It is becoming more clear that buyers want to and in many cases are able to control the entire selling process – from introduction to education to closing. With the abundance of information that is available through digital content, a buyer no longer needs to rely on the seller to facilitate the process. DemandGen Report released a study in June of 2014 detailing that “75% of B2B buyers rely more on content to research and make B2B purchasing decisions than they did a year ago.”
The shift in roles raises a question: what role should the traditional sales rep serve in today’s B2B transaction?
This blog will address this question and outlines the first opportunity a traditional rep typically has to engage with a prospect. The inside sales rep is as important now that buyers are empowering themselves, but to stay relevant, they must adapt the way they apply their efforts. Marketing and sales cannot sit in two different silos any longer to remain effective.
Zig Ziglar, an American icon and renowned sales educationalist, found that “Every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust.”
Any experienced salesman or marketer has been exposed to these five objections regularly throughout dealing with prospective clients. The content marketing boom has resulted in a sixth hurdle that plagues today’s new business development efforts: no education.
In today’s digitally dominated marketplace, new innovations present themselves regularly that provide opportunities to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Proactive buyers will have familiarized themselves with an opportunity area well-before you have the chance to reach them.
Below you will find a list of 6 questions that aim to accomplish three things during a first conversation between sales rep and prospect:
- Build a persona of the buyer
- Identify their awareness, needs, and capabilities
- Provide relevant sales content
(These questions will be staged as if they are being utilized by a firm that provides a marketing automation SaaS product)
How does your team utilize marketing automation to help assist in generating your pipe?
A question along these lines can serve several purposes. In the context of the hypothetical provided, it will allow the sales rep to immediately discern the level to which the prospect has adopted marketing automation technology. This can range drastically from total lack of awareness that the technology exists to them already operating at an SAP-type complexity.
Identifying the level of utilization the prospect has early in the conversation is crucial to pushing the appropriate level and type of content to move the buyer forward in the process. With this information in hand, it becomes simple to identify what information will be relevant and needed to move the call forward.
Discerning whether or not you are interacting with the appropriate decision maker allows you to expedite your sales cycle. More and more sales require multiple personnel to sign-off in order to mitigate fear and potential risk. Budgets are constrained now more than ever, and convincing decision makers to give you a piece of their cherished pie is something you and many others are trying to accomplish at the same time.
The number of gatekeepers that sales reps have to navigate has increased as well. An answer to this question will provide insight as to how close your prospecting efforts have led to you reaching a lead with decision making authority.
What are the steps your company typically takes when they are evaluating a new solution or technology?
Securing a sale requires that you know what it is that your customer wants so that you can effectively provide it for them. What’s the best way to figure this out? Ask them about their buying process.
Knowing the steps a company takes to evaluate an offer allows you to identify the key metrics they use and consequently what is most important to them. You can capitalize on this knowledge throughout the steps of their process by providing relevant content that aligns your solution with their needs.
It’s also crucial to know the urgency with which the prospect wants to acquire a new solution. Trying to expedite this process with efforts other than pushing content (i.e. “the hard sell”) is the quickest way to discourage prospects with slow buying cycles.
Have you looked into any marketing automation solutions before?
This question provides insight into how familiar the lead is with the technology or solution you offer. You can gauge their level of interest and education related to the space and whether you are competing against other available offerings in the space or a technology that’s already ingrained within their corporate culture.
Are you familiar with our company at all?
Although simple, this question helps immensely in discerning both the prospect’s familiarity with your offering and their willingness to be further educated in the matter. Just because a lead gives off the impression they don’t want to engage with you, you can still distill opportunity by providing them relevant content that will help move them along the sales cycle at their own pace.
I know schedules are tight – is there a time that would be best for me to follow-up and just answer any questions you may have?
Asking a question in this manner communicates that you respect their time and are willing to allow them to control the way they are sold to. If they demonstrate actionable interest in your offering early on, capitalize on the opportunity. However, for the vast majority, catering to their interests and avoiding the hard sell will help fill your pipe in the most effective manner.
Always keep in mind what your questioning is aiming to accomplish, and that you may need to adapt your process at any point to cater directly to the stage of buying your prospect is in.