We have been crafting campaigns for B2B sales teams for over 20 years now. And over the last 5 years we’ve seen two radical shifts impacting the sales role:
- Access to buyers has dropped off a cliff
- People don’t want to be ‘sold’ to anymore
Once upon a time, a salesperson was the only go-to point of contact for information on a business, product or service.
Gone are the days that we look forward to regular catch ups with clients over a cup of coffee, or if you were lucky, a nice long lunch on the expense account.
For me it hits home when I look at Gartner’s B2B buyer journey and its implication for salespeople. At just 17%, your slice of influence has dropped off a cliff. And that slice is now more likely to be a virtual one.
The rise of social platforms has given power to the people, but sometimes against the sales role I’m afraid
The easier it got to market to our prospects, the more cold calls, voicemails, cold emails, social media invites, and direct mail we sent them. There is a lot of noise and it is nonstop.
And whilst you think you’re different, much of what the B2B marketing world produces is fact-based, same-old, F.U.D, boring content that your buyer has seen a thousand times before.
Imagine the role this plays when your prospect receives something from you.
The best salespeople have stopped selling the old way
Against this tidal wave of change, successful salespeople have had no choice but to reinvent themselves.
These are the skills & approaches they value instead:
1) Virtual competence… how to walk digital corridors with flair. Much of the relationship with your client is now conducted over social platforms and video calls. How you build trust and confidence, and how you negotiate when needed is completely different. Invest time to finesse this as a skill in its own right.
2) Storytelling instead of pitching what you do. And no I don’t mean stretching the truth! Buyers don’t really want to hear about your products until they’re ready. If you want to extend your influence outside of that 17% slice that Gartner surveyed in their B2B Buying Journey, then you’ll do well to connect with people’s feelings, empathising and helping them to solve problems.
3) Becoming better copywriters. This is one of today’s most important sales skills. The days of leaning on the marketing and bid teams to craft you something compelling are over. Brush up your copywriting skills. There’s plenty of free advice on Google and LinkedIn if you follow the right people. Two of my favourites are Dave Harland The Word Man. And Florian Decludt. They both give great free advice on how to write in a way that connects with people.
4) Deeper subject matter expertise. There was once a time that a great Account Manager could rely on being a great orchestrator of the resources within their business, calling in just the right pre-sales expert or project manager when the situation required it. But now, knowing your products or services better than anyone else can be the difference between you winning and losing a deal. Think of this from your prospect’s perspective. If they see you having to ask someone else questions repeatedly, or bring someone else in to do demos etc. … eventually, they’re going to think “Why am I dealing with this person and not those other people who seem to have all the answers?” And they’d be right. If you don’t care enough to master your own product, why should they?
5) Finding new ways to share your unique knowledge generously. You are an incredibly rich source of real-life experience. Because you work across many client accounts, you have up to the minute insight into the issues, possible complications, and the realistic outcomes organisations want to hear about. Historical conversations between sales & marketing were concerned about ‘giving away’ too much IP. Now we know that being generous with your wisdom will drawn people towards you like a magnet. Find new ways to share your knowledge generously and proactively so you establish yourself as the go-to person in your field. Your want to be on everyone’s minds before your prospect even formalises their intent to buy.
6) Being more accessible. We have such a wide choice of communication channels and styles of working now. And many formalities have disappeared. If you’re only using email and a land line then you are holding yourself back. We must accept that technology is the preferred buying channel – it’s our ally, not our enemy. So use it to your advantage. Five years ago, we believed there to be around 4-6 people in the decision-making process. Now we know it’s 10. If you have only 1 or 2 contacts in each of your clients and prospects then your business is at risk. A simple platform like LinkedIn can immediately connect you with large numbers of people within your client and prospect organisations, helping you build far greater influence on a more personal level.
7) Being socially active with target buyers. Social media has given rise to social selling. A lot of people view their participation on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as one of the more effective sales skills. And it provides a good platform to extend into shared experiences like dinners and social events for groups of buyers with common interests. Very little selling takes place at these events but they do establish you as an influential person within the group.
8) Authenticity and the commitment to customising your approach. A great salesperson’s interest is sincere and personal. People appreciate that effort, even if you get it slightly wrong, as evidenced by the fact that 78% of buyers seek someone that isn’t just a salesperson, but also trustworthy. And 56% expect all offers to be personalised. One of the great sales managers I know spends at least 30 minutes preparing for every discovery call. Information is power and personalisation is everything. It was only be deeply reviewing his notes, checking the person’s social profiles and company updates that he could make every prospect feel like the solutions was created just for them
9) Acting as if you are on the same team. You need to do more than just agree on next steps, you actually have to help the buyer achieve those next steps as if you were on the same team.
Today’s informed buyers don’t want to be sold to – if they sense empty rhetoric, they’ll put up their defences.
Solid facts alongside empathy and personal relevance will earn their respect, as well as motivate them to walk towards you and your organisation.
And with technology as the preferred buying channel, the savvy salesperson is finding new channels to become known and create influence.
I’m Dave, Operations Director at Data HQ. Sometimes more colloquially known by our team as The Oracle. At Data HQ, we’ve been giving Sales & Marketing more commercial oomph since 2001 and I’ve been behind the wheel for almost all that time. I’m a numbers man at heart and I love how the combination of analytics, propensity modelling and good data can help clients achieve their goals. I’m always available for a chat if you need a hand with your lead generation work
Connect with me on LinkedIn
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