Buyers have so much information at their fingertips today that their journey is un-mappable. Or, the map would look as if drawn by a 4-year-old with a fresh set of crayons: colorful squiggly lines running on all corners of the page.
So, buyers have information. Information means knowledge. Knowledge means power.
And as a brand, you only control a small portion of the information about your own products that are available to buyers.
You cannot change a blog post a competitor may have written about you. But buyers will see it.
You cannot change a testimonial from a customer on a review site. But buyers will see it.
You cannot change a post from an angry prospect on social media. But your buyers will see it.
As a sales rep, what you can control is the 17% time within the journey that a buyer uses to actually meet with potential suppliers.
The problem is, while the buyer journey is dramatically moving to the digital sphere, the sales process is not adapting and aligning with it.
In fact, 44% of buyers think that sales reps will become less relevant in the next 10 years, according to a recent study from the Sales Research Labs. And there is an increasing hesitation from buyers to speak with sales at any of the 3 stages of the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration, and even decision.
So, as the window of opportunity gets smaller and smaller, how can you ensure you maximize your buyer experience?
Here are 4 skills that every rep needs to develop further so that you can align your sales process with buyers’ purchasing timeline:
So, let’s deep dive into the first skill...
1. Do better research
It’s not about more research.
It’s not even about quality vs quantity. You can still engage as many prospects. It really is about better research.
We live in a world of hyper-personalization and the expectation now is that, with all the publicly available information, sales reps should come to the table knowing the basics about the buyer, his role, and his organization.
Reps should know what interactions have already taken place on the buyer’s account, verify the information, and ensure that information is shared throughout their organization.
Pre-call planning seems to be a lost sales art.
You need to transfer the time-wasting; instead of asking simple qualification questions during discovery, spend that time quickly researching your prospect before the call.
Then ask yourself: is this person the actual prospect facing the challenge that I fix?
If yes, then use the discovery call to truly understand needs. The conversation can thus be tailored to the buyer’s situation and give you the ability to truly connect the dots between the prospect’s pain/gain and your solution.
2. Be more personal
Regardless of what you sell, your buyers will have options. Your solution, or a competitor’s.
There are many parameters that a buyer will choose a product or service from, and most of which you have no or very little influence over (features, quality, prices, etc…).
However, there is one where you have full control.
Don’t be another faceless salesperson behind a copy-pasted email.
A lot of interaction in the past year, if not most, is taking place on Zoom or Teams calls, often with both parties working from home.
Take advantage of that.
Don’t hide your slick Gibson guitar hanging on the wall with a background image of your company logo; don’t lock the kids away in their rooms, or throw the dog out in the backyard. Instead, show that you’re a musician, a parent, or a dog owner.
Not only will these be great ice breakers, but they will also change a prospect’s perspective of you. You won’t be seen as a sales rep chasing a deal, but a human being providing.
Want more tips on how to engage prospects to really stand out? Check out our ultimate sales engagement guide.
3. Communication breakdown
Buyers have more power than they’ve ever had.
And they have access to more communication channels than they’ve ever had.
So as a sales rep, you need to be comfortable with switching platforms or risk losing out on many opportunities.
Not only will different buyers have different preferred channels, but a single buyer might have multiple ways he or she would like to engage depending on the stage of the buyer journey.
Again, the squiggly line of the buyer journey mapping: the conversation might be initiated via LinkedIn InMail, picked up by an introductory phone call, continued via email, accelerated through a Zoom demo, and negotiated through WhatsApp.
It’s not only about what channel you use, but how you use that channel to deliver your information. There are many reasons, for example, as to why you should stop sending attachments by email:
- You can’t track engagement
- You lose confidentiality
- You require recipients to download
- You end up with multiple versions
- You can’t get it signed quickly
Meeting your buyers on their preferred channels will also require you to adapt to their expectations of each channel. If you exchange on a chat or instant messaging platform, then be ready to answer in real-time.
4. Sell on value
Again, 44% of people surveyed think that salespeople will be less relevant in 10 years. Those people have probably gone through a bad sales experience.
Buyers expect sales reps to know their sh*t. To be a resource center.
A tremendous amount of research has been done on the buyer’s side before they even get on a call with you, so the interaction is more about confirmation than learning from your pitch.
Anyone can read a list of features. Your role with customers is to do consultative sales. Help prospects understand how your products and services align with their overall initiatives and go-to-market plan, and what kind of ROI they can expect by investment in your solution.
Focus on the outcome.
Keep in mind that when buyers are in the decision stage, they have information about your product or service, but also your competitors’. When they’re evaluating your solution, it means they are also evaluating at least one, probably more, competitors.
So be ready to answer comparative questions on features and pricing. You may not like talking about the competition but if that’s what buyers want, and what competitors do, do you even have a choice?
As with most things in life, the purpose of a sales rep is changing over time as buyer behaviors and journeys change.
And the past year has been a true accelerator of change, pushing the buyer journey more and more online.
It’s now up to sales teams to adapt their processes and ensure they align with their prospects’ new purchasing habits.
- Patrick McGowan, CEO, and Founder, The Service Design Group
I put a premium on transparency when evaluating products and solutions. Don’t make me work to find a price or see it in action. And, definitely don’t reach out to me - on any channel - with one message and switch to a completely different conversation when I engage.
Ultimately, the most important thing you can do as a sales rep is to be transparent. Buyers will find the information they seek, whether from you, a competitor, a review site, social media, their own network, or any other channel available to them.
It's their journey. Make sure you're a part of it, at the right time and right place.