You have a great product that can make a difference to your buyers, but your salespeople can’t gain traction at your most promising prospects. What’s more, several other customers just like these buyers have had great success — but your reps are still struggling.
If this scenario sounds familiar, it’s because buyers are more discerning than ever, and they probably don’t care about your company’s product. They do care about solving a problem, however, and either are not inclined or can’t do the mental gymnastics necessary to understand why doing business with your company makes sense. In all probability, they’ve been burned too often and don’t think it’s worth their time to make an exception for your salespeople.
Considering that all-too-familiar backdrop, you already know that your salespeople have to establish credibility if you want buyers to engage with them, and doing so requires more than just talking about products. Instead, salespeople engaged in both enterprise and small or medium-sized business sales need to share insights that add credibility to their sales efforts and enable buyers to think of them as an asset throughout the buying process.
However, the concept of sharing insights is more than simply demonstrating knowledge of the space or even knowing how a product solves customer problems. Rather, it’s a way of sharing information that influences the way buyers think about their business. Two winning approaches for sharing insights are effective storytelling and meaningful points of view. Read on to find out how these two strategies can make a difference in your team’s selling efforts.
1. Storytelling Versus Sharing Stories
Firstly, what’s the difference between storytelling and the customer stories that most salespeople and websites tell? The stories on your website tend to focus solely on results, and the product is the hero instead of the strategy, approach or process that caused the positive result. Look at virtually any company’s website; they all have great case studies with significant return on investment (ROI), focused on stories that provide little differentiation between them and their competitors.
If your salespeople are going to establish both differentiation and credibility, they won’t do it by talking only about products or even ROI; rather, they have to tell stories that demonstrate the value, experience and insight they bring to the process, not just dissociated metrics.
Effective Storytelling in Conversational Sales
An effective story has three main attributes:
- It is relevant to not just any buyer but the one hearing the story, in particular.
- It features a sympathetic or relatable character.
- It’s concise and well organized.
In other words, it should have a beginning, middle and end with a clear, compelling point. Finally, it should be — to use a Three Bears analogy — just right: enough information, but not too much.
Types of Stories to Share
To evolve from a generic, results-based story to a poignant, buyer-centric story, salespeople need to demonstrate experience and expertise, both positive and negative.
Positive stories depict experiences where a seller’s organization worked with the customer and achieved a successful outcome — with a focus on the journey. How did the organization help that customer accomplish the result? What did the seller learn along the way that he or she would repeat and pass on to the next customer?
Conversely, salespeople should share experiences where the journey included some hurdles. Maybe they made the wrong decision about certain actions, and it didn’t work out well. They may have achieved the ultimate outcome, but the journey had speed bumps. Salespeople can use this type of story to guide buyers away from approaches that won’t work for them. Customers relish this type of experience.
If you want your salespeople to engage buyers in sales interactions, they need to provide more detail than anyone can find on your company’s website. This kind of information — learned examples — not only creates differentiation among salespeople but also instills confidence that a buyer can trust a salesperson’s input to help guide him or her through the buying process.
The difference between this storytelling approach and the standard customer story is that salespeople demonstrate not just a knowledge of the market into which they’re selling but also a commitment to making customers successful.
2. Sharing a Point of View
Buyers could gain tremendous value from fresh perspectives that enable them to escape the limits of institutional knowledge. In practice, however, they’re often so wrapped up in their own company’s issues that they feel as if they have neither the time nor the perspective to consider alternative approaches from someone with a more expansive view of the market.
Salespeople have an opportunity to expand their buyers’ thinking by leading conversations with a point of view, especially in , where people appreciate the value of alternative perspectives based on previous experiences. Sharing a point of view can be a platform for a broader business dialogue that goes beyond your products or services. In fact, it’s the business conversation that could lead to the sale of your products and services.
By definition, your sales team is charged with looking at not just one company’s issues but how the market, in general, approaches the same or similar challenges. Your salespeople gain experiences through buyer interactions and customer stories, and your company gains experience by helping its broad customer base improve their business. This data can inform a point of view that can be valuable to new buyers.
What Makes a Point of View Powerful?
A point of view is a position or perspective that stimulates or stretches a buyer’s thinking. To demonstrate its value, let us take the example of a sales productivity software company that helps customers improve their sales training programs:
- A position is a definitive assertion, binary in nature, that strongly advises a customer to take a certain path. In the software company’s example, the salesperson’s position could be that, based on the significant evidence his company has witnessed in the market, improving sales productivity requires a new approach to on-demand training rather than better access to marketing collateral.
- A perspective is more nuanced, demonstrating a deep knowledge of the market and sharing the pros and cons of different approaches. For example, the salesperson’s perspective might be that improving access to marketing collateral may be the right approach in certain circumstances, while on-demand training may be better in others.
The best point of view may be different from one buyer to the next, but both positions and perspectives demonstrate not just a wide-ranging knowledge of the market but also a level of expertise that imbues value into the interaction between the salesperson and the buyer.
Using Insights in Conversational Sales
These two concepts — storytelling and point of view — are not an either/or proposition. Successful sales interactions require the ability to both tell effective stories and express points of view that demonstrate value. A will have an arsenal of stories that he or she can use throughout a buyer’s journey to demonstrate credibility on a continuous basis. Similarly, the ability to share informed points of view gives buyers confidence that their salesperson will help them make the right decision for their company. In combination, these two practices enable buyers to look at your salespeople as sources of valuable insights rather than commoditized product pitchmen.