The Pipeline Guest Post – Craig Rosenberg
At Dreamforce, Tibor and I presented at the InsideView booth. My presentation, “Customer 2.0, ” focused on how the buyer has changed and has more power than ever before. The new buyer interacts with an organization when he or she is ready (not before), does the vast majority of research online without the vendor’s help, is distracted, and so forth. Focus.com CEO Scott Albro coined the saying, “Always be helping is the new always be closing.” I still love that quote, flipping Glengarry on its head. I use it all the time and get tweeted, compliments, etc. So, why am I talking about this? Tibor called me a week later and asked if I believe the role of the salesperson is diminished. Tibor may have been right about how my presentation came across, but he was wrong about how I feel about salespeople in the modern Customer 2.0 era.
I would argue that the salesperson is more important than ever. Let me clarify: I would argue that the highly trained, effective salesperson is more important than ever. Here are some of the keys to understanding the new buyer, why sales is important, and what you can do about it:
1. Buyers have no time for anything that sucks, including the salesperson. Part of the Customer 2.0 era is choice. The buyer has more choices than ever before, and that includes choosing to talk to your salesperson. I can tell you this from my own personal experience. I am so busy, I can’t see straight. When I get a bad salesperson, it’s like buying a ticket for a bad movie with a lousy date. You are stuck, and the only way to get out is to leave (which may or may not work).
What you should do: Nothing new here — keep your crew well-trained in professionalism, product, and market. Buyers want to have an intelligent two-way conversation, and this won’t happen with some over-cologned “closer.” Fully trained intellectual equals is the name of the game here, folks. Make sure they can bring it in the right way. No, it doesn’t mean you need to be a “wuss.” I understand you still need to get the order, but the route to getting the order requires salespeople who can converse appropriately, from the top of the funnel to the bottom.
2. Buyers want to be helped, not closed; see quote above. Remember, today’s buyer has access to information like never before. If you take the website I represent, Focus.com, for example, buyers can ask for information they want/need and get it from third-party sources or peers. Now, you can take that as a threat, or you can embrace the change and change your approach. Buy your team the T-shirt: Trusted Advisorship: now more than ever!
What you should do: Arm the sales team with buyer-helpful content that they can both speak to and provide for the client. Create campaigns for the sales team that, rather than offering “once-in-a-lifetime” discounts or “check-in,” instead offer a report with valuable data. Don’t hold it back, give it away. That is how you build trust. Also, train the sales team on the buyer funnel, not just the sales funnel. That way they can determine where the buyer is in their process and provide the kind of content that will help the buyer get to the next step (versus sending the buyer a ZIP file with all your data sheets).
3. Buyers buy from people they like (and respect). This is old school yet totally real. Think the salesperson is dead? Ask buyers that. No one hates salespeople, they hate annoying, over-the-top salespeople who have no idea about what they are selling.
What you should do: Get your sales team “in the mix.” Everyone thinks of social selling as a way to understand the prospect (it is), but it is also important to think about social selling in terms of your online persona. There are simple steps you can take, such as having salespeople keep their LinkedIn profiles up-to-date (think the buyer doesn’t check it as they are talking to you or before you come if for a call? Guess again). Twitter: Get the sales team following the mavens in your industry and retweet them, interact with them, and then teach them to connect with prospects. They will see the salesperson as someone who gets it. Should they blog? That to me is slippery slope; see David Brock’s great post on this. The answer to me is: It depends. Remember, if you write it, they will read it. Put another way: If you don’t want a prospect to read it, don’t write it. Long form is different than Twitter. I do believe salespeople can and should write blog posts about their market or selling in general if they are thoughtful and articulate. If you write a post on “How to Close a Mark,” you will lose 75 percent of your deals; but if you write a post on “Understanding the Buyer,” you look smart.
4. Buyers want to be understood. At Focus.com, we have been polling buyers for the past six years. The overwhelming message in their advice is that sales must understand their unique needs. I know, I’m not going to take credit for inventing solution selling, but it is important to note that this is part of becoming the Trusted Advisor. This all ties together; to win in the long-term, you have to earn respect. If you can’t even figure out what keeps buyers awake at night, you have failed. This is an age-old adage, I feel bad writing it. But I do think I have to write because our polls tell us the buyer isn’t seeing it in this new buyer-centric selling environment.
What you should do: I really shouldn’t be the one recommending that you train your reps on whom to ask questions. However, I have some other recommendations: Have you read all the marketing blogosphere stuff on buyer personas? Those are as much for sales as they are for marketing. Arm sales with an understanding of the types of buyers they will meet and what type of content and conversations are needed to propel them through the buyer funnel.
Is the salesperson dead? No, the salesperson is as important as ever — but he or she must be better than ever.
About Craig Rosenberg
Craig is the leader of the Focus Expert Network, his team is in charge of recruiting, retaining, and managing the amazing Experts that fuel our site.
Craig is also the author of the popular b2b sales and marketing blog, the Funnelholic (www.funnelholic.com). He focuses on b2b sales marketing across the entire funnel from demand generation to overall marketing to sales process and organization.