At this writing, there are over 400,000 books on selling available on Amazon.com. What does that say? It says that no one has cracked he code. Buyer needs change, technologies emerge, economies ebb and flow. But what will never go out of style is how your buyer and/or buying organization chooses to purchase what you and your competition sell.
So why fight it? Effective selling skills are always in fashion, but a need exists for a validated sales process that helps you sell to your customers in the way they want to buy. The essence of buyer-based selling is this – use process over your product to generate dialogs that put you the salesperson in the position to make an intelligent recommendation. Yes, you have to make the sale, hit quota, meet profit targets. But your best business is going to come from opportunities where you leveraged your knowledge up front to shape a conversation strategy that moved a buyer and their stakeholders to a place where they see the incontestable value of your solution.
The term intelligent recommendation comes from the fact that you’re combining your pre-pursuit research and buyer spoken words about solving their problems to make a recommendation for your product or service. It’s not about features and benefits - rather it’s about alignment of your solution with the issues at hand. Features and benefits act as reinforcement for how it works and validates that your recommendation is sound.
POINT: Meaning more to customers is about adding such rich and deep value that your relationship transcends the product.
A company cannot grow consistently unless the sales process is repeatable, non arbitrary, and aligned with how clients buy. That’s why companies investing in a defined sales process experience a minimum of 5-10% revenue growth when a formal process is followed consistently (Sales Leadership in Action, 2010). Organizations without a documented sales process often exhibit several common symptoms, such as a disconnected and manual approach to selling and a lengthy cycle time to find prospects, get quotes out the door, and close orders.
Companies, not just their sales organizations, need to map the critical client interactions that reinforce the value they deliver through their processes, products and services. The goal of a validated sales process is to make routine the manner in which the entire organization engages clients. It’s a process designed to maximize each and every touchpoint they with a client and to thus drive greater buying commitment and post purchase satisfaction.
The Benefits of Designing and Implementing a Branded Sales Process:
“Use it to engage people. Grow your network. Give generously and people will follow you (hopefully back to your store)”– Howard Howell, SensAble Selling.
Social Media: Social media take on many different forms, including Internet forums, weblogs, social blogs, microblogging, wikis, podcasts, photographs or pictures, video, rating and social bookmarking. Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein define social media as "a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content." In other words, social media are media designed for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable communication techniques. Social media is the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialog.
Since most companies will only allow their salespeople to use LinkedIn as a social media tool for business, our attention will be focused on that. Since LinkedIn is a networking and sharing tool, it has to be used as such. The best LinkedIn members exhibit the following behaviors:
LinkedIn as a Selling Tool:
LinkedIn helps salespeople establish their professional profile online, stay in touch with colleagues and friends, and find experts, ideas and opportunities. As selling tool, you must use LinkedIn as a venue for trading influence and insight for the products and services you sell, your own personal credibility as a sales professional, and for potential interested parties looking for credible sources of supply. Here are some valuable tips, insights and must do’s when using LinkedIn in a sales context.
Familiarize yourselves with your company’s social media policy. It will be important to understand the boundaries around what you can say about your firm, about yourself, and about topics of interest to which you have and share an opinion. Your competition is on LinkedIn as well.
Build your online identity: Your profession is more dependent on your online identity than ever before. Creating a LinkedIn profile is the best place to start. Your prospects are looking at your LinkedIn profile so make sure you update it often and give your prospects an excellent representation of who you are. To make your LinkedIn profile is “100% complete”, use theImprove Your Profile feature (Yellow Button) to:
Groups - Get new opportunities: From the LinkedIn Groups to the Answers page, thousands of people a day are looking for help making decisions. As a sales person you should be in these groups and set up email alerts to scan the groups to see if you can offer help and create a new opportunity.
Start a Group: Be the connector for other interested parties. Pick a theme and go. The quickest way to get and grow your credibility is to become an expert. Offer your advice, guidance and experience to get millions of LinkedIn users seeing you trying to help others make decisions.
Get some credibility: This goes along with the last tip but in more detail. As you get more experience, you should be helping other professionals by answering questions. As you help people even if it’s only a couple times a week you will see your profile being looked at by more and more people.
Grow your pipeline: As you build your network, become an expert in your space and build your personal brand, you will find more people coming to you for help related to your product or service. This will create a snow ball effect and eventually people from all over LinkedIn will be singing your praises and driving more leads to you.
Adapted from Why is a LinkedIn Profile Important? Published by joshua.combs in Blog, Social Media on May 18th, 2011. Thank you to Josh.
Bill Walton Sales Training has over 60 years of collective Fortune 500 company experience in Sales, Sales Training and Field Sales Management. Our specialty is preparing individuals and organizations to present their value propositions in a way that results in higher close ratios. Our team are un-blurring the lines of differentiation between their client's fiercest competitors.