Regardless of what industry they work in, sales professionals must constantly strive to ensure that sales cycles do not take an excessively long time, because the opportunity cost can quickly become unjustifiable and unsustainable. After all, if a sales professional spends 10 hours in a week engaging and nurturing a prospect, that is 10 hours of active selling time that cannot be directed towards another — and potentially more viable — opportunity.
At the same time, sales professionals must drive and deliver a personalized and consultative sales process; one that is as much about delivering relevant product details, as it is about crafting customized solutions and building trusting relationships. This is especially vital in B2B sales, where the transaction does not mark the end of the engagement, but transitions it to a new post-purchase phase that ideally should last for years, if not decades.
To be successful, sales professionals must resolve two competing forces: the need to shorten sales cycles, and the need to build a personal, quality relationship with prospects. That is where market research enters the picture and makes a pivotal difference.
Here are three key ways that market research improves the sales process, so that sales professionals can consistently meet — or better yet, exceed — targets, and businesses can stay strong and successful in an increasingly competitive marketplace:
Identify buyer personas.
Market research enables businesses to identify and inventory all relevant buyer personas, which are customer types that either make a purchase, or more typically in B2B engagements, are a key opinion leader who influences a purchase. Indeed, Gartner has noted that in a company with 100-500 employees, an average of seven people are involved in a single purchase decision. Equipped with accurate buyer persona data, sales professionals can target the right messages, to the right people, at the right time.
Map the customer journey.
The customer journey is rarely a linear one that starts with an initial outreach, transitions directly into a discussion or demo, and culminates in a sales agreement. More often, the journey has many starts and stops, while traveling through multiple touch points — both offline and online. Market research enables businesses to map what this journey looks like, so that sales professionals can align their strategies and resources accordingly. This insight is especially important for re-engaging stalled or cold leads.
Highlight competitive advantage.
Market research goes beyond informal customer feedback (e.g. testimonials, social media feedback) to develop a rigorous understanding of where a business has competitive advantages and to what extent. It also highlights areas of relative weakness (real or perceived), which sales professionals can use to anticipate and neutralize prospect objections.
To learn more about how market research can measurably improve the sales process in your business — and help your sales professionals meet or exceed performance expectations — contact the Communications For Research team today. Our co-CEO Colson Steber can help you determine whether the best plan of action to improve your sales process is through market research. Then he can provide you with a timeline and a budget for your market research project.
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