Houston, we have a problem! According to a Forrester report, a whopping 73% of buyers don’t think that salespeople understand their company’s needs.
When you couple that finding with the major paradigm shift sales professionals find themselves in—where their role has evolved from product expert to advisor, who can help clients solve real business challenges—things get sticky.
We’ve all received emails from various sales reps intent on pitching their solution to us. More often than not, they fall flat. The sad part of this problem? It doesn’t have to be this way. It is absolutely possible for sales reps to know their buyers, but it takes initiative and a culture that supports it.
So why are sales messages falling flat? There are many reasons, but here are the top 4 we’ve identified:
1. They’re all about the sender, not the receiver.
How many times have you opened an email that starts out with something like: The XYZ solution is the best-in-class [Insert fancy tech term] worldwide. Big whoop. What does that mean for my business? Why should I spend money to buy this product/service?
As Dale Carnegie advised in How to Win Friends and Influence People, “becoming genuinely interested in other people” is a great way to win their interest. And while Carnegie wrote this long before the Internet, social media, or email existed, the concept still rings true today.
To capture your prospects’ attention, take the time to get to know their pain points so you can speak to them on their level—as someone who understands what they’re going through.
Try This Instead: Good sales messages lead with value. What pain will your solution alleviate? Not sure? Study your customers. Conduct customer testimonials, send a survey, and research your market.
If you find your prospects care most about saving time, try to quantify it: Stop losing time to invoicing errors. Get 3 hours back every week with XYZ Solution. This addresses their pain point first and then introduces the solution, giving you a better chance of getting through.
2. The value proposition isn’t clear.
Putting together a concise value proposition can be very challenging. That’s precisely why many companies get lazy and don’t do it, but you shouldn’t be one of them.
Here’s why: In some form or another—time, money, subscriptions—you’re investing in marketing. If you want to get a return on that investment, you’ll want to invest time in crafting a clear value prop up front.
So, what makes a value prop unclear? Any number of things, including:
The goal should be to use as few words as needed to explain precisely what your prospects can expect to receive as a result of using your product or service.
Instead of: Use our XYZ solution to improve perfunctory activities within your business, so you can spend more time watching IT Crowd.
Try This Instead: In clear, concise language, tell people what you do and how it can benefit them. Like this: Free yourself to focus on more important projects by automating repeatable IT tasks with XYZ.
3. They’re too wordy.
As Mark Twain once said: “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Invest the time in editing your messaging down to only what’s needed to get your message, voice, and tone across.
Try This: Once you’ve developed a value proposition, try to create short, medium, and long versions. This way, your message length can vary with the mediums you use. For instance, you’ll probably want to get straight to the point in an email, but can probably go into a bit more detail in an eBook or blog post.
4. They’re riddled with typos and seem spammy.
Proofreading your own work is challenging, because it’s all too easy to read what you intended rather than what’s actually on the page.
Try This: Instead of cranking content out as fast as humanly possible, give it time to sit. Maybe even share it with an impartial third party who can review it with a fresh set of eyes.
Above, we talked about messaging best practices, and how to improve your prospect-facing messaging to capture more interest with written sales communications. Now, we’ll turn our attention to finding the right people for your sales team.
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Here are 5 Ways to Find Better Sales Reps & Empower them to Succeed:
1. Hire from a Farm Team
Some of the best sales reps come from other internal departments, specifically support. In support, colleagues learn about your product at the most detailed levels, while talking with customers every day about their business. They gain a level of empathy and understanding of the customer that is invaluable for the sales process. This knowledge can be more effective than natural-born sales ability.
Bonus: Working in support is tough. It’s a hard job and many don’t want to do it for very long, leading to a never-ending revolving door. Instead of losing talented support reps, consider career-pathing them into sales roles.
2. Tell Reps to Check Out LinkedIn Profiles
Not only is connecting with your prospects a good sales tactic, it’s also a goldmine of information. Reps should check out things like their top skills, their education, and the groups they follow.
Bonus: If your LinkedIn profile is set to public and you view a prospect’s profile, they’ll be notified that you viewed their page. When curiosity gets the best of them, they’ll click on the notification and be directed to your profile, where you can post plenty of relevant details about your offerings.
3. Look for Consultants, Not Closers
If buyers are looking for industry expertise and the ability to solve business problems, hire people who truly want to help people, not people looking for top commission. You’ll have happier reps who feel fulfilled, and happier clients, too.
Bonus: According to DemandGen Report, 95% of buyers choose a solution provider who gives them ample content to navigate the buying processes. Translation: It pays to favor consultants over closers.
4. Get Out There
The hands-down best way to know your customers is to get out of the office and go meet them face-to-face. Your sales reps should attend user groups, annual conferences, or go on-site to get one-on-one time with your customers.
Bonus: According to HubSpot, 85% of business-people say they build stronger, more meaningful business relationships during in-person business meetings and conferences.
5. Start a Referral Program
Good customers typically know other good prospects. Incentivize your existing customers to share their little black book with you by providing a free month of service, free add on, or other reward. This will feed your sales pipeline, giving your sales consultants more opportunities to build new revenue streams through solution selling.
Bonus: Leads referred to you are, on average, 4 to 10 times more valuable than leads from other sources (Influitive).
Every one of the steps above will get your team closer to the kind of relationship that proves to be as profitable as it is professional—but it can’t happen in isolation. For a plan like this to really work, you’ve got to make sure your sales and marketing teams are in sync.
The inside look your sales team is getting should be funneled straight to marketing to make sure every piece of communication you’re sending out really resonates with your buyers. If marketing doesn’t clearly understand who they’re talking to, it’s an uphill battle to get new customers in the door.
Getting to know your buyers is a long game. It takes time and patience, and a lot of face-to-face conversations, but it pays off in long-term business relationships, and a level of trust that allows you to position yourself as your customers’ go-to subject matter expert. Make it happen, with top-down support, and you’ll see clear benefits to your bottom line.
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