Last Tuesday, I had two interesting meetings.
In the morning, a salesperson pitched me on their sales compensation software. The salesperson, as expected, showed up with their 20-slide generic pitch deck, filled with their company mission statement, case studies, feature set, and pricing.
It was the worst meeting of the week. All the information he showed me I had already consumed on their website. The salesperson had no insight into my interests, despite the fact that I had visited the company’s website many times, read many blog articles, and downloaded one of their ebooks.
In the afternoon, I visited my doctor. Going into the discussion, she knew that I had gained four pounds over the last year. She knew that I had been in the emergency room three months prior for an injury to my back. She knew that my grandfather passed away from colon cancer 10 years ago.
Our conversation was not about elevator pitches on the latest and greatest drugs on the market. Instead, she had questions about my context. I took her questions very seriously. I trusted her. I gave her honest answers. When she prescribed a new medication, I did not question it. I did not ask to think about it. I did not ask for 20% off. She clearly understood me, had my best interests in mind, and was trying to help me out.
In these two stories, the desires of the patient and the prospect (me) were the same. I simply wanted assistance with a problem I was having. However, the approach of the doctor and the salesperson were remarkably different. While the salesperson failed to add any real value to the buyer experience, the doctor personalized the experience to me. She was fully equipped with my context, and as such, she had my trust and had a far more successful outcome.
Think about your sales team for a moment and compare their approach to the two examples above. Does your sales team approach discussions with prospects more like the salesperson or more like the doctor? How do you want your sales team to approach the discussion?
The modern buyer is far more empowered than they were 20 years ago. Twenty years ago, buyers had to rely on salespeople to gather the product information necessary to make a smart purchase. We did not like the experience, but we had to do it.
Today, thanks to the Internet, all that information is available to us at our fingertips. We still don’t like dealing with salespeople. But the great news is — we don’t have to deal with salespeople anymore.
What does this say for the future of sales? Salespeople need to take a more modern approach to selling. They need to add value to the buying journey. They need to understand the context of the buyer and put that context at the forefront of the sales process, not their company’s value proposition. Salespeople need to be experts in their domain, to the point that prospects reach out to them for advice.
Selling needs to be less like a prospect/salesperson relationship and more like a doctor/patient relationship.
Here are three tactics on how to transform your sales team to align with the modern buyer (much like how doctors align with their patients).
Train salespeople to help them experience the day-to-day job of their target buyer.
Every salesperson at HubSpot goes through 30 days of training. The training does not teach new hires sales scripts to memorize or the top 10 objections to expect in the funnel. Instead, the majority of the training puts our salespeople in the day-to-day life of the buyer they will eventually sell to. Each salesperson builds their own website, publishes their own blog, generates a following in social media, ranks their site in Google, tests landing pages, runs an email campaign, and designs a lead nurturing flow all using the HubSpot software. Sales hires feel the challenges of our target customer because they live through them.
By the time new sales hires make their first prospecting calls, they know more about inbound marketing, blogging, and social media than 90% of the prospects on whom they are calling. They can genuinely understand these prospective buyers. They can genuinely advise them. They can genuinely help them.
Adopt sales tools that help your sales team help the buyer (not the sales leader).
Most sales software was built for the sales leader. It helped the leader to run forecasts, review pipeline, and get better visibility into the funnel. But, it created a ton of work for the salesperson. It took them away from focusing on the customer.
First and foremost, sales software should help the salesperson help the customer — not help the salesperson help the sales leader. If you do the former, the latter will follow naturally. Effective sales software should provide salespeople with the full context of the buyer at their fingertips, just like the buyer has information about the salesperson’s company at their fingertips. Has the prospect visited the website lately? What pages have they visited? What blog articles have they read? Has anyone in my network emailed anyone at their company? Is there recent news about the organization? What is the company talking about in social media? This context helps the salesperson deliver the experience that my doctor delivered. It modernizes the sales process.
Enable salespeople to be sought out as thought leaders in their industry.
Many companies today are writing blog articles and participating in social media to position their brands as experts in their field. Individual salespeople have this same opportunity. I challenge salespeople to take time away from less fruitful efforts like cold calling or Chamber of Commerce meetings and reallocate it to participating online where their prospects are actively conversing. Find the blogs your prospects read. Read those blogs. Comment on those blogs. Find the LinkedIn groups your prospects converse in. Answer their questions in these forums. Find the thought leaders on Twitter your prospects follow. Follow those same thought leaders. Retweet their messages. Write a guest blog on their company’s blog.