On October 25,1415 25,000 French Knights faced-off against 6,000 English foot soldiers at the Battle of Agincourt.  On home soil, wearing heavy armour, on horseback and outnumbering their foes 4-to-1, the French Knights charged forward.  After only 30 minutes 10,000 of them lay dying on the field.  Conversely, the English had lost only 200 men, and in that blink of History’s eye, the reign of the armoured Knight had ended forever. 

With hindsight, we can pinpoint that the source of this tremendous defeat was driven by a failure to adapt.  Weaponry had evolved, but French battle techniques had not. The English had adopted the Long Bow, and could stop the Knights in their tracks well before they were within range, making their own fighting capabilities irrelevant.

So what’s with the analogy? Well, our world is changing far more rapidly than it was in the 15th century.  The business battlefield is now an ‘information-field’ and customers have adapted far more rapidly than sellers. BUT - the devastation, isn’t as one-sided as it was at Agincourt.  Information-empowered customers are decimating sellers’ margins, sure, but in their rush to adopt new approaches to commoditise sales, they are actually creating negative outcomes in deal quality that effect themselves too.  

We all know that customers are doing so much of their own research prior to the first sales interaction that there’s nothing left to discuss but price.  But CEB's recent research has uncovered two other customer behaviours that are decimating deal quality for both sides of the equation.

Firstly - ask yourself - has the list of customer stakeholders your reps have to deal with increased in the last couple of years?  Customers are inviting more – and more diverse – stakeholders to the table than ever before.

Second, customers are drowning in the growing complexity of their own purchase processes.  The myriad stakeholders all come to the table with different needs, views, and perspectives on how value should be defined in their organization.  They’re all consuming more, and more varied, information about what matters to their own roles, functions and segments of the business.  They’re looking at more options and trying to incorporate more capabilities in the solutions they’re considering. 

The result? A doubling of purchase cycle times and less satisfaction with the solution they eventually purchase.  If this is the prize for first place, ‘winning’ today doesn’t look as good as it used to.   

And so, we sellers must adapt.

High quality sales no longer come from being more responsive, or having better relationships.  They come from challenging your customers to think differently about their own business, helping them to get better aligned internally, and guiding them through their own complex purchase journey.

Teaching, facilitating consensus, and prescribing next steps to progress the purchase is what world class selling means today.

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