Last month, the RAIN Group, a respected sales training and consulting firm, published a research report titled What Sales Winners Do Differently. The report is based on a study of more than 700 individual B2B purchases in industries with complex sales. RAIN asked the buyers involved in each purchase to rank both the winners (the sellers who won the deal) and the second-place finishers based on 42 sales-related factors.
The major objectives of the study were to determine what sales winners were doing better or more frequently than the second-place finishers and what the second-place finishers need to change to increase their odds of winning.
What Sales Winners Do Differently contains many valuable insights, and I recommend that you take the time to read the entire report. I found three of the study’s findings to be particularly interesting.
New Ideas and Fresh Perspectives Win
According to the buyers surveyed for the study, the most important factor that separates sales winners from second-place finishers is that the winners excel at providing potential buyers new ideas and fresh perspectives on important business issues. When potential buyers perceive that a seller is bringing something new to the table, the seller has a huge advantage. To produce this advantage, however, the insights provided by sellers must be new and fresh as well as valuable. The study found that providing insights that are useful and valuable, but not new, is not a significant factor separating sales winners from second-place finishers.
Sales Winners Excel at Communicating Value
The third most significant factor separating sales winners from second-place finishers is that sales winners do a superior job of communicating the value of their solution to potential buyers. There are three critical aspects of this task.
- Sales winners persuasively demonstrate that their solution will produce an attractive return on investment for the potential buyer.
- Sales winners effectively minimize the potential buyer’s perception of risk.
- Sales winners convince potential buyers that their solution is the best choice among the available options because it delivers superior overall value.
Buyers in the study identified demonstrating superior overall value as the most important thing second-place finishers need to change to increase their odds of winning.
Solution Sales Still Lives
The authors of What Sales Winners Do Differently argue that their research findings differ substantially from some of the research results described in The Challenger Sale. In particular, the RAIN study authors contend that their research supports the view that solution sales is still a vital component of sales success, although they acknowledge that solution sales is no longer sufficient for success and that the concept needs to be changed in significant ways. To support their view, the authors note that “collaborated with me” was the second most important factor separating sales winners from second-place finishers, according to the buyers they surveyed.
In my opinion, the recommendations found in What Sales Winners Do Differently and those included in The Challenger Sale are more similar than contradictory, but that’s a topic for another post.
What Sales Winners Do Differently obviously deals with the factors that drive sales success, but it also has a lot to say to marketers. As discussed above, sales winners win in large part because they excel at providing prospects new and valuable insights about important business issues and because they do a superior job of communicating the value of their solutions.
Today, marketing content must perform these same functions. Because business buyers are self-educating and postponing personal interactions with salespeople, your marketing content must act as your “surrogate sales rep” early in the buying process. In many cases, your first opportunity to provide new and valuable insights and communicate how your solutions create value will be via marketing content. If your content performs these jobs well, your odds of staying in the game will be greatly improved.