Accessing B2B buyers is more competitive than ever.
The modern buyer is educated, mobile, and socially connected. Not to mention, the average person is exposed to thousands of marketing pieces each day, so you have to be pretty outstanding to stand out from the crowd. Only the most prepared, creative, and diligent salespeople will thrive.
Here are 5 commandments to live by to become a sensational seller in 2016:
1. Thou shalt build trust
Although B2B sales reps are (thankfully!) shedding the reputation of being like used car salesmen, this doesn’t mean buyers automatically give you the benefit of the doubt. Just as it takes time to build trust in personal relationships, so too does it take time to build trust in sales.
Although it can take extra effort to build trust and foster healthy business relationships, research shows it’s well worth your time. Respondents in a study by SAP reveal trust as the single most important factor when purchasing products and services from vendors, even ahead of experience and cost.
Since trust is the most important thing buyers look for when making a purchase…
Sensational sellers take interest in learning about the buyer as a PERSON and not just a PROSPECT.
What’s new with their family? Where is their favorite vacation spot? How strong is their tennis game? These are all types of questions top sellers ask, and ones you should consider asking if you aren’t already setting aside time to get to know your buyers.
2. Thou shalt demonstrate product value
Buyers can find the majority of information about your company, products, and pricing online. If they wanted a high level re-cap of your solutions, they’d consult your website, which they likely did – a time, or ten – before ever agreeing to speak with you in the first place.
To knock buyers off their feet, you’re going to have to prove that you know your products inside-and-out, and be ready to tackle any curve-balls they might throw your way. Your depth of product knowledge should go much deeper than spouting off the top features and functionalities you picked up in training a few months back. Knowing your products means understanding – and being able to articulate – in-depth product benefits, how they integrate with other systems (especially when selling SaaS), and what business problems they will help your prospect solve.
This often requires getting into the weeds and consulting internal experts from product marketing or customer success, but it’ll pay off long term. As it turns out, 91% of people in SAP’s study report to have higher expectations of vendors/sellers now than they did 2 years ago, so if you aren’t going to bring your A-Game, you might as well go home.
3. Thou shalt possess industry expertise
Just as it’s important to have a comprehensive product understanding, so too is it imperative to be in-tune with what’s going on in the industry.
If you’re targeting a healthcare company, you’ll benefit from keeping up-to-date with the Affordable Care Act. If you’re targeting a financial services firm, it could be helpful to understand the current Federal Reserve Board’s policies regarding discount rates and reserve requirements.
Being authority on a subject boosts your credibility and greatly improves your chances to be taken seriously. In sales, this means that you’ll have an easier time getting buyers attention and winning over multiple levels of stakeholders. LinkedIn research shows it’s worth the effort: B2B Buyers are 5x more likely to engage with sales professionals who are industry thought leaders.
Fortunately, there are countless ways to expand your industry expertise in today’s digital world. You can peruse relevant blogs, engage with fellow gurus in LinkedIn groups, or – my personal favorite – subscribe to copious podcasts. What’s even better is that expanding your industry expertise doesn’t require tons of time, especially if you can find ways to incorporate learning into down-times, such as your daily commute.
Your target customers are undoubtedly facing business challenges, and understanding what’s going on in their world is the best way to get them to care about yours.
4. Thou shalt embrace social selling
Buyers are undoubtedly influenced by your brand and product reputation, but the people you meet and relationships you build along the way are what matter most. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… it’s no secret that people buy from people they like. Before a prospect likes you they first have to remember you, and social media makes staying in touch with business contacts a cinch.
After a networking event or business dinner, take a few minutes to add your new connections on LinkedIn – and send them a follow-up InMail if you’d really like to foster the relationship. Once you’re connected, your updates will occasionally pop up in their newsfeed, which is a great way to keep yourself top-of-mind without being overbearing.
Stepping up your social selling game may take some effort, but this Forbes research, highlighted by Sales for Life, makes me think the payoff is worth it: 78% of salespeople using social media perform better than their peers.
Even if new business connections aren’t in the market to buy from you this time, chances are you’ll cross paths again down the road… and this time, they may be holding the purse strings you need opened.
5. Thou shalt use thy iPhone for more than selfies
In case you’ve missed the memo, in just a few seconds, that little five-by-two computer in your pocket can connect you to most any answer, resource, or person in the world. And the good news is you’re not the only one with all that firepower in your pocket – virtually every buyer you’ll ever approach has one (or three) of their own.
If you want to engage buyers, meet them where they’re already living… on their devices. I like how Salesforce puts it: Mobile has become the command center for everything we do. It’s where we check email. It’s where we search for answers and directions. It’s where we look at photos from friends. And it’s where we have important conversations.
How can you engage with your target customers on mobile? Follow their social networks. Make sure the emails, presentations, and proposals you send are optimized for mobile. If you want to get really old-fashioned, use your phone to do what it was created for in the first place and just call them. You could also try shooting them a text message. It will make you feel more like a colleague than salesperson, and they’ll likely appreciate that you’ve reduced the time it takes them to respond from 1 minute to 5 seconds. If they’re not that into it, you can always revert back to emailing.
The bottom line here is that you have access to endless resources right at your fingertips. You just have to get a little creative (and pause that Words with Friends game) to stand out.