Don’t sell to your customers; listen to them!

Selling has changed. Digital channels, social selling and other strategies are outpacing traditional sales tactics for buyers who are desensitized to standard methods, messages and mediums. Instead of presenting services while looking for a match, sales professionals need to adapt their messages and tactics to the desensitized buyer to stand out from the noise of the digital world.

Go-to-market leaders must commit to arming their sales force with the knowledge, tools and confidence to succeed and become effective sales conversation sellers. Organizations can accomplish this goal by looking at five key areas and developing a program to consistently develop these skills.

1. Share a Tailored Point of View.

Gain insights about the buyer.

A prepared sales professional presents a tailored point of view for each customer by conducting research and crafting a problem-centric point of view.

In the past, initial conversations focused on gathering information and asking questions; now, customers depend on sales professionals to have already done the research that enables them to bring up relevant pain points. This information will still come up during these conversations, but the conversation will be more effective if the salesperson has already completed the research before the meeting.

Sales professionals should assess the customer’s business issues, the customer’s pressures and trends using company websites, annual reports, third-party sources offering insights and other resources. Knowing the customer’s background and challenges helps to create initial conversations that are compelling and relevant.

2. Connect With the Right Buyer.

Determine the appropriate audience, approach, attitude, depth and detail.

Once they have established the point of view, sales professionals must find and connect with the right buyer. Often, sellers don’t go high enough, wide enough or deep enough in an organization. Developing relationships and learning about the buying company can provide the opportunities needed to sell more to the right audience.

3. Have Successful Meetings.

Prepare for and further explore the buyer’s challenges.

Preparation and listening are critical at this stage. Having an intelligent conversation is key. When the salesperson opens the meeting with client challenges, he or she creates a more meaningful link between pain points and the seller’s capabilities or product.

4. Establish the Shared Definition of Success.

Achieve alignment with multiple stakeholders on the problem and the solution.

As part of a successful meeting, sellers need to be able to align multiple perspectives, define the problem and align others around a singular solution. In the contemporary business environment, many different people are often involved in the buying process, both from the customer’s side and the seller’s side. Knowing ahead of time who the attendees are and what their needs and priorities are can help in the alignment process. Defining the outcome and determining the action, along with gaining the client’s support, helps to achieve the shared definition of success.

5. Make the Value Tangible.

Craft a relevant and appealing business story.

Draw on the power of storytelling. Equip sales professionals with the ability to tell a memorable, credible and emotionally appealing story that presents a solution and doesn’t focus on business facts. These stories need to be relevant to the buyer’s needs and appeal to their emotions. Storytelling also creates something the buyer can share with other stakeholders in the process.

Developing Sales Skills

Developing these skills takes an effort beyond a single training instance. For example, a credit bureau agency was transforming its global sales force to support client growth strategies as a risk information solutions provider and needed to optimize the work of its employees. Considering the employees’ average experience level of 15 years, the company needed to have a consistent go-to-market method and a solution to become more customer-centric. The company also wanted to drive this change while minimizing the time the sales force was away from the field to lessen the impact on sales.

The agency’s new training strategy focused on deploying a blended learning program to over 450 employees that concentrated on the five steps. This approach began with e-learning, followed by virtual instructor-led training on sales conversations methodology, workout sessions and leader coaching guides. Sales ambassadors helped sponsor the program. The program was delivered globally and 100-percent virtually, which minimized the time away from work. As a result, the company saw an increase in pipeline opportunities, average deal size, the number of deals won and the size of the wallet share.

By developing skills in the five key areas, sales professionals can determine the appropriate audience, approach, attitude, depth and detail to stand out in the buyer’s mind.

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