To sell better, help your customers make sense of all the information available to them by being a trusted source of information.
By Zen Newman, Marketing Analyst at PipelineDeals
What’s the point of a salesperson in a time when buyers can access all the information they need on their computer? This question is the conundrum that has plagued the sales profession for a decade now. By some estimates, the sales trade is primed to lose a million jobs by the year 2020.
With this pressure on the profession, it’s time salespeople do some soul-searching on what part of their sales process brings value to the buyers.
One could walk through the sales process step-by-step and make a convincing argument that most of it benefits the salesperson and not the buyer. All of this effort is spent in service to lining up the salesperson for that moment of truth when they can say or do something that does indeed show the customer value.
Before the ubiquity of the internet, solution based selling worked because there were few other ways for buyers to gain information. Today, however, solutions based sales is holding on as a viable solution primarily in market spaces where the solutions are technical, or the buyer is unable to educate themselves.
As the trend continues to move in the direction of greater customer autonomy, this dynamic will continue to exasperate both parties.
The solution lies in the curation of critical information for the client. The double edge of the information era is data overload. As buyers gain access to all of the information they need to make a decision, it becomes harder for them to sort through the sea of material to find the pieces that are not only of quality but relevant.
In this environment, the salesperson’s new niche becomes organizing and presenting content to interested buyers to help them make sense of the noise. The critical thing to keep in mind here is that the sales interaction is moving from a position of information monopoly to one of packaging and framing what’s freely available.
Making this switch takes some forethought.
Changing the approach
Jumping into the curation sale means recognizing that the buyer is in the driver’s seat. They are no longer required to follow a prescribed buying process. Some of them will enter the sales process with a fully formed understanding of what they need. Other’s will need guidance walking through the possibilities that are open to them.
In some ways, the overall structure of the sale doesn’t change too much. The real changes come at a tactical level. Instead of moving through predefined stages of the sales process, to find out what they need, present, and close, be a wealth of information on the subject matter and have an informed conversation.
Again, the key here is in being familiar with the information that’s available so that it’s more efficient for the buyer to ask you, rather than do the research themselves.
One of the larger challenges with this method is discerning how much depth do go into. As a general rule, people will say that they prefer more information over less. In reality, though, more details can often lead to confusion and decision paralysis. The goal of a salesperson is to provide the most relevant and valuable information to aid in their decision-making process.
First and foremost, this strategy demands that salespeople be well versed in their industry and that of their customers. Industry knowledge isn’t enough, though. Salespeople need to be able to get this information out in front of their customers if it’s going to be useful.
Distributing your domain knowledge means producing content including newsletters, blogs, and webinars. For many salespeople, this is something of a new activity and is certainly an area that is worth collaborating on with the marketing team.
The goal with sales content is to help compile the existing information that’s floating out there in the world into something more manageable for customers. In the process answering their biggest questions about your product and their industry.
Content like this provides an important means of opening conversations with clients. It also provides a powerful means of shaping and driving the conversation moving forward.
The last thing that we’ll mention about content here is that it doesn’t help if the buyer isn’t reading it. Content for content’s sake doesn’t work. If the purchaser isn’t engaging with an eBook, try something more approachable like a case study. If they don’t engage with writing, try video.
Putting it all together
At the end of the day, selling still looks like selling. We reach out to prospects and try to engage them on the phone, by email and through social media. We still take meetings and try to understand their needs and promote solutions that will fill those needs. Where things change is in how we approach our interactions with clients.
Instead of it being about pushing or pulling, sales becomes about navigating the customer journey. Contrariwise to the usual method of promotion, the sales process becomes one of curation. When a client meets with you, they can expect to get access to well thought out learning resources. When a buyer could go somewhere else for their information, but instead they come to you, good things happen.