We live in a world where customers spend hours consuming tweets, scrolling through Facebook, conducting Google searches, and reading blogs. Buyers are more informed by the time they talk to a salesperson, but that doesn’t mean the salesperson’s job is easy. In fact, it’s harder.
The new role of sales
Long gone are the days of knocking on doors and selling products to unprepared customers. With so much information already out in the cyberworld, the salesperson is now talking to an informed(ish) customer. If you want a comparison, imagine the customer has graduated from high school and is entering college (or university) to learn even more. Because business technology has become more complex, those customers need a teacher. Enter, the professor.
Sales reps play a pragmatic role in the buying cycle. Customers already know what their problem is; they’ve researched solutions and need confirmation about their choice. In the simplest of conversations, sales reps assume the role of chief educator. They play an important role in:
- Answering advanced questions customers can’t resolve online
- Providing personalized information about pricing
- Offering insight into industry trends and forecasts
- Highlighting which product features solve your specific business problems, and helping you set them up so you can use them to their fullest potential
But, as with college, being an effective educator doesn’t mean just providing facts. The sales rep also needs to actively listen to each customer and help communicate options for them.
What’s one sales tool that isn’t new but is now more effective than ever? The free trial.
Even before talking to sales reps, buyers have the opportunity to test a product using a free trial. There’s no better way to convince someone about the benefit of a product other than actually getting them to use it. But by offering a free trial on a website, prospects can proactively sign up on their own, signaling to the sales rep that they are interested in the product.
“Thanks for trying out our product. I’d love to get your feedback about how it worked for you” is a more personal conversation than “Hi. I’d like to sell you this product and I’ll tell you why.”
Remember, customers have already taken the time to do initial research so salespeople can focus on scheduling more meaningful meetings. Sales reps are well prepared for these meetings, equipped with information the prospect has already expressed interest in.
Throughout these meetings, sales reps act as advisors, providing thought leadership about why their product is the best for the potential buyer. Using tailor-made demos and providing technical support, reps arm themselves with tactical, compelling arguments for buying their product.
More important, they take the professor role a step further and become a personal consultant. If you’ve had multiple conversations with a sales rep, that person’s job was to learn everything she could about the inner workings of your business. That way, she can pitch how the product helps your problems , specifically. This consultative approach requires the ability to understand many different sorts of complex business problems, as well as the business strategies needed to solve them.
Each salesperson isn’t simply a seller – but a strategist.