Nowadays, the magic of online tools allows sales professionals to collect tons of info on their prospects, gather insights into their performance, and reach out to potential leads through various channels. Sounds like good news in theory, don’t you think?
The reality is that prospects are getting overwhelmed with sales cold-calls, emails, and LinkedIn messages from a wide variety of solutions providers. Decision-making is becoming a freaking nightmare. According to Gartner, 77% of B2B buyers state that their latest purchase was very complex or difficult. This is due to the number of new technologies to choose from, but also to the vast amount of players involved in the buying process (6 to 10).
In this peculiar environment, how can sales professionals stand out?
One of the key factors to a successful sales process (besides creating killer demos, cough, cough) is to generate a meaningful relationship with org’s champions, and more generally, with every prospect. As Mike DeCorso, VP of sales at THNKS told us: “A lot of times, people are not buying the product – they’re buying the person.”
With that in mind, let’s understand how to create a winning relationship with your prospects.
1. Come prepared
When approaching a prospect, it’s not enough to know the company’s size and product. It’s essential to learn about the person as much as you can. There are plenty of tools out there like ZoomInfo and others, that allow you to collect rich information on your prospects. But you can also use free tools, such as social media (LinkedIn in particular), to discover where they learned, what their strengths and interests are, and simply, what kind of people they are. The better you understand your prospect profile, the easier it will be to initiate a meaningful conversation.
2. Don’t interrogate – listen
During initial talks, many well-intentioned sales pros are tempted to interrogate their prospect in order to gather as much information as they can about their needs. And you know where the road paved of good intention leads. No human being likes being interrogated. But everyone appreciates when people pay attention to what they say.
Instead of shooting a bunch of questions, listen. Target the conversation to the pains of your prospect and try to understand why and how your solution can actually address their needs.
3. Dig in the right place
Speaking of “why”: If you work in sales for a while, you’ve probably heard about the “5 whys” technique. The concept is simple: you need to ask “why” five times to understand the true motivation and root cause behind someone’s intent. But careful: you need to do it in a subtle way and not repeatedly – don’t be a parrot. The interaction should be natural and conversational. If you succeed in this exercise, you’ll get the essence of their need, which is a fundamental pillar of your sales strategy.
4. Avoid feature dropping
Now you know the motivation behind your prospect’s intent, you need to show them how your product can bring the value they seek. If you sell a great technology, you naturally want to showcase all its fancy features and stuff. That shall not pass.
Focus on the specific parts of your product that are relevant to them and on why they’re the perfect solution to their problem. Keep this in mind when you customize your sales demo. It will allow you to better manage your time so you don’t lose the prospect’s attention – did you know that our attention span dropped significantly in the past 20 years? Where was I… Ah yes, attention span.
5. Don’t lecture
Do you know what’s worse than being interrogated? Correct. Getting lectured. Even if you followed all the advice above, this sales sin can still happen. You know your prospect, their needs, their pains, how to solve them, now it’s time to tie it all together and to win the deal.
This is where some experienced sales pros start monologuing. A monologue is great, if you’re Shakespeare’s heir, but if you’re not, discuss with your prospect, ask them questions every few minutes. It will help you orient your speech more accurately and collect additional information. And they’ll feel that you actually give a damn about their opinion.
6. Be human
Prospects aren’t robots. They want to connect with their interlocutor – this word’s worth at least 64 points in Scrabble, just saying. Small talks, little jokes, personal stories, common experiences, smiles, eye contact, all these basic human first connection dots are essential to make a strong and authentic impression.
Address your prospect as a peer but don’t overplay it: They know you’re here to sell them something, they’re not your pal – again, subtlety is key. At the end of the day, the more human and keen the interaction will be, the more they’ll be willing to share with you. As Noam Mendelson, Head of Global Sales at Mindspace told us, this relationship-building can help you save deals:
“I built this relationship with this person over a certain amount of time, we talked about what we love doing in our free time, and I knew he was a big fan of soccer and of cigars, so I sent him a box of Cuban cigars, and a ticket to go see a football match and, that pretty much closed the deal.”
Of course, this act was the exception and not the norm but knowing a client to that extend shows the human interaction and its impact.
7. Be honest
Sales professionals want to close deals. That’s what the job is about. But sales are a matter of trust. Don’t over round off the corners. Your product lacks an essential feature the prospect needs? Don’t try to close a deal by saying: “It’s in the pipe, it should be released next week” if you know it won’t. Same if the prospect asks you a question you don’t know the answer to. Say that you need to check and that you’ll get back to them – don’t make an answer up.
Your prospects are smart, they did their homework before talking to you. As we mentioned in our article about sales stats, 74% of B2B buyers do at least half of their research online before they buy. You want your relationship to last, you want your reputation in the field to be respected, you want to protect your company’s name. Honestly is beneficial.
8. Answer quickly but don’t be pushy
You’re the seller. You’re interested in your prospect’s signature. Answer their emails and questions in a timely manner. According to Hubspot, 51% of buyers state that answering quickly is an important factor in creating a positive sales experience. The same research shows that 61% of buyers appreciate it when sales pros aren’t pushy. Seriously, spamming is so 2020. Be patient, allow them time to digest the information you provided, and discuss it internally. It doesn’t mean you should disappear in any way. Just that you should be careful how and when you ask for their attention. You know what they say: the client is king.
9. Ask for feedback
If you’ve done your job so far correctly, you succeeded in grabbing the attention of your prospect. Now, you want to hear their feedback to improve your sales flow and nail the deal. With tools like Walnut, you can send them a link to an interactive demo and collect valuable insights about their usage to understand what features really matter to them. But besides that, you should always ask for their feedback about the discussion, the added value of the product, and the functionalities you introduced.
10. Use marketing wisely
Even if your prospect didn’t sign as planned for whatever reason, it’s critical that you keep reminding them of your existence. As we mentioned in our marketing guide for B2B sales, according to CSO insights, 89% of companies that aligned sales and marketing lead generation efforts, reported measurable increases as a result of continuous nurturing.
From email marketing to blog and social media content, advertising, ebooks, and other marketing materials, your efforts can help position your company as an authority, educate your prospects, learn about their preferences and pains, and eventually, bring them back to you with a stronger intent to buy.
To summarize the concept, we can define a good relationship as following: creating sales interactions that are both enjoyable and valuable for the prospects.
By following the steps and tips above, you can increase your chances to generate a pleasant and long-lasting connection that is based on trust. If your relationships with your prospects get stronger, your conversion rate will increase accordingly.