In this guest post, Graham Hawkins (pictured), founder and CEO of SalesTribe, offers his best tips on what sales executives need to survive in an AC (after COVID-19) era…
As a B2B salesperson in 2020, your ability to earn trust and demonstrate credibility has become one of your biggest challenges.
In the BC era (before COVID-19), there was an entire phase of the sales cycle dedicated to developing trust and rapport, which typically required multiple face-to-face meetings with your buyer.
Those days are well and truly over, as your future success in sales now hinges on your ability to establish that same trust and rapport, online.
Before you start to impactfully grow your online credibility however, you first have to overcome yet another obstacle exacerbated by the pandemic. You have to cut through the noise and grab your buyer’s attention.
This is undoubtedly the biggest challenge salespeople in every industry and company will face in the post-COVID era, simply because buyers are being bombarded by desperate sounding salespeople every, single day.
Attesting to this new reality, a recent HubSpot study showed there was a significant spike in outbound email beginning in March, with a corresponding downturn in email response rates. This suggests there is still a significant disconnect between where salespeople are focusing their time and where buyer interest exists.
So while it has never been more difficult for salespeople to cut through the noise and create visibility for themselves, it’s even more difficult to get a prospective buyer engaged in a conversation, because they are now highly adept at ’blocking’ unsolicited outreach from vendors.
Simply put, old-fashioned and impersonal outreach methods don’t work anymore, as nobody likes to be on the receiving end of ‘spray and pray’ tactics. Salespeople today have to engage the modern, work-from-home buyer in a very different way.
What can sales executives do to survive in the AC (after COVID-19) era?
Opening Is The New Closing
Salespeople must rethink their day-to-day activities and begin to focus on becoming highly proficient at opening new conversations, because old methods won’t open new doors.
It won’t matter how well you think you can manage or close the deal, if you can’t orchestrate a conversation (open with a narrative that you can carry forward), you’ll never get that chance to close.
While we used to generate leads to start a conversation, now we have to start a conversation to generate leads – opening is your ticket to the dance.
Who is your ICP?
In order to sell smarter in a world of smarter buyers, you must begin by rethinking who your ideal customer profile (ICP) is, and why? What does your perfect-fit prospect look like? Gone are the days of ‘wishful thinking’ salespeople trying to shoehorn poor-fit customers into a deal.
He who chases two rabbits catches neither, and this just means that qualifying ‘out’ is now more important than qualifying in. Salespeople must remove the ‘happy ears’ (hearing what they want to) and start being very disciplined about which prospective buyers they invest company resources with, and why.
We must become crystal clear about our ICP and how they want to be engaged. This often requires us to drop everything we think we know about our buyers and in some cases, this requires us to go and ask these ICPs how they expect to be engaged.
Educational content on social media
Co-author of The Challenger Sale, Matthew Dixon, once said: “The best salespeople are engaging customers where and how they learn – social media, social groups, web forums, online communities and blogs.” In the AC era, you require a strategy for getting attention and creating value on social platforms, where modern buyers now reside.
HBR recently reported that “82% of the B2B buyers said the winning vendor’s social content had a significant impact on their buying decision.” Even if HBR is only half accurate, this means that almost 50 per cent of your target buyers are making decisions based on your social content.
All salespeople must now curate and create educational content on platforms, such as LinkedIn. We must use educational content to help initiate those all-important conversations, and whilst we can’t all be ‘thought leaders,’ we do all have to be ‘thought contributors.’
Your online presence
It’s pointless doing any of the above if you have failed to cultivate a professional and authentic LinkedIn profile. The first thing that a modern buyer does, once you have managed to get their attention, is check out your profile and anything else that they can find pertaining to your online presence. They do all of this ‘in the dark,’ meaning that you never know when someone is watching.
This means that your profile must be complete and full of information that your buyer might want to know about who you are, and how you might be able to help them solve their business problems. Don’t waste your time curating content or engaging people via online platforms if your LinkedIn profile – your own personal landing page – looks unremarkable.
In short, sales success today requires a re-think. Modern buyers expect salespeople to:
Know them before we engage;
Personalise every message so it relates to their context. Any form of spray and pray sales outreach, which treats the buyer as just another number, will no longer work in 2020 and beyond;
Teach them by disseminating information, data and insights that they can’t Google themselves, and;
Anticipate their future needs, to help shape their thinking about future value-add.
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