As a marketing executive and 25-year veteran of enterprise technology companies, I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot of time talking with salespeople from across the industry.
I’ve seen first-hand what makes the top 10% of sellers stand out from the rest, and I’ve worked to understand what those sellers are doing differently in order to help our clients at Aventi Group replicate their success.
To discuss my takeaways, I sat down with Chris Freeman on his High Tech Freedom podcast, and together we distilled our observations into a list of five marketing and sales enablement tips to help every member of your sales team perform like the best.
A brief overview of the five tips:
- Do your sales enablement homework
- Use sales enablement materials to inform and educate
- Listen, listen, listen
- Understand the customer’s ‘why’
- Be consultive
1. Do your sales enablement homework
When preparing to engage with a prospect, ask your sales enablement team to conduct extensive research on the people your sellers will be talking to. According to LinkedIn, 76% of top performers say they always perform research before reaching out to prospects.
This can include looking them up on LinkedIn, Twitter, or other social media platforms, engaging with them, and paying special attention to what that person is liking, posting, and commenting on.
These insights will help your sales team get to know a prospect’s psyche, interests, and passions in order to both develop a deeper understanding of what they’re looking for - and to determine if they’re a good match for your product.
Since at least 50% of prospects aren't going to be a good fit, it’s worth going that extra mile to make sure that you’re putting your time and effort into the right people.
2. Use sales enablement materials to inform and educate
Use this knowledge to create sales enablement materials that’ll offer your prospects relevant advice, information, and insights.
Many of the prospects your sellers talk to are going to be in the research and information-gathering phase of their buying decision, so they may not even know what problem they’re trying to solve, much less why they need to solve it.
This is why only 10-15% of leads end up converting - most of them don’t go any further than the top of the funnel.
Help me help you
At this point, the best way your salespeople can serve your prospects and convert them into leads is to help them inform themselves.
This is an opportunity to be a consultant for your customers, to offer value, and to share resources - many of which don’t have anything to do with your product.
It can even be a chance to challenge the prospect’s previous thinking and shine new light on their problem, which 89% of buyers say makes them more likely to consider a brand.
3. Listen, listen, listen
On the other side of the same coin, it’s just as important that sellers listen to their prospects as it is to inform them. Of course, that might be easier said than done - after working with sales engineers and product development teams, your sales enablement team will have a ton of product information crammed in their heads, and good salespeople will enjoy sharing that with their customers.
But sellers should try their best to avoid spending their entire conversation with a prospect discussing product specs and details.
Focus on the prospect, not the product
It may seem counterintuitive to spend a sales call not talking about your product, but the customers are paying attention: 68% of B2B buyers require that brands understand their personal needs and wants before they make a purchasing decision.
To that end, top sellers allow their prospects to talk primarily about themselves. In return, the salesperson should listen to the prospect, ask clarifying questions as needed, and allow uncomfortable pauses to happen without needing to fill them with chatter.
4. Understand the customer’s why
Understanding your prospects also helps identify and solve the problems, or pain points, that will motivate their buying decision. In other words, what is the prospect’s motivation to change? What is their ‘why’?
If that reason isn't motivating enough, then your biggest competitor is going to be the status quo or doing nothing. But if you can both define the prospect’s key pain points and demonstrate the cost (economic or otherwise) of inaction, you'll add a powerful sales enablement tool to your sellers’ repertoire.
Sales enablement: not just about the bottom line
Keep in mind, however, that the motivating factor for a prospect won’t always be financial ROI.
- Is their company launching a new product or brand?
- Are they reaching a different geographic market?
- Is there a new regulation that’s going to affect their business?
All of these are compelling reasons for a prospective company to take decisive action sooner rather than later. And, if your sales enablement team does their homework, they’ll know that these factors are going to be playing into their prospect’s decision.
As discussed in one of our blog posts, cybersecurity is a great segment to demonstrate how this can work. Informing prospects about other companies’ security breaches can help motivate them to secure their own data from similar events in the future.
Telling the prospect about the risks allows them to come to their own conclusions about the urgency of taking mitigating measures, thereby eliminating the status quo as an option.
5. Be consultative
Remember: companies don’t buy; people buy. And, with 76% of B2B buyers expecting highly personalized attention from sellers, if your sales team is not connecting with the people behind your prospects, then you’re a lot less likely to make a sale.
If you think about it, the best experiences you have when buying your own big-ticket items, like a home or a car, are those where your relationship with the salesperson is both collaborative and consultative.
Just as in those instances, the seller should act as a guide along the decision process, not coming across as needy or overtly pushing their product.
How can I be of service to my prospect?
As in the previous points, sellers should come from a place of service to the customer, not from a focus on their own numbers. In every instance, the best-sellers are thinking: Even if the sale doesn’t go through, how can I make this meeting count for the person I’m meeting with?
Encourage your salespeople to put aside any pressure they’re under and really be present in the meeting in order to discover how best they can serve the customer.
Creating a sales relationship
If I had to sum up all of the above, I would say this: in my experience, top sellers (and the marketing and sales enablement teams who support them) focus on creating a relationship with their customers.
We can no longer rely on cold calls and reciting lists of product details - we have to know what our prospect needs and fears, inform them of relevant information and insights about their industry, and understand what it is that’s driving them to make a buying decision.
To achieve this level of insight into our prospects, we have to do some careful sales enablement research, focus on active listening, and always put the customer’s needs first and foremost. In this manner, top sellers close more of their deals by reaching their prospects on a human level, not a product one.
Meet the author
Sridhar Ramanathan has 20+ years of experience in technology companies – from startups to blue-chip firms. As the Marketing executive for Hewlett-Packard’s Managed Services business, he was responsible for marketing worldwide and managing the portfolio of HP services’ $1.1B unit.
He also held profit and loss responsibility for electronic messaging outsourcing and e-service business units. Thanks to Sridhar’s efforts, HP became the number one ERP (Enterprise resource planning) Outsourcer and experienced growth in the data warehouse market, now well over a $1B revenue stream.
Sridhar has played interim executive roles for a number of technology firms, leading their sales and marketing functions in the high-growth phase. Sridhar holds an MBA from the Wharton School of Business and a BS in Engineering Physics from U.C. Berkeley.
He is active in non-profit work as Vice Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Child Advocates of Silicon Valley, an organization that provides stability and hope to abused and neglected children.