The Modern Day Social Seller: Buyers are More Empowered, But So Are You!

By Dan Sixsmith and Tom Pisello

The research and the reality: B2B buyers are more empowered than ever, using the Internet and social media to research your company, products, services, customers, team, history and competitors - self propelling themselves toward a purchase decision. 

It is no wonder that sales reps being engaged later in the decision making process, with 67% of buyers having a clear picture of the solution they want before sales reps are engaged (SiriusDecisions).  

At the same time, Forrester reports that earlier engagement is more important than ever - with 74% of the deals going to the solution provider that is able to help the prospect identify the top priority issues to address and establish the buying agenda (versus only 26% going to the rep who can win the bake-off).

Today, the successful sales rep needs to find new ways to provocatively engage earlier, and if engaging later, frame the decisions to go their way.

Here's how the top sales teams are dealing with this new reality, to generate earlier engagements less stalled deals and higher win rates.

Internet and Social Media Research Works Both Ways

Buyers will engage earlier with sales reps who can help them overcome challenges and drive competitive advantage. In order to successfully engage and add value, you have to do more than just present information about your products and services, much of which they can learn about on their own via the Internet and social media.

High performing sales teams are leveraging the Internet and social media themselves, using these online resources to educate themselves on their buyers' organizations: their challenges, corporate objectives, personnel, financial performance, competition, leadership profiles, solutions, clients and so on. 

In addition to websites, they subscribe to their prospects' and clients' twitter feeds and social posts, scour the financial reports on Yahoo Finance and set up Google Alerts for real-time news. 

Today's top sales performers are leveling the playing field by doing in depth research on their buyers, properly planning their sales strategy and personalizing and leveraging 'proprietary' insights to establish credibility, and aligning the solutions to address key initiatives, overcome business challenges and improve competitive positioning.

But nowadays, you have to go even further than mining publicly available about your prospects.

Deliver Insights that are NOT Publicly Available

When it's time to craft that prospecting email or have that first vital conversation  the high performing sales team has a well stocked arsenal of insights to better connect and engage with today's more In-control, Cautious and Economic-focused Cold as ICE buyer .

So what are these insights?  They are used to help the buyer identify:
  1. Challenges - Illuminate status quo issues of which they might not have been aware, or clarify why known issues can no longer be ignored. Discuss similar challenges with the status quo and business as usual you are seeing at their peers / other customers
  2. Losses - Quantify what these new / known business challenges are truly costing them (cost of "do nothing")
  3. Opportunities and Solutions - Communicate how other customers were able to successfully move from specific status quo challenges to a new and improved way, painting a strategic picture for them in contrast (before vs. after).
  4. Evidence - Provide specific success stories and case studies to let them know that solution like this are real, and they have worked at similar firms to generate significant improvements and bottom-line results.
The CLOSE storytelling methodology can be leveraged to frame the insights challenge 0- to identify and communicate value added insights that help the buyer make better decisions, and facilitate sales to engage more provocatively earlier and tell a story that is sure to grab the buyer's attention and budget.

So, where do these 'proprietary' insights come from? 

Sales reps often struggle to pull together all the content needed to be successful, making it important for Marketing to play a key role in Sales Enablement.

To create the best insights, Marketing organizations are helping to:
  1. Define the most common challenges - by role and industry
  2. Collect commercial insights around each challenge - published studies and survey responses
  3. Conduct proprietary research to determine the impact of these challenges and value of solutions, often using third party researchers to gather unique insights across the market
  4. Build a value messaging matrix to provide the CLOSE content, so sales reps can easily  leverage the content to fuel email prospecting and conversations.
  5. Create Point of View (POV) conversation guides / presentations to guide the sales rep in the insight conversation
  6. Leverage new interactive / mobile selling tools, so you can give the sales reps intelligent guidance as to what to best present based on the selling situation, as well as providing personalized specific challenge assessments, loss, value and ROI calculations. With technology, these same tools can also be used to help sales reps / channel partners dynamically discover, catalogue and leverage insights in subsequent engagements (see the article: Need Insights for Provocative Selling? No Problem!)

The Bottom-Line

Your sales reps need to find ways to connect and engage earlier, and if involved later, consultatively helping to reframe the discussion in the solution providers favor.

Insights are key, with your Marketing team playing a key role in developing your insights, messaging and tools that your sales reps and channel partners can leverage to connect and engage earlier and more effectively. 

Your messaging and tools can initially be populated with public information and commercial insights, but are best when advanced to include proprietary insights and experiences.

To start, we recommend you using the  CLOSE storytelling methodology as a guide to develop your insights and messaging, with your Marketing packaging the content into an insight messaging guide, POV and interactive selling tools to fuel each and every conversation.


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