Step 1: Obey individual communication needs
In the past IT managers and CIOs decided which IT solutions to purchase, but as the power of other departments has increased these leaders tend to be less involved in IT decisions. When selling modern IT solutions you are in most cases confronted with a complex buying center consisting of multiple people from multiple departments. To create targeted messages and have productive discussions with this group of decision-makers, you need to have an in-depth understanding of their motivations. One helpful tool that can guide you in your conversation and help you to look at a potential customer from various angles is the VIP map. First, you need to understand the vision of the respective company – what are the company’s aims? Second, you need to take a look at indicators that show how the company is doing –what is the company’s strategy and how well is it performing? Third, you should look out for pains the customer or the single contact you are approaching has. Start looking at the industry and then look at the company, its vision and strategy and then take a closer look at the individual person and his/her personal goals and pain points. On the individual level, be careful as people in different roles will have different goals and problems. While the IT manager might look for data security, the finance manager might be more interested in improving forecasting and the sales manager might look for an improvement in his team’s sales process. Take a look at each role involved in the purchasing decision and identify their personal goals—and don’t forget to take personality into account. Your conversation with an experienced and cautious manager will differ greatly from the one you have with her young and ambitious colleague. In one situation you might discuss family to break the ice but on the other hand discuss industry trends and insights to build tension.
Step 2: Adapt your sales message
Discuss but DON’T Pitch. Ask but DON’T provide opinions. Give the buyer more power. Here are some crucial basics on creating a customer-centric sales conversation:
- Avoid static presentations and start situational conversations instead: Most sales people tend to use static powerpoint presentations to impress customers. Nowadays buyers are well-informed and you need be much more flexible in your sales conversation. Modern sales techniques like digital whiteboarding and storytelling provide you with the possibility to react to the personal needs of customers while not having to stick to pre-prepared slides.
- Ask relevant questions instead of giving your opinion:
Many potential buyers are frightened by sales reps who want to explain why their solution solves every problem. Allowing the conversation to be guided by concrete conversations will provide a much more comfortable atmosphere. Try to give the customer the feeling that she was the one who discovered the solution to her problems. Customers do not like being sold to but they do like to buy.
- Empower the buyer: Traditional sales people convince, handle objections, negotiate and close. This traditional sales approach needs to be renewed. Your goal as a sales person is to support the customer in achieving her own goals, in solving her problems and meeting her needs rather than winning her over to make her see things from your point of view.
Step 3: Know what the buyer wants
You often hear about the informed buyer who knows everything about you, your company, your product and even your competitors. Through digital media customers are better informed than ever before. For the sales organization this results in a need for informed sales reps. Know which topics are trending in your target industry by monitoring social media channels and use online marketing tools like Market or Hubspot to know exactly which page on your website your prospect has viewed within the past 14 days. This will enable your sales and marketing staff to react in a very targeted way and customize the approach to fit individual prospects. Integrating sales and marketing plays a very critical role in this area. There is huge potential if marketing acts as the entrance point for the sales process and sales follows up by orienting the pitch according to customers’ pain points. However, due to the increase in digital touch points it is getting difficult to convey a consistent message to a single customer. The consolidation of these messages is getting more and more important, a fact reflected in the emergence of new roles like “Content Manager” or “Customer Experience Manager”.
Step 4: Know when the buyer wants
It’s no secret that the topics brought up with clients should be adjusted as they make their way through buying process. However, more and more steps in the selection and decision process are being influenced by interaction on digital media. The use of customer journey maps can help you to understand and track your customers’ buying processes and define actions to guide and influence buyers at each stage. Digital media like your website should be used not only to distribute product information but also to guide users through their customer journey. Users should find relevant content for every phase in their buying cycle. While a user at the beginning of the buying cycle might not even be sure what exactly his problem is, you might guide his progress by providing insightful articles and whitepapers. In the end marketing and the online presence need to act like a customer-centric sales person and therefore need to be highly aligned with sales.