5 Tips for Salesmen and Buyers to Benefit from the Relationship
Salespeople: Face the facts.
Prospects no longer find your company on yellow pages, so why do you behave as if they did and want to make them aware of your existence? They have had Google since 1996, so if they wanted to buy, they would have had found you already.
Cold calling, a sales pitch and closing are old sales mantra that worked in the 1970's and maybe ten years ago - to some extent. When buyers can find all information about you beforehand, why bother them with self-focused information.
Yawn! The truism is, no one is interested in hearing about yourself, but they want to understand how they can be better off with your help, even if they don’t seem to be excited at first.
Marketing: Social media advertising doesn’t work either!
Showing off with your fancy office, cutting-edge production lines or centuries of expertise is just as self-focused and dull, as the sales reps’ presentation of the product. It’s ok from time to time, but don’t overdo it.
If you’re into content marketing and customer-focused message, you’re on the right track. But spending money on something that doesn’t attract attention is a waste of resources. Valuable and meaningful content speaks for itself and doesn’t need advertising.
Buyers: You have the upper hand. You know that. Yet you also have problems to solve and potentially a lesson to be learnt.
The temptation to reject yet another sales call and presentation meeting may be intense on a hectic day. Especially when it’s the tenth cold call you pick up that day. It’s a waste of time for you. And my advice to you is pretty straightforward: Keep ignoring them!
But beware of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Stay alert for signs of sales reps who are interested in what you do and who have done their homework. They might be able to make the difference to your business.
Modern sales guides encourage reps to ask questions, and you can do the same to figure out if the interaction is worth your effort.
If you have an urging problem to solve; ask them, how they may help to solve it. If you don’t, ask for their motives directly. Should the answer to any of the above questions be the presentation of their product or service; drop it! On the contrary, if they ask a question in response or touch a crucial part of your business, it will be the first sign of their professionalism. An indicator that they might eventually help you or at least point you towards an area of improvement in your work. They are partners, not salespeople.
1. Ask Questions
The truism of modern age sales. Repeated every day and everywhere, so many times that I feel ashamed even to list it here. But it works. And if you’ve skipped the introduction to this article, read the two preceding paragraphs at least. Right questions are a prerequisite for the next tip.
2. Understand Each Other and Act Selflessly
We all enjoy doing business with friends and people we like. Sometimes it just clicks from the first sight, but usually, it takes time to build a relationship. Knowing the needs of your counterpart and showing genuine interest in them is the foundation for establishing trust.
So spend time to learn as much as you can about your future business partners to find out how you can help them. Selflessly. Try to solve their problems, not sell your product. A product that doesn’t serve a purpose is a waste of money, so don’t wonder your customers don’t buy when you only present the product. That’s money for nothing.
If you treat the relationship as pure quid pro quo, you won’t “close” the sale. It would be best if you never attempted to close, as closing tactics are usually manipulative and tend to reveal your real, purely commercial intent. You wouldn’t manipulate your friends, would you? It’s a quick way of losing them. So why the heck would you like to do that with your customers?
Moreover, such a transactional approach leads to your service becoming a commodity where only the pricing matters. Understanding your prospect’s needs and their understanding of your attitude and how you can benefit them will make the sale come out naturally without you needing to close it.
Understanding the core problem lets you educate your prospect. And an educated prospect benefits from the education taken.
3. Educate (your customers and yourself)
Make dull products and services sexier, and then make them more relevant for your customers by showing how they benefit. The key is education.
How to educate in B2C - The carpet cleaning case:
Chet Holmes, the author of ‘The Ultimate Sales Machine’, gives an example of a carpet cleaning company which hired him to improve their sales. Their cleaning service was a pure commodity, which customers bought every once in a while whenever they felt like their rugs looked nasty and craved for some love — nothing unusual about that. In average people hired a cleaning company every third year.
Research showed that an average carpet contained 5 billion germs that can have an impact on one’s health. (Educate yourself) So Chet and the cleaning company changed the message to be educative:
“The carpet in your home has so many germs; when you come home, your shoes bring in so much dirt and bacteria from outside. Those get tracked all over your home and can pose a health risk to your family. Hire us; we’ll help keep your family safe by cleaning your carpet.” — Chet Holmes, ‘The Ultimate Sales Machine’.
The above teaching strategy resulted in about a fifth of the company’s existing customers ordering the service three times more often, as they saw a potential health risk in not cleaning the carpet frequently enough. Frequent cleaning turned out to be beneficial. The company’s expertise was irrelevant here; they boosted sales by making their customers aware of a problem they had in their carpets.
How to educate in B2B: The unknown opportunity
Insights in B2B work in a similar way as they do in B2C, yet you need to dwell on them longer and add some perspective because value and benefits may be spread over your customer’s customers. So, in the end, your expertise should be valuable to the final consumer, if it’s to be beneficial for your customer. And often your customer will not know what they need. Examples:
3D printing technology saves millions of euros for passenger airlines
Imagine you are the plane manufacturer — Airbus. Why would you need to produce anything by additive manufacturing (3D printing) technology? Although it’s fancy, it is also rather expensive. Here’s the real story:
The Rolls-Royce team, together with MERLIN consortium, have developed a new seat belt buckle for Airbus A380. The new titanium printed buckle is just as durable as the steel one and weighs only 68 g, which is 87 g less compared to its predecessor (155 g). The weight difference multiplied by the number of passenger seats results in fuel savings of up to 3 300 000 litres over the lifespan of the plane. And that’s 0,74 Mtonne in CO2 emissions less, and over 3 million euro staying with the airlines per each aircraft they operate. What a bargain!
Discovering and educating about the benefits of a particular technology, methodology or our services, in general, enable our customers to see the potential for improving their own customers’ experience.
Creating the need for new technology
When I worked for Setapp, we managed to create the need for Augmented Reality (AR) to be introduced by larger companies as part of their customer experience. Many companies still perceive AR as a curiosity, rather than a valuable tool, so we had to focus on practical application and benefits. We achieved that by creating several videos educating on how this technology could be applied in different industries, which we then presented to prospective companies within the industry — and we won some customers!
See yourself: AR in whitegoods e-commerce (with my voiceover, rather than a professional actor — I find it essential, that the message is personalised and flaws are ok, as long as what you have to offer is relevant)
AR for doors & windows manufacturers
Education by showing and setting an example, rather than telling, leads us to the golden rule of journalism and storytelling, which also is the next tip:
4. Don’t say it, show it!
A portfolio of your previous work is an obvious start if you’re a photographer or a designer. It works well for manufacturers as well. In case your job involves a more complicated process, you can draw a step-by-step roadmap showing your customer how you approach their problems. And be specific, show them where it’s relevant for them and only them. So refrain from standardised materials, but customise and show the way.
At Setapp, we figured out that a better way of presenting an offer to a prospect would be by customising and personalising it as much as possible. So we created a very personal offer-video, based on a Keynote presentation, with a “talking-head” of me in the corner, where I took the chance to guide the customer through the entire cooperation process. Instead of saying what our expertise was and how many similar projects we’ve carried out, I focused on showing this particular customer how we would approach their specific problem: step-by-step.
Although I cannot show you the entire offer-video, nor the details of each stage due to their confidential business nature, I’ll make use of the next tip to show the point.
Below you can also see a generalised example of how it can be done (each stage should be adjusted to your business model).
5. Let Your Customers Speak for You
No marketing or sales technique works better than a referral from your past or existing customers. Boasting with their logos is one thing, yet letting them speak on your behalf brings a new quality to your business. Their voice boosts the perceived trust you have as an expert in the market.
So ask for a testimonial or referral whenever you have delivered a decent piece of work. Preferably as a video testimonial. And don’t be afraid to do that. In average only 20% of your customers are not willing to recommend you (because they don’t support anyone in general or are not satisfied with the cooperation) and the other 20% might be already referring to you without you even knowing that. The remaining 60% is the target group that wants to recommend you, yet they don’t know how or if they should do that. Help them and help yourself! Ask for it! (The credit for this advice goes to Artur Sójka).
Showtime. Here’s the customer I mentioned in tip #4 and the general testimonial we received. Thanks, Becky! :)
Although you can use such testimonials in your marketing, they are more genuine compared to your in-house materials, as you let other people speak on your behalf. Customers wouldn’t vouch for your trustworthiness with their credibility if they didn’t trust you in the first place.
Independent reviews — proof that tip #4 works.
If you want to go the extra mile (can be costly in some industries), you might want to hire an external auditor to gather customer feedback for you. In result, your testimonials are more independent and trustworthy as there is a third party vouching for the review.
That’s something that the HR and executive search company, SAM International, does whenever they finish a project. They have hired an external company to measure customer satisfaction whenever a recruitment process is complete.
SAM International quality and satisfaction survey conducted by Rambøll Management. Source: SAM International sales materials.
Setapp, just like many other IT companies, uses Clutch to gather independent project reviews. Here’s the example review from which we know that our offer-video mentioned before made an impact:
A Clutch analyst personally interviewed this client over the phone. Above is an excerpt from the transcript
Gathering customer feedback on your own is valuable since you can better improve your service, yet an independent review is always what it is. Independent. The choice which way to go is yours. But always let your customers speak for you.
Understanding your customer’s needs by asking the right questions and educating yourself on your customer’s situation lets you show them the benefits of cooperating with you. When the actual perceived value is at stake, thanks to mutual understanding, pricing is no longer an issue, and sales happen on their own. It’s a win-win, and no one gets tricked into anything. Transparency and honesty is the way to hack the growth of your business.