Right Now, Your Message Matters More Than Ever
Selling in an increasingly virtual world means continually adapting to new demands. Learning new technology, then learning to be effective using the latest technology. It means communicating with an increasingly distracted audience and figuring out how to get and keep their attention—your message matters.
When the pandemic first hit, my clients began to wonder if their prospects even wanted to hear from the sales reps. My answer is, "Do your prospects ever want to hear from your sellers?" There will always be times when people are busy or distracted. Times when their companies are doing great and times when they aren't. The pandemic magnified this reality and was a reminder that our sales reps have become lazy. If you genuinely know what problem you solve for your customers, and what is going in their world, as you should, then you know if they want to talk to you or not. If your team doesn't know the answers, they need to find out
Do your buyers want to hear from you now? That depends. What is going on in the buyers' personal life? The buyers' job? The overall buying organization? Priorities change all the time. When sellers assume that nothing changes, they are setting themselves up for disaster.
Knowing What to Do
Sellers should be doing all they can to keep abreast of what is going on with the buyers and withing the buying organization. They should always be asking questions that confirm their understanding of the buyer and the buying organization.
Sellers should be doing all they can to keep abreast of what is going on with the buyers and within the buying organization. They should always be asking questions that confirm their understanding of the buyer and the buying organization.
Once your seller understands the most current situation in the buying organization, it is time to engage in real selling work. Sellers need to relearn how to talk to buyers.
How to talk to your buyers:
1. Check-in with intention
2. Remember what matters
3. Know your buyers
There are two groups of leaders out there. The leaders that are thinking, "What has that got to do with selling?" And the leaders who are thinking, "Of course my sellers do this."
Suppose you have a B2B, complex sale with multiple buyers who have various interests making a significant investment. In that case, it is critical that sellers truly understand the buyers and what needs to happen in the buying organization to be successful. Even if you don't have a complex sale, understanding your buyer is essential, and including these things in the selling process will improve understanding.
Check-in with Intention
If I get one more email that says, "Just checking in" or "I'm circling back," I might add the seller to my banned contacts list. When your customer sees those word, they hear, "Are you going to buy from me or not?" As a company leader, I am confident that it is not what you want your buyers to feel.
Check-in with intention means sellers remember what was discussed last and send an email that addresses that. Or they recognize that something has changed and find out what that means for your buyer.
"Hi Sue, last time we spoke, you were struggling with a system that kept crashing. You expressed interest in finding ways to solve that, and we were trying to find a time to schedule a meeting. Is that still a priority for you, and are you available on Tuesday at 3:00?" Or "I know the world is a bit crazy, and priorities, budgets, and timelines are in flux. I'm checking in to see if your priorities or timeline has changed or if you still need help preventing system crashes."
Intention matters. Are your nudging your customer so they will buy something, or are you trying to help them make a difficult decision about a troublesome issue? Your customer needs to understand your intention. And your seller's intentions mirror your company's intention.
Know What Matters
Conceptual Selling and Solution Selling supposedly revolutionized sales in the 1980s, yet today, we still have sellers talking about products. I asked a seasoned sales rep selling a $300,000 solution about the problem their buyer was trying to solve. His answer was, "They need to buy software that does …" I was in shock!
Your clients do not need or want to buy software. They need or want a solution to a problem that software will fix.
Your sellers need to be talking about what matters to your buyers. They have a problem they want to fix or avoid, a goal they want to achieve, and concerns about what new problems the solution will create. They have a budget available for this solution and pain they feel or risk to minimize.
Don't talk about product specifics until or unless they are asking about product specifics. Talk to the buyer about what matters to them at that moment.
Know Your Buyers
If you have a complex sale with multiple buyers, they each care about the solution you offer for different reasons. And are interested in understanding different things. What is true for one buyer in an organization may not be true for another. The people who use or manage the product may feel very differently from the way the CEO feels. Frame the discussion for the person you are talking to and what matters to them.
The person using the technology day-to-day may be concerned with the actual product, the ease of use, and the technical details. The purchasing agent may only be interested in whether or not your company fits specific criteria. Legal or HR might be worried about risk and liability. IT might be interested in how it fits with other systems, how hard it will be to maintain, and its impact on their resources. The CEO may be concerned about how your solution will impact the bottom line, stock prices, discussions with the board. If your product impacts these things, then it's essential to include the CEO. If not, it might not be.
I like to have value propositions prepared for each different type of buyer. Presenting the wrong information to the wrong person is an excellent way to lose credibility early on.
Many sales are lousy listeners. Some are terrible listeners because they only care about selling and not about their customers. Some, because they are so ready to respond, they forget they are listening for information. They probably start preparing their rebuttal before the person finishes talking. Some sellers cut the customer off before they finish providing information.
When buyers want to talk, sellers must stop talking and really listen. First, during difficult times like pandemics and recessions, buyers have a lot to worry about. When your sellers (or anyone else on your team) listen, your customers feel cared about. People buy from people they like and trust. People like and trust people who listen to them.
Second, it helps the buyer get the worries out of their head so they can move on. It is better to have them say it out loud, whether it is relevant to the sale or not than to have them think about it while trying to carry on a conversation.
Third, the more the buyer talks, the more the seller learns. They learn about the buyer and what they care about. They learn about other buying influences and what they are doing. They learn about what is going on in the organization that might help or hurt this sale or opens up a new opportunity. A seller's most valuable tool is the ability to listen and learn. Then to connect your product and service to what matters most to the client.
Care About Your Customer
Sometimes company leaders and their sellers forget that customers are people, not revenue. They want to know that the person who is selling to them cares about them. Your words and actions matter. They send the message to the customer about what matters to your company
2020 has been a particularly unsettling time, and companies just don't know what to expect. They are struggling to make good decisions in the unknown. While it is particularly bad right now, this is always true for different companies at different times.
It can be challenging for sellers to care about their clients when they are being hounded to focus on closing business and meeting quota. Your company is struggling too, and it is natural to worry about revenue. Even in the midst of that, it is vital to partner with your customers to help them make the right decision for them at this moment. Relationships matter. Now is a great time to build them.
The Bottom Line
Sellers have become complacent with a growing economy and customers buying regardless of poor selling. I would argue that they have been leaving money on the table with unprofessional selling behavior. Your company and your sales team need to embrace these messaging concepts and put processes around sales to ensure that your sales team is supported to improve their sales success.
If you need help with messaging or with other sales process issues, I'd love to talk.
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