What You Bring to The Table, and How, Makes The Difference!
There has never been a time when successfully closing complex, B2B deals depends more on a sales person’s credibility.
Forget about artificial intelligence, social selling and creatively structured pricing.
People buy from people - and today, with the constant distractions and onslaught of new information, people buy MORE from people they trust.
Creating trust takes time, effort and purposeful intent. It requires credibility. But now credibility is much more than just how you behave in a room with your prospect or at dinner with the CEO. Your credibility can be vetted in seconds and is the combination of your authenticity, industry knowledge, digital persona and ability to connect to value.
"Via the Internet, buyers can fact-check everything you say and they can always find another choice. If you don't have credibility you have no ability to sell your product. Credibility is absolutely a price of entry to the sales process today."
- Michael Maslansky, co-author of The Language of Trust: Selling Ideas in a World of Skeptics
If you are not aware of and actively managing these three aspects of YOUR persona, understanding the BUYER persona will result in nothing other than a long list of lost deals while sales leadership wonders if you should be thinking about a change in professions.
Be Authentic - Get Real
Gone are the days when legions of blue suit wearing, BMW driving cloned sales reps can get the job done consistently. Before the internet, their uniformity created a sense of familiarity. Like the golden arches of McDonald’s the buyers knew what they were getting and that was reassuring. Today, innovation is publicized at a lightning pace and change is what everyone eats for breakfast.
As a result of everyone’s access to information, news, research, and endless images, that uniformity has become a liability. People crave and need real connections. Real connections require people to be authentic, to be unique - even as a part of a team.
"Be yourself and don't fool people with a fake persona because that's what you think they want. Being yourself may lose you some customers or may offend some people, but I would rather be hated for who I am than liked for who I am pretending to be."
- Charley Johnson, CAS, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, SnugZ USA
I have seen highly polished sales teams with expensive watches and cool socks lose to a team of cohesive individuals - people the buyer could connect with rather than a veneer of what the sales professional thought the buyer expected.
There are still rules of decorum, still awareness of what is appropriate given certain social norms, but within those confines, to be the most effective sales professional, you need to be extremely self-aware. You need to know how to be yourself. And you need to be genuine.
Be Informed - SMEs Are The New Rainmakers
All organizations have business objectives, drivers and imperatives. In most cases, they struggle to meet at least one of those goals because of internal or external factors. Connecting your solution to the prospect's business struggle enables that decision maker to understand your solution's full impact and value in reaching resolution of their issues.
Your job as the sales rep is to be a source of information for the buyer, a thought leader, a trusted advisor. To accomplish this you must be informed - not only about the company you are selling to, but also their industry, their competitors, emerging trends that will affect them, and about the individuals involved in the buying process.
"I personally think there's going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than there were for programming majors and maybe even engineering, because when the data is all being spit out for you, options are being spit out for you, you need a different perspective in order to have a different view of the data…[requiring]...someone who is more of a freer thinker."
- Mark Cuban, Investor
You must feel comfortable working with your buyer as a peer and this requires a level of experience, insight and knowledge equal to, if not greater than, their own. You must be able to consume data from multiple sources, understand and internalize it, and then provide a unique, value-based perspective to your prospect.
Perhaps this is why Mark Cuban is so fond of saying Liberal Arts degrees are the future - the ability to research, process information and form unique perspectives is a complex skill becoming increasingly more valuable today.
Be Valuable - Know How To Ask The Right Questions
You will be in a position to collaborate on solutions that help your prospect achieve their agenda. But this alone will not help you close the deal.
Whatever product or service you sell, it’s not enough to solve a technical problem to close the deal. You must also:
- know how to uncover and connect to the prospect’s perception and definition of value,
- define with your prospect the problems connected and related to the business goals and imperatives facing the organization,
- help identify the problems that are worth solving — even if the prospect does not know at the outset which are the real problems,
- provide personal value to your prospect in addition to quantifiable business benefit,
- collaboratively develop a solution you are uniquely able to deliver - through product, services and your own experience, and
- work together to develop a mutually agreed upon plan for execution and the realization of value.
This process creates the connection, lays down the foundation for trust. Understanding your value in the sales process is not just limited to industry, company or trend knowledge - but also your ability to leverage that in a manner valuable to your prospect. Unfortunately, that's where many sales professionals fall short.
Ask yourself the following questions to understand your ability to build credibility, add value, consult, and sell your products and services:
- If you're assigned a specific industry, are you well-versed in its current issues?
- Can you engage in a conversation around those issues and add perspective and insight to anyone in the industry?
- Are you reading what your customers and prospects are potentially reading online, in trade magazines and industry websites?
- Are you current and knowledgeable on the issues facing the decision makers you are calling on?
- If you're seeking new business opportunities, are you researching what company data is available in the public domain?
- Do you understand the company's goals and objectives? Can you predict where the struggle may be for the organization?
- Do you have all of the information you need to prepare for an engaging conversation where you can contribute perspectives and insights?
- Are you engaging with the prospect online? Demonstrating your expertise not just for a specific problem, but their industry as a whole?
Are you sharing information with others and establishing yourself as a thought-leader to be consulted rather than a vendor to be abused?
Not One, But All
Your ability to connect with your prospects, to set yourself apart from the crowd, to close more business and generate more return for your employer comes down to managing these three critical aspects of your credibility. It is not easy and it takes a mindfulness and self-awareness many struggle to apply consistently.
There is a vulnerability required and a fanatical dedication to self-improvement - not only in your exposure to innovative thinking or emerging trends, but in understanding your own strengths and weaknesses. Yet, if you focus on these facets, you will win more business because your credibility quotient will be complete.