For so long, the salesperson has been about his or herself. They came unannounced, they chose the topic, and they dictated the rules of the arrangement.
The thing is, that’s all backwards.
Put yourself in the shoes of your next potential client:
You’re busy. You are probably having the same conversation, answering the same questions, and getting the same answers to your questions. Now you’re busy and tired.
The worst part? You are the one who everyone is counting on to make the right decision, and no one helped you. It should have been about you.
Alright, now snap out of it - let’s think about sales differently.
Getting Out of the Way
The consumer will award the right salesperson with the sale, and it won’t be because of their stunning personality.
Great professionals are successful because they make calculated decisions, and they can make those decisions by having access to the right knowledge.
The right salesperson won the sale because they shared the right information with the right person at the right time.
The new salesperson is helpful.
Who would've thought that the word “salesperson” and “helpful” would be in the same sentence without the word “not.” It’s sad to see, but the popular portrait of a salesperson includes words like “self-serving” and “pushy.”
Boiled down to its most practical definition - a salesperson is there to guide a potential client through the buying process. It doesn’t matter if they are selling televisions, cars, or professional services, it is the job of the salesperson to make it easy for leads to make the best decision.
What does this look like in practice?
For salespeople, it means listening more than you speak. News flash - most buyers have done their research before talking to you. Don’t believe me? Here’s what Google had to say:
“90% of B2B researchers who are online use search specifically to research business purchases. While that number has remained consistent since the 2012 study, we do see that the way they're searching has changed. The same percentage of people may be using search, but they're spending more time with it. On average, B2B researchers do 12 searches prior to engaging on a specific brand's site.”
The first step in today’s B2B is understanding what the potential client already knows and what they need to know.
By letting your lead talk, you can help them make the next step to a purchase instead of assuming that your next step makes the most sense. Also, by opening up the floor to your lead, a salesperson gains incredible insight into what is driving them to make a purchase.
My #1 rule: I don’t talk about our services until I can completely understand and recite what a prospect company does, why they do it, who they do it for, and what they need help with. Only then can I fully understand how to align our services with their needs.
How can you do this? Ask a ton of questions. You want to be able to answer:
What does the company do? What makes the company unique?
What is the goal of the company? What is their mission?
When are they trying to accomplish that goal by? What is standing in their way?
What does the person you are talking to do? What do they care about?
Who is making a final decision on the purchase? What do they care about?
What are the alternatives to using your product or service? What is the cost of them not changing what they are doing currently?
Set the expectation that the first conversation is going to be about getting to know each other rather than closing a deal. Ask a question and get out of the way.
The new salesperson is relevant.
There just isn’t time for fluff in today's world.
Take a look at product pages of the early 2000s and compare it to those of today - a lot less information, right? Marketing automation software, like HubSpot, is now built to serve content to people that actually matters to them.
The fact of the matter is: consumers aren’t looking for a salesperson who is going to overload them with all the information in the world. This is why opening with a sales pitch is backwards.
In order to be relevant, a salesperson needs to put the lead first and only deliver the information needed for that consumer to take the next step in their buying process. This starts with asking questions to understand them, but if all the information you gather goes in one ear and out the other - what is the point?
The new salesperson lets prospects take the wheel.
How annoying is it that salespeople always want to control the next step? From the perspective of a consumer, it can come off as overly aggressive when they aren’t interested. And if they are interested? Trying to dictate the pace of the relationship may not let the prospect move as fast or as slow as they need to make a decision.
Let the prospect dictate the next step - you would be amazed what your prospects will tell you when you do.
The legacy sales process has been driven by agenda. Salespeople have quotas to hit; and they are just as busy as their leads - it’s easy to see how working at their own pace would make sense for them.
Furthermore, they are often taught how their company’s sales process is to be run. These predetermined steps correlate to sales enablement materials, deal stages in the CRM, and how revenue is forecasted. Now, this is all part of running a successful sales program, but you need to be careful to not try and force your prospects to move at your pace.
In full transparency, this is something that at the time of publishing this article (12/17/15), I am still working on. It’s all too easy to say, “At this point I think we should draft and present you a proposal. Does that align with your thinking?”
What if the answer is no? Would the prospect even tell you?
Give this a shot instead. “What should our next step be? I want to move at a pace that is right for you.” Do this correctly and the prospect will tell you when they are ready for a presentation or if something is still standing in the way.
The future of successful B2B sales is going to change the way we think about sales.
As a buyer, try and give that salesperson the benefit of the doubt. If they say they are trying to help - they may mean it. Look for the writing on the wall - did they take the time to try to help you in their first contact? Are they more interested in seeing if you’re a right fit than selling to you blindly?
As a salesperson, we first must realize what people think when we “knock on their door,” and we must commit ourselves to redefining the experience we deliver. We have quite a big reputation to overcome.
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