I’ve had hundreds of conversations with franchise business owners and numerous interactions with water treatment sales professionals this past year. There’s a fundamental shift and acceleration happening in sales and the sales process.
Gone are the days of mere product pitches. Today, the focus is on education-based selling. This approach isn’t just a fleeting trend; it’s a paradigm shift critical for those aiming to build deep, enduring client relationships.
Don’t just take my word for it — the stats speak for themselves.
The Evolving Sales Landscape
The water industry is undergoing significant transformations in the way sales are conducted to reflect broader market trends. Traditional, product-centric approaches are giving way to more sophisticated, education-focused strategies. This transformation is essential not only for staying competitive but also for leading the market. Current statistics show that:
- Only 29% of buyers engage with salespeople to learn about new products1
- 59% of buyers prefer to do their own research,2 as they perceive sales reps to “push a sales agenda”
- 57% of client decisions are made before speaking to a salesperson3
The data clearly indicates that to be successful in sales, you need to educate more, know more and be a more valuable resource in the sales journey.
The Changes Impacting Sales Relevance
While the fundamentals of sales and relationship-building remain unchanged, customer demands for education, transparency and trust have significantly increased in the last 18 months.
The current changes drawing the most attention include:
- Insufficient Prospecting: Often the backbone of sales, prospecting is frequently overlooked or poorly executed. In today’s world of abundant information and short attention spans, strategic prospecting is more crucial than ever, with each interaction needing to be impactful and meaningful.
- The Non-Linear Sales Process: The sales journey today is far from straightforward. Clients’ needs are complex, and their decision-making processes are multifaceted. Clients have more tools, information and resources at their disposal than ever before. It’s imperative to act as a guide to assist clients through this process.
- Consensus-Driven Sales Decisions: In an era where a staggering 57% of decisions are made before any sales interaction,3 understanding and influencing group consensus is essential. Often, one buying decision can affect multiple departments and employees. Knowing how your service/product enhances client success will help build trust and confidence with key decision-makers.
These key changes demand that the sales process and sales specialists provide value in the form of expertise, client success and, most importantly, education.
Education-Based Selling: Teaching Clients How to Buy
Today’s abundance of information can overwhelm buyers trying to make important decisions — especially those inexperienced in decision-making. Educating clients transforms your role from a mere vendor to a specialist who brings value beyond the product. By educating rather than selling, you’re not just filling your pipeline; you’re forging lasting partnerships and becoming an indispensable resource to your clients.
We’ll examine how this method, especially within a B2B sales framework, can help catapult your success and make you a pro in modern sales strategy.
Expanding on the Five Key Modern Sales Strategies
- Transition From Selling to Educating: Always aim to be one step ahead of the trends or methodologies in your client’s industry. For instance, if you specialize in water treatment for healthcare, are you consistently reviewing and understanding the compliance requirements needed for water treatment at hospitals?
- Craft Engaging Client Meetings: Every meeting with a client should be the most exciting one on their schedule. Consider including an executive summary that informs them of key trends, stats, and figures and educates them about what’s happening in their industry that you can address.
- Focus on “How” Rather Than “What”: Shift from highlighting product features to demonstrating how the client will navigate the buying journey to increase trust in your process. Clients are knowledgeable about the outcomes they need to run their businesses (not about purchasing your product or service). Devote most of your time to illustrating the outcome of your process.
- Be Speedy in Your Communication and Follow-Through: A lack of speed in communication can undermine all sales in the modern world. Clients need to be informed regularly — daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually. The most effective salespeople will schedule these communications in advance and create a structured process that both informs and delights the client.
- Distinguish Your Role Beyond the Product: Your business acumen and expertise establish authority. Merely pitching product features makes you a “talking brochure.” Enhancing your business acumen to position your expertise with financial outcomes will set you apart from competitors and distinguish you as an authority that clients need.
The Sales Relevance Dilemma
Despite these strategies the reality is stark, and the need to change your sales process is real. Trends continue to point to more salespeople missing their quotas. Extended sales cycles for B2B deals have become the norm, and cycle lengths continue to grow.
The journey to becoming a relevant sales educator is both challenging and deeply rewarding. This is more than just a shift in selling — it’s a transformation in how you engage with your clients and industry to become the specialist they need.
To learn more about the importance of education-based selling and the strategies you need to thrive in this new era of sales, be sure to connect with our team; we would be happy to discuss both further with you.