learn to Accelerate Sales, Compete Harder, and Exit Time Wasters. — Click Here

  • Join our Sales Coaching and Opportunity Management Program and be a Case Study

I’ve put together a new coaching case study group. Not only is it live training and coaching led by me and my team but It’s based on the exact program we have been using with corporate clients and our teams. If you’d like to work with me on growing your business to a new level… just send me a message with the words “Case Study”. — Click Here

5. Work with me and my team privately

If you run a team or own a business and would like to talk about how to transform their performance or how we can help to grow your business… just send me a message with the word “Team”.  Tell me a little about your business and what you’d like to work on together. It’s easy just follow the link to set up a 30 minute call and get I’ll you all the details — Book a Meeting with Tim!

Tim Kubiak

Business Geek, Nomad, Aging Metal Head, Nerd, & Coffee Addict. plus the only big guy at Hot Yoga with 25 years of Sales and Leadership experience in organizations of all sizes.

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