Your buyers have needs. You have solutions. What could be simpler? Sure, procurement, data security, budgets, entrenched skepticism, and a host of other factors prevent sellers from closing deals, but one factor derails perhaps more deals than any other—the sellers themselves. Or rather, how today’s buyers perceive sellers.
Today’s buyers have new preferences and behaviors. They don’t want the hard sell. They want to control the buying process and contact sellers on their own terms and on their own schedules. In fact, 60 percent of buyers want to engage a salesperson after they’ve conducted their own research—not before. They’re wary of pushy salespeople, and they’re exceedingly skeptical that sellers could have their best interests at heart. That’s largely why, according to Hubspot, just 18 percent of buyers trust salespeople. Meanwhile, DiscoverOrg reports that only 35 percent of buyers have a favorable view of salespeople. Any way you slice it, those numbers aren’t great.
This means your tactics have to change if you’re going to overcome the deeply entrenched negative perceptions. Here’s how having the right inside information ahead of time can help you transform into the kind of salesperson your buyers want, and deliver the kind of collaborative sales experience they crave in 2018.
Keep it real
One of the principal barriers to trust is overselling, and it’s an easy mistake to make. After all, you’re excited about your product and believe in its capabilities, and that passion is going to shine through. However, if you don’t know when to reel it in, your genuine excitement could come across as hollow, meaningless fluff designed to overcompensate for a lackluster offering. Today’s buyers value authenticity So, ease up on the endless exaggeration and in-your-face overselling if you want to garner more trust.
Unfortunately, given the paltry trust-figures featured above, you’ll have some work to do in this department. Be honest about your solution and its capabilities. If there’s one area where it falls short, confront that weakness head on, and provide alternatives for your prospect to use in conjunction with your product that can provide the full experience. If your product’s road map contains an improvement or fix for the weakness, share that too.
To make the benefits of using your product both more credible and tangible, offer up detailed case studies to your prospects. A recent SnapApp study revealed that, along with established relationships and references, case studies were found to be one of the resources buyers found most effective when evaluating solutions. If you have an advocate inside your target organization, encourage them to keep singing your solution’s praises. As far as credible sources go, they’re hard to beat. But if not, utilizing case studies to iIllustrate how your solution worked for other, similarly sized organizations in the past can be an effective way of demonstrating that your product’s got the goods to deliver on its promises. To help you know where to start, lean on your inside connections at your buyer’s organization to get insight into problems the company experienced in the past to select the best, most applicable examples to bring along.
Buyers want solutions above all else, and hyperbolic language will only distract from that message. Stay grounded—back up your claims with data-filled use cases and you’ll never feel pressured to promise the moon again.
Pull, don’t push
Close your eyes and imagine you’re receiving the worst sales pitch possible. What’s the first thing that comes to mind about the seller’s behavior? Are they well mannered and giving you plenty of space? Probably not. They’re likely pushy and overly aggressive. They’re in your face, your inbox, and your office. They go where you go and won’t leave you alone. “No” means nothing to them.
According to Hubspot’s research, buyers associate sales with the term “pushy” more than any other attribute, and it’s likely what’s pushed many of them to adopt new habits to avoid this pressure altogether. That’s why more and more are electing to do their own research on vendors first, and then approach salespeople later from a carefully selected list of finalists. To sell to this highly discretional cohort, you need to get on their radar and have them come to you. But how can you get noticed without coming on too strong and accidentally slipping back into that old and overly aggressive stereotype?
Position yourself as a value-giving thought leader who’s well known and actively engaged in the space. Go to conferences and other networking events. Meet potential prospects even before they’re in your pipeline. Talk with them about their needs, and give them helpful information that they can take back to their businesses that aren’t related to any product you’re trying to sell.
Go online, too. Engage with whatever particular communities exist where you feel potential buyers may spend time and deliver value by linking to relevant articles or think pieces — you can even create value-add posts of your own. Plus, if you have an internal advocate or someone else who’s familiar with the organization you’re trying to sell into, that can help you get an idea of the kinds of content that could be of interest to the major stakeholders.
Then, when you finally start the sales process, your job will be much easier. With the right insight into what problem your prospect is trying to fix, you won’t need to be pushy, as you’ll be giving them exactly what they want right off the bat.
Help, don’t hustle
One of the biggest reputational hurdles to overcome as a salesperson is not coming off as self-serving. You need to turn the tables and actually help your prospect, and the first step to helping is listening more. In a recent DiscoverOrg study, buyers said their most preferred selling style was one in which a salesperson “listens, understands, and then matches their solution” to solve a problem.
It sounds simple, but just taking a break from your standard script and turning the floor over to your prospect to learn about their needs will make them feel more heard. Taking the time to listen to your prospect instantly reframes the interaction from a straight sell to a collaborative partnership, where both parties have a vested interest in the success of the buyer’s business.
When you spend more time listening, you’ll gain a clearer understanding of your prospect’s needs and be more able to actually solve whatever business problem they’re facing. And, at the end of the day, that’s really what they want: Someone who can come in and connect them with solutions, not a single-minded seller who’s only concern is beefing up their closed-wons.
When it comes to the pushy, overly persistent stereotype of salespeople as a whole, the damage is done. But hope is not lost. A new generation of buyers are taking control of the selling process and being very clear about what they expect from today’s enterprise sellers. Follow their guidelines—listen, solve problems, and be genuinely invested in your prospect’s business success—and you’ll sell more than any disciple of the used-car school of sales ever did.