A term you’ll hear me use a lot on this blog is trusted advisor. In our modern era, leads no longer respond to high-pressure sales tactics where reps aggressively push products on them.
It’s just not something most people will put up with. Rather, they respond positively when a rep assumes the role of trusted advisor, with 88% of leads saying they’re “only willing to buy” under this condition.
And this brings me to the focus of this post. High-performing SaaS sales teams use one particular technique above all others to be seen as a trust advisor — guided selling.
In her post 26 Sales Statistics That Prove Selling is Changing, Tiffany Bova of Salesforce drops two stats that I found incredibly interesting.
First, “high-performing sales teams are 2.3x more likely than underperforming teams to use guided selling.” And second, “over the next three years, sales teams at all performance levels anticipate that guided selling and coaching capabilities will grow by 98%.”
The numbers speak for themselves here, and this data clearly shows the correlation between guided selling and sales teams performing at an elite level. Those that use this potent strategy outperform their non-guided selling counterparts by a wide margin. And all sales teams, regardless of performance level, expect guided selling to grow by a staggering 98% over the next three years.
Keep in mind Bova wrote this post in January 2019, so the end of the three year span she mentioned will be in early 2022.
The bottom line is:
While you probably have a general idea of what guided selling is, it’s a technique that can be a little murky to some. Just so we’re totally clear, allow me to explain exactly what it is within a SaaS context.
Simply put, guided selling is a process that helps SaaS leads find the optimal software product based on their specific needs.
“In today’s completely saturated markets full of similar and competing products, combined with the mass amount of information freely available, buyers are easily and quickly overwhelmed with data,” explains revenue acceleration platform ringDNA. “This huge amount of information, which can be both honest and dishonest, may lead a buyer down a path towards a product that is not the best for them.”
And that’s where guided selling comes in.
It “connects the buyer with a genuine consultant that delivers to them the products and services that are the best possible fit for their needs.”
Rather than sales reps offering SaaS products based on what they merely speculate the lead needs and using obnoxiously aggressive tactics, they take a consultative approach and work alongside the buyer to guide them to the right product that’s the best fit for their company. In other words, it’s about closely examining the buyer’s situation to help match them with the right SaaS product instead of just going for the “fast sale.”
The practice of guided selling has evolved a lot over the years. This graphic from digital transformation brand Brillio provides a brief overview of how it’s gone from the pre-sales tool era where reps based their selling on the personal understanding of customers, to using basic sales tools, to using sales intelligence, to where it is today in the age of customer experience.
Now there are incredibly sophisticated AI and ML-based tools that allow SaaS sales reps to provide a next-level personalized experience and match leads with the absolute best products for their business.
But here’s the thing. Tools like these are nice and can have a big impact on your sales team’s performance, but I don’t personally believe they’re necessary for guided selling.
At the end of the day, being successful largely boils down to following three key tactics.
Perhaps the most important part of guided selling is making sure your salespeople know your products inside and out. If there’s any confusion as to which SaaS product is best for which demographic in which circumstance, your reps are going to struggle.
That’s why they need to be subject matter experts and understand how everything comes together in your sales ecosystem. Nailing that is half the battle.
As I said earlier, the whole purpose of guided selling is to create a process that enables a buyer to find the product that best suits their needs. And a big part of that is being transparent.
Sales meeting scheduling app Chili Piper, for example, gives their leads a side-by-side comparison of their different products, along with specific features and integrations.
That way leads can see firsthand if a lower priced product will be sufficient for their needs. Other brands even go so far as to offer a competitor’s product to provide a more thorough understanding — something that when executed correctly can be a major trust builder.
This may go against the fundamentals of best business practices, but hear me out. Guided selling is all about the long game where you build trust, which not only increases the odds of making an initial sale, but often leads to repeat sales, less churn, and deeper loyalty.
So when you think of it like this, you see the value of pointing leads to the best product for them rather than what’s going to lead to the largest immediate sale.
Sales has evolved dramatically in the 21st century, with guided selling being one of the most undeniable trends. With high-performing SaaS sales teams being 2.3x more likely to use it than underperformers, it’s obviously worth your attention. Understanding the essentials of guided selling and adhering to a few core concepts should help you make the transition to this model more easily and position your sales team for success.
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