Businesses need to sell to survive but the act of selling itself can be considered a dirty word.
Often, when I tell people I work in sales I see them flinch. The classic connotations of an old school wheeler dealer flashing before their eyes.
That story always ends the same way; the buyer gets ripped off.
Like most sales people I know, we don’t count ourselves as crooks trying to swindle every last penny out of our customers. We take pride in providing genuine solutions to complex business problems at a price that’s valuable. The old stereotype clearly evokes mistrust and apprehension and it’s a stereotype that needs to be broken.
The good news is that the buying process has changed drastically. Buyers are more empowered than ever, they have much more information at their disposal, and they can assess their options without needing to be “sold” to.
But does that mean there’s no longer a place for the sales person? Not quite. There are many more cooks in the kitchen when it comes to making a buying decision and each of them has a different recipe. With so many more options and seemingly never ending information at hand, sales people need to step in as head chef to coordinate the buyers priorities and deliver the perfect dish.
So how then, as sales people, can we better serve our customers?
Always be thinking like the buyer
Putting yourself in your customers shoes is vital. What did it take for your prospect to get to this conversation with you? What challenges are they facing in their role? What will happen if they’re not successful? Understanding what keeps them awake at night can help you to speak their language.
Think about the journey
Meeting your customer at the right time in their purchase journey is crucial. Jumping in too early at a stage where they’re just browsing can be intimidating, you only have to think of a shop assistant asking you if you need help the minute you walk in the door to identify with this one.
But further down the journey, when a prospect is evaluating their options, is a crucial time for a sales person to provide guidance. Make sure you’re aware of your customer’s mindset at different points by mapping out your business’ unique customer journey – you can begin with a basic framework like this one from HubSpot.
Use data to develop the story
With a combination of demographic, firmographic, and behavioural data you can build a view of your customer that can help you identify where they are in the buying cycle and how ready they are to buy – ensuring that you reach out at the perfect time. Creating a strong customer journey aligned to the behaviour of your customer has proven to increase satisfaction and prevent churn by 30-40%.
Allow the buyer to access your business in a way that makes sense to them, not you.
How do they like to communicate?
Think about your buyers’ preferences when it comes to contacting you. It might not be convenient for them to fill out a form and then receive an email from you sometime after. In fact, it’s highly likely they’ll have forgotten about you all together. Adopting a Live Chat can provide the prospect with an instant connection to your company, meaning a better experience for them and more leads for you! In fact, 79% of businesses have said they have seen an uplift in sales since using live chat.
How much help do really they want?
Is buying your product a complex decision? Would a prospect be better of if you followed a more hands off approach? Work with your cross functional teams to determine what aspects should be guided by the sales person vs what can be improved in the overall buying experience.
Stop selling, start solving
Once you’ve understood your buyer you can make it easier for them to solve their problems, hopefully using your product as the tool.
Really identify their challenges
Take the time to understand the situation your prospect is facing. Jumping on the first pain point a prospect mentions can be short sighted and can lead to both parties missing out on a great opportunity. Getting to the root of the problem, and the pain that they’re facing, can help you develop a more holistic solution.
Become an expert
Do your research to really understand your market. Know the nuances of their industry, study the jargon so you can speak their language, and be aware of potential threats or opportunities that your prospects will be concerned about.
Diagnose and prescribe
You’re the expert, you’ve helped countless companies overcome the same challenges before – so you can be prescriptive. Remember that your prospects are looking to you for answers and leverage that to build confidence and trust.
By following these guidelines and, crucially, seeing your customers as humans with real problems to be solved, you will avoid that squirmy sales feeling and be on the way to creating happy, long lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with your customers.