Let Me Tell You a Story — About Staying Ahead of Prospective Buyers During the Sales Process


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Between Google and social media, your customers have more information about your company and products than ever before. This means they typically don’t need or want to hear traditional sales pitches, however artfully they may be crafted.

So what can you do to stay a step ahead of buyers within their discovery and self-education process?

Start by telling them stories.

Each story you tell needs to paint a picture that is so relevant and so compelling that prospective buyers will want to replicate the outcomes. Your salespeople should have an entire arsenal of stories that fit different situations, industries and use cases. These stories need to be used in your marketing efforts to get clients interested – as well as within the sales process to keep them engaged and further develop their interest in using your products or services.

There’s a basic cadence business solution stories should follow: Start with a situation faced by a client in your story, followed by the action they took to solve it. You should be very specific about what they did, and how your company helped. Next, talk about results of the problem-solving actions: More efficient collaboration and information sharing, leading to more sales? Time saved in administrative tasks, freeing up more time for direct contact with customers? Whatever the result, it should be something your prospective buyer would like to have happen in his or her company, too.

Read what your customers and their competitors are saying

While Google and social media help our customers find out about us, we can use these tools to find out about them, too. Remarkably, many salespeople do not stay abreast of the content their prospective buyers produce – let alone their competitors. The more you know about your client and your client’s competitors, the better you can present your solution to their problems in the context of their current competitive environment.

For example, we are working on an opportunity with a local utility company whose primary competitor is one of the largest companies in the US. We started by walking them through ways our solution helped them better serve their clients, but we also showed them how our product could help them highlight one of their biggest competitive advantages: their local team. This insight has helped them adjust the way they prospect, and has decreased the time it takes to get warm introductions to key decision-makers in their prospective customers.

Do your homework

I often think we need to add a step in our sales process that is nothing but data gathering. We all listen to our customers, but do we ask them questions and write down their answers? What if, before we gave our clients any kind of sales pitch, we worked to understand their key challenges and corporate initiatives?

After that step, we are better prepared to explain how our solution addresses these issues for them, both now and in the future.

Can we talk?

In a recent blog post, my colleague Lori Richardson of Score More Sales said, “Sales professionals in companies doing business with people in other companies should not minimize the power of the telephone and in many cases, use it MORE often.”

Lori also said, “I have seen sellers spend 30 minutes or an hour working on a well-crafted email when they could have simply picked up their smartphone or desk phone and called. Save hours every week by using the phone. I can make dozens of calls, leaving a valuable, impactful message in the time that an email seller crafts and sends their email.”

Did you know?

In every encounter, whether by phone or online, you should try to leave them with a “Did you know?” data point — that they probably didn’t know until you brought it up.

It could be something like, “Did you know that social sales teams outperform non-social teams by 31%?” Or, “Were you aware that your sales team is spending up to 30-40% of their time on research and administration? What would you rather they were doing?”

These data points may not lead to a sale today, but they gave your customer new knowledge, which means they are more likely to take your calls and read your emails in the future. And once you know about their business (and their competitors), and have gotten your customer used to getting useful information from you, it’s time to move toward a product pitch — and hopefully, before long, a sale.

Sean Burke
Sean is a seasoned sales and marketing executive who's quickly gaining recognition as a social sales pioneer. His belief that companies should be able to measure and cultivate the reach, efficacy and impact of all social connections has caught the attention of Forbes as well as dozens of Fortune 1000 sales organizations. Sean is also a serial entrepreneur and founding member of 9 technology companies.


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