In the last five years, the IT services industry has seen more and more of its customers transition to a digital world. It’s a mass shift that impacted buyer behavior and rendered the former sales playbook obsolete.
The Sales Playbook Defined
An IT company’s sales playbook is intended to make seller activity more consistent and effective. It sets the standard for accessing and selling to both potential and existing clients and incorporates marketing collateral as sales persuasion tools.
Changes are infrequent because the sales playbook is regarded as a company’s blueprint for success. The attitude is “Why disturb a successful formula?” As a result, too many playbooks rely on tools and approaches that are at odds with modern buying behaviors, such as:
- Cold calling
- Direct mail
- Email marketing
This methodology was effective during the early days of the Internet, but buyers have changed. A lot. IT service providers that want to stay competitive must update their sales playbooks accordingly.
How Buyers Have Changed
In the past, buyers tended to be relatively uninformed and placed more trust in salespeople to provide them with the right recommendations. They were also more receptive to interruptive outbound marketing techniques such as cold calls, direct mail, and broadcast commercials.
Today, free access to information has made buyers more well-informed, with a more fluid and random purchasing journey and preference for content marketing tailored to their needs and interests. They are also less likely to trust information coming from a sales, PR, or customer service organization.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Ten years ago, an IT sales professional could use the same approach on all prospects: be forceful and direct, get your point across, and close hard. Today, this ‘one size fits all’ strategy no longer works and can even arouse distrust among a more informed buyer demographic.
Modern sales professionals must be able to perceive, understand, and adapt their approach to the individual buyer’s needs and goals. When a sales message is delivered in a way the buyer can relate to, chances of success go up.
Quality Content Matters
Today’s buyers tend to tune out generic sales messages for content that is tailored to their interests and needs. To create this content, sales professionals need to understand what their ideal customer’s interests are, their questions and concerns, and what messages they respond best to. If the content is especially insightful or helpful, customers will be inclined to trust the company and its brand.
Timing is also important. An FAQ sheet, for example, will have a maximum impact while a customer is still in the decision-making phase, while a list of tips for making the most out of a product or service will be of special interest to customers who are just about to buy.
The Bottom Line
Consumers today have the resources to do a lot of research before they ever speak to a salesperson, so it has become especially important for sales playbooks be updated to meet their expectations. When product or service-specific information is delivered in a way that aligns with their needs and position in the sales cycle, it benefits IT companies much more than the classic “one size fits all” approach.
Does your company’s sales playbook need updating? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments box below.