Raise your hand if you’ve heard somewhere that today’s buyer is vastly different from the buyers of the past. Go on – raise it up high! Because chances are, you’ve heard this more times than you can stand, but figuring out exactly what it means to your unique sales cycle is still perplexing.
Here’s the thing – nearly every salesperson has been given this pearl of wisdom at some point, as if simply having the knowledge that buyers’ mindsets have shifted is enough. But it’s not. Think of it like this: You can logically know what good nutrition consists of, but if you don’t make amendments to your daily eating habits, it won’t matter.
The odd thing about sales – and also marketing, by extension – is that our audience has changed but our tactics have largely remained the same. Especially when it comes to selling through channel partners, where fear of change and laggard systems are overwhelmingly prevalent. Sure, we now have a fancier, shinier, tech stack at our disposal, but technology isn’t a magic wand. Those leading the charge in sales and marketing still have to incorporate strategy to see results. To convert a prospect into a loyal customer takes time and exposure to a thorough, thoughtful sales ecosystem. How do you achieve it?
Don’t let technology create distance
As the founder and CEO of a company that provides a sales and marketing SaaS platform, you might be surprised that I’m seemingly throwing shade at technology. Don’t get me wrong: software has the potential to transform entire industries and solve really big problems. I’m an avid tech enthusiast and believe in the power of innovative tools wholeheartedly. But what I don’t advocate is the adoption of digital solutions at the expense of personal relationships with prospects and customers. And the unfortunate reality is that this result all too common. Automation cannot replace authenticity.
Think about it. Many of the modern sales platforms offer digital ways to use old-school 'push' marketing. They enable salespeople to speak at prospects and customers, send messages to unwilling, unreceptive recipients and create campaigns that ignore the user’s wants and needs. Automation is great in theory, but it might be causing you to completely miss the mark if you are lacking strategy. Sometimes the more you automate and the more you allow haphazardly crafted emails and web forms to take the place of interpersonal communication, the more alienated you become to your prospect.
Technology is moving at an unstoppable pace, but your audience is still human. They have some basic needs, and will almost always prefer to engage with a company with which they’ve been able to establish person-to-person relationships. So yes, use technology to your heart’s content. But don’t make the grave mistake of using it to push away those you want closer.
Involve your customers in the conversation
Are customers a part of your selling ecosystem? Sure, you are selling to them of course, but are they actually a part of your strategy? Take advantage of your existing customers’ feedback and stories to power your sales initiatives – and even your products.
One of the biggest mistakes a sales team can make is not consulting the customer about their buying journey. With the prevalence of social networks, marketing solutions, sales tools and endless other digital forums that prospects might stumble across on their way to becoming your customer, sales cycles are complex. There’s no way you can know for sure which touchpoints are working to convert customers, or which marketing and sales tactics are giving prospects the answers they seek… unless you ask.
Talk to your resellers, partners and customers. Ask them what their needs were when they began searching for a solution, how many times (and where) they were exposed to your company and what their buying experience was like. Ask for constructive criticism too. Once you start aggregating this feedback, you can start narrowing down your focus to the sales efforts that actually yield results. Yes, it’s time consuming. Yes, you’ll probably have some uncomfortable conversations. However, there is nothing more powerful than actually listening to your customer. And guess what? You can better support your partners with this information – and they’re often the ones who are actually customer-facing, representing your brand.
Remember: research is required
Finally, the third prong of any solid sales ecosystem is due diligence. It takes a lot of legwork to refine your messaging and sales approach to effectively appeal to potential buyers. However, once you’ve developed relationships with customers, you can refine your buyer personas to be even tighter. Go beyond demographic factors, and try to get further in-depth with the motivations and top stressors these personas face. With so much information at our fingertips, relying on simple factors like age and sex are no longer acceptable. Dig deeper and you’ll close more deals with more qualified prospects. Period.
With the right research in your arsenal, you can start to uncover more details about the conversations your buyers are having and where. You will also learn more about the decision-makers pain points – not just who they are.
Getting to know your buyer means understanding the barriers (perceived and real) each segment might encounter during the buying journey. With this information, create content that helps them overcome these barriers. Too many companies get distracted on feature comparisons or chasing the competition. Instead, focus your efforts entirely on what the buyer wants and needs.
Selling is never easy. But taking shortcuts or hoping technology will provide all the answers is always ineffective at best, downright damaging at worst. Nurture real relationships, use your customers’ feedback and stories in strategic ways and do your research – then equip your partners to do the same. This type of ecosystem is the only way to move your sales technique into the present – and future – and meet consumers where they want to be met.