What is collaborative selling and why it matters
Collaborative selling is a sales approach that involves collaboration between all parties — not just between sales team members but also between individual sellers and their customers. Customers present their insights, experiences, and needs to salespeople, who use their own skills and experiences to help customers find the resources or tools they need.
Why does that matter? Because today’s customers expect a better, more informed customer experience — and the customer experience starts with the buying process. According to a 2015 survey by Forrester, 74% of business buyers said they conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase. The digital marketplace is training even B2B buyers to think more critically about ROI and the best solutions to their challenges before purchasing; Demand Gen Report found that 58% of buyers said their decision process was longer in 2017 than in 2016.
In other words, collaborative selling matters because today’s buyers are searching for a reliable source of information, and sellers who seize the opportunity to become that resource are setting themselves up for success.
By collaborating with customers, listening to their needs, and offering insights that empower those customers to solve their problems and broaden their perspectives — regardless of whether a deal closes or not — sales teams create stronger relationships that are built on value, loyalty, and respect (not just money).
Difficulties of selling in a highly competitive landscape
In an increasingly competitive market, it has become more challenging than ever for sales teams to differentiate their products or services. The main ways of differentiating a product or service are either offering a technological breakthrough or unique feature or creating perceived brand value. Since technological breakthroughs don’t happen every month — or even every year — most sales teams focus on creating perceived brand value. For B2B brands especially, improved customer experience is the most critical arena for increasing brand value; after all, experts suggest that the end of 2020 marked the first time that customer experience overtook price and product as the key brand differentiator.
Buyers have become more demanding and discerning, with ever-changing preferences. The prioritization of customer experience that the B2C world has long been known for is entering the B2B world. According to Abe Awasthi, senior manager of Digital Customer for Deloitte Digital, B2B buyers are increasingly emphasising human interaction in the buying process:
B2B customers want more than product features and bundled services — they’re demanding engaging, personalized human experiences. Designing a B2B sales experience that lives up to their expectations requires addressing both their business and emotional needs.
What impact does that have on how sales teams think about their B2B customers? Edelman Trust Barometer found that 63% of B2B customers need to hear company claims three to five times before they believe them. Sales teams that embrace the prioritization of customer service are set apart from those that don’t.
That’s where collaborative selling comes in.
Developing customer-centered habits through collaborative selling emphasizes an honest, trusted relationship between buyer and seller. In a world where just 18% of salespeople are classified by buyers as trusted advisers whom they respect, creating and maintaining a loyal relationship with customers could mean the difference between a potential sale and a closed deal, which can greatly improve your sales forecast.
Benefits of collaborative selling
There are myriad benefits of collaborative selling, but it all comes down to building a mutually beneficial relationship that results in satisfied customers.
First, collaborative selling helps salespeople uncover the niche or true needs of the buyer. In a company with 100 to 500 employees, an average of six to ten buyers are involved in a sale — and they all are likely to have their own needs. Developing a relationship with buyers will help sellers understand each buyer’s unique perspective.
Salespeople can then use that insight to better illustrate their offering’s value proposition. Consider this: 92% of buyers find a meeting valuable if they receive industry insights that give them new perspectives to help them better understand their needs. Sellers who do research to uncover those industry insights for buyers benefit themselves and buyers too — which deepens their relationship.
Collaborative selling helps sales teams maintain loyal, satisfied, and long-term buyers. When it comes down to it, most customers want to feel heard. When sellers focus on solutions over sales, they are able to provide humanized, customized buying experiences that value buyer input. Also, with collaborative selling, customers are much more likely to provide feedback — such as glowing product reviews — because they have a stronger connection to sellers and the value they provide beyond the product itself.
Tips to incorporate collaborative selling
Leaders who are ready to adopt collaborative selling can start with these tips:
- Buyers want to know that salespeople understand their day-to-day challenges but many buyers aren’t engaged enough by sellers to be properly understood. In fact, Gallup recently reported that 71% of B2B buyers are either indifferent or entirely disengaged from the buying process, which makes it difficult to grow revenue within existing accounts. To avoid this, salespeople should ask thoughtful questions that show empathy and illustrate true understanding and care.
- Build relationships on the foundation of mutual cooperation, support, and engagement. Sales teams have to understand what buyers are going to find valuable, and buyers also need to be informed to find and select the most valuable solutions to their problems. In collaborative selling, it’s not just a sale — it’s a partnership.
- Be consistent and unique in engagement to demonstrate commitment to buyers and the developing partnership.
- Ensure marketing, positioning, and discussions with buyers are customer-centric. Everything, from one-pagers to sales pitches and meetings, should clearly demonstrate care for customers and their unique challenges.
- Train sales teams from day one to understand the unique value of the goods or services they are selling. SiriusDecisions reports that 82% of decision-makers think salespeople are unprepared. Set up sales teams for success by training them to provide value to a buyer.
Collaborative selling and Collective[i]
If you’re ready to transform your sales philosophy with better-enabled collaborative selling, Collective[i] is here for you. Our platform offers collaboration tools, such as Virtual DealRoomsTM, that ensure instant communication and attend to buyers’ needs. In Virtual DealRoomsTM, every member of the selling team can review buyer activity to coordinate timely and effective responses — no CRM license required. Additionally, you’ll gain access to insights driven by artificial intelligence that allow sales teams to gain knowledge of the target buyer (industries, behaviors, and preferences) so they can deepen and personalize buyer relationships.
Connect with Collective[i] to find out more about our platform.Explore Collective[i]