Think about the last time you bought something. Not your lunch, but something that was a considered purchase. What was the sales process like? Why did you make that purchase decision? What drove you to buy? Was it the product or was it the sales process?
We sell marketing and sales services, from inbound sales to conversational marketing. The challenge we help clients face is growth. Revenue growth, customer acquisition - effectively, driving more sales.
The solutions and tactics we use are just part of the landscape of options available to prospective clients (If you’re a prospective client reading this... please ignore that last sentence...).
We have a lot of clever people (far smarter than the likes of me) that make up our agency, but so do most other agencies. So why would you buy from us over the next in line?
For me, it's about being more human in the way you work with people. It's about showing personality, being the best in your niche and being really, really transparent. Stop treating prospects like they're some 'thing' you're pushing through a funnel and start thinking about what their challenges are and what value means to them.
I am a big believer in empathy in the sales and marketing process. I whole heartedly believe it's key to grow in a buyer-led market. Thankfully, I'm not the only one that thinks along those lines.
Personality is key. It’s all about empathy. Inbound Orginizations' Todd Hockenberry (who literally wrote the book on this) said it best when we talked about empathy in the sales sphere with him recently:
"Empathy matters today because no buyer cares about you as a seller. They don't need you to start the process and can go quite far on the journey without you.
“So, once they do want to talk to a sales person, they expect and demand empathy and an understanding of their situation. They want skill, knowledge, expertise; not so much about product (they can get that online or from your info) but about how you can help them make the changes internally required to buy your stuff and solve the problem they need to be solved.
“Buyers want someone to know what they are going through and actually help them through it.”
The problem there seems simple and obvious to many. Too many people are just looking to sell and don't understand that helping rather than 'selling' will improve results, increase sales and build stronger partnerships.
The problem with that line of thought though if it all is indeed so simple and obvious, then there wouldn’t be a problem in the first place.
David Weinhaus, the guy responsible for creating swathes of successful inbound sellers in the HubSpot agency partner program also pointed out to us:
"The best salespeople don't go in with pre-conceived notions about what a prospect needs. Instead, they go in with an open mind looking to truly understand the prospect's situation before advising.
“By putting themselves in the prospect's shoes, or by treating the prospect as they might treat a close friend, great salespeople look to understand a prospect first, and only then make a recommendation that will be helpful to them."
The difficulty is that so many salespeople believe they are already offering that service; that they’re being friendly and helpful by highlighting a product’s or service’s features and underlining how investing in it can make a prospect's life easier.
They have all the latest sales technology to qualify leads. While BANT is (or perhaps was) certainly an incredibly useful process for sales professionals, a heavy focus on tech and a more ‘scientific’ approach to the sales process could actually be working not just against your overall goals and targets, but may also be detrimental to the growth of your sales team as a whole.
You clearly have a defined end goal. That’s the point of targets; when it comes to B2B sales though, the quality of your leads matters far more than quantity as it would in for a B2C business. With such a people-centric approach, your sales specialists need to be as approachable, open and knowledgeable as possible for one simple reason: empathy wins clients.
That approach though can be a fine art and trips many people up, especially if they have a certain set of figures they need to reach every month. Take the personable approach too far and it can come across as creepy, as too forceful, as false.
The other side of the coin is, well, what a lot of sales teams are currently doing. Not helping customers and targeted prospects solve the challenges they’re facing on a daily basis.
Todd Hockenberry tells us how so many are still getting it so wrong.
“Spouting product info is not helpful. Running a PowerPoint is not helpful. Not having answers to their questions is not helpful. (And no, going back to the office to get the answer is not good enough, either.)
“Sales must be helpful first, and to be helpful a salesperson must understand, hence the need to be empathetic."
So why are so many salespeople falling into the same old traps and failing to evolve? Again, though it presents some incredible sales support and opportunities to connect with potential B2B leads, the fast-paced nature and evolution of the internet has left many traditional sales practices locked in the past.
Speaking to HubSpot very own sales genius and Todd's co-author, Dan Tyre, he highlights how the internet was critical in shifting power from sales teams to consumers in the space of a few short years.
"In the old days, it was all about the sales person. Because he - they were largely male - had the information, he had the power.
“Fast forward to today and the buyer has all the information via the internet, so the sales person has to morph. A sales professional in 2018 can’t be pushy, brash or clueless. They need to be smart, proactive and have empathy.”
So, how does Dan himself define sales empathy?
“The ability to understand what your customer is going through as they move their buyer experience. What they are thinking, feeling, their concerns, risks and the impact on them personally, their team and their company? Selling without empathy just doesn’t work."
Nail an empathetic approach and you will see sales rise and relationships strengthen. The best way to do that, we feel, is to see the marketing landscape and opportunities the internet presents to your customers as a positive and work with it. Your prospects can and will research. They will listen to what their peers are telling them. They will be search for ways to solve their challenges.
Inbound marketing, Conversational Marketing and Account-Based Marketing (ABM) are incredible ways to target the people you want to work with and approach them in a personable way. Any agency can offer that; it all counts for little though if you don’t go the extra mile and work on a more emotional level to consider your target's problems, the challenges they face daily on a professional level and, well, just listen to them.
Get it right and you’re not just selling them business solutions. You’re selling them a more accurate version of you, your team, your company, its approach and overall values. Trust us – those are things that the people who you want to work with most will really want to invest in.