Being a salesperson nowadays is tougher than ever: B2B buying committees continue to grow, buyers don’t want to talk to sellers and prefer researching on their own, or when they do talk to sellers, they expect them to be thoroughly prepared and offer personalized experiences. To put some of these hurdles in numbers, Gartner found that 72% of buyers prefer a rep-free shopping experience and that the number of potential stakeholders in B2B sales now ranges from 11 to 20 individuals.
This article provides sellers with some customer dialogue best practices that will help them excel at sales conversations and add value to all interactions with buyers.
How to excel at sales conversations in 7 steps
1. Do your homework
The Rain Group compares the first meeting with a potential buyer with dating: there is some anxiety about it, but you want to make a good first impression and you want to connect. So, what would you do before a date? Admit it, you would stalk the person on their social media, to try and gauge if you’d be a good match and find common interests to use as conversation starters. In the same way, you should do your research about your prospects: find out what their position in their business is, what industry they work in (and do your research on the industry too: what current challenges is it facing?), what topics they engage with on LinkedIn, what goals and needs they have, etc.
2. Don't be afraid to ask questions
It can happen that you are dealing with a prospect who is very private – maybe they are not on social media or they don’t post much on LinkedIn and their profile looks outdated and neglected. Don’t get discouraged: use the start of the meeting to ask questions that will help you get to know your buyer. People normally like to be asked questions, it makes them feel like you care, and it can be an important first step towards building a relationship with your buyer. According to Salesforce, for 84% of customers, it is very important that they feel treated like a person rather than a number during sales conversations.
3. Get to the point
It’s all well and good to ask questions and try to connect, but make sure to keep the conversation on topic and get to the point quickly. Buyers are busy, they don’t want to talk about their latest ski trip to the Alps (unless they are the ones to bring it up, or you are trying to sell something related to skiing). Showing that you value their time will go a long way toward earning their trust and respect. Preparing a meeting agenda in advance and sharing it with the buyer at the start of the meeting is also a good idea so that they know what to expect.
4. Personalize your proposal
It should go without saying that presenting the whole product portfolio to each and every single buyer is not going to be an effective sales strategy. If you have done your homework and asked the right questions (see points 1 and 2), then by now you should have a reasonable idea of what your buyer might be interested in. If you start talking about something that is of no relevance to them, they will have stopped listening by the time you get to the part they would actually find useful! Using dynamic and interactive content is an easy way to make your sales script flexible and adaptable, so you can select only the suitable topics and easily jump between them to create a customer dialogue that feels like a natural conversation.
5. Be ready to answer questions and handle objections
Research by Forrester found that 70% of salespeople are unprepared to answer the questions buyers ask during sales meetings. Unfortunately, many sellers prepare for meetings by memorizing a fixed script. This means that when the conversation doesn’t go the way they planned (and let’s be honest, when does it ever?), they do not know how to react and just keep defaulting back to their script, thus appearing unprofessional and underprepared. Interactive content can be a powerful ally when it comes to answering questions and handling objections. You can easily embed all the material you might need into an interactive sales presentation and be able to retrieve the right resources at the right time with just a few clicks.
6. Show the business impact
78% of sellers lack relevant examples and case studies to share with buyers, Forrester found. This makes it difficult for buyers to see what advantages they would get by purchasing a product or solution, and therefore to see the value behind the purchase. Remember: you are not selling a product or service, you are selling a solution to a problem, a way to overcome a challenge or reach goals more easily. You want your buyers to picture this new scenario clearly: show them how much more money they will make, how much time they will save, how many more deals they will win, or any other benefits in measurable value. There are a few ways to do that: you could use examples of how your existing customers have improved their business thanks to your product, you could build a use case specific to your buyer’s industry, or you could use ROI calculators that can show exactly what the return on the investment will be for each specific buyer.
7. Be realistic and honest
If you want to gain a buyer’s trust and turn them into loyal customers, honesty is essential. For example, if you realize during a sales meeting that your product is not fit for your buyer’s needs, it’s best to be completely upfront, rather than making promises you cannot keep. It might make you win the deal, but you won’t be able to retain a disappointed customer in the long run. By being honest about what your product can (and cannot) do, you will appear as trustworthy and reliable, and you will earn the buyer’s respect. This can also be an excellent way of challenging the buyer’s priorities when it comes to product functionalities and needs. You never know, even if they don’t need your product right now, maybe they will think of you if they do in the future, or they might recommend you to someone else!
In today’s competitive market, it’s more essential than ever to put customers center stage. The way you approach buyers and handle customer dialogue is vital to create a good first impression and give you the best chances of engaging prospects and winning deals.
Consider if it’s worth investing in software that can boost productivity and make your sales conversations more efficient. Sales enablement platforms like Prezentor offer several tools and functionalities that can prove beneficial in that sense.
Tracking capabilities, for example, can give you insights on your prospects, inform you if your potential buyer has just opened the attachment you sent them and, in some cases, even show you exactly how they interacted with the material you shared, what pages they looked at, what input fields they filled in, etc. This valuable information allows you to reach out at the right moment, and helps you uncover your buyer’s needs.
Some sales enablement software also allows you to create interactive sales materials which, as mentioned before, are very useful for handling questions and objections and can help you tailor each sales conversation to offer a personalized experience.
Tools like ROI calculators are also invaluable to show your buyers what they get out of the purchase. They can be readily customized with buyer-specific data, so prospects can clearly see the value behind your product – which will make it much easier to talk about price!