Featuring Ken Stout, CRO of True Influence.
B2B Sales is a tough game.
I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. But occasionally a new survey or report highlights just how difficult it is to win the trust of buyers in today’s hyper-competitive B2B landscape.
Case in point: About 60 percent of buyers distrust vendor sales reps, according to a survey released last month by ValueSelling Associates, a sales training company. That’s 60 percent of your potential customers, and even existing customers, who view your team and message with suspicion before you even speak to them.
The buyers’ main complaint? B2B sales teams often just don’t know what they are talking about. More than two-third of survey respondents said Sales reps are poorly informed about key areas, including the basic structure of the industry they are trying to sell into.
Look, there’s always going to be a natural friction in sales. Your customers are taking a gamble on your product or service to fuel their business, and that level of risk is going to create some trepidation. And Sales no longer controls the conversation. Today’s buyers are better informed than ever before — 80 percent of the B2B percent of the B2B buyer journey is now conducted independently, through online and other research, without Sales intervention.
These prospects know their stuff. If you go into a Sales call without a clear picture of what’s really driving change in the prospect’s market, you have no chance of closing a deal. You must establish your credibility before you can hope to win trust.
This demands an enormous of research and preparation, at all stages of engagement. There’s no silver bullet here – we are talking about an organization-wide commitment to do the homework and employ new technologies that give you an edge over the competition.
B2B Buyers Want to Talk to Experts
To get a clearer picture of the divide between prospects’ expectations and Sales’ performance, let’s take a closer look at the complaints voiced by respondents in the ValueSelling Associates survey.
• 75% of respondents said Sales reps do not demonstrate knowledge of how the prospect’s industry actually works.
• 74% said Sales reps don’t demonstrate financial literacy.
• 73% said Sales reps are not able to translate business data to actionable insights for their business.
These shortcomings, not surprisingly, undermine the relationship buyers most desire during the Sales process. Most buyers said they want to communicate with subject matter experts – including during what are typically considered maintenance Sales activities.
And they want unique industry insights, not routine Sales pitches. But only 37 percent of buyers say Sales reps provide such high-value information.
These complaints aren’t unique. Only half of the respondents in a 2017 State of Sales Acceleration Report said their communications with Sales have improved in the last year.
It’s not a pretty picture, but again, you already knew this.
B2B sales teams and their partners in Marketing must constantly analyze their markets and create new, high-value content. And once you understand your market, you must turn your focus on specific targets in your Account-Based Marketing (ABM) strategy.
If you go into a Sales meeting and say, “So tell me about your business,” you are done for. Without meaningful intelligence, there’s simply no way you can provide those unique industry insights that B2B buyers expect.
Be a Consultant, Not a B2B Sales Rep
So how do your Sales team members become subject matter experts? At True Influence, we are big believers in the value of Intent signal monitoring, such as available through our InsightBASE account acceleration platform.
Buyer intent gives you great insights into the topics and content that are hot within an account, and that’s a powerful tool. But it’s not a silver bullet. You need more information to build a 360-degree view of your prospects’ organization and challenges.
To be viewed as subject matter experts, you first must know the organizational structure of the company you are selling into, and what divisions of the business are vested in the purchase decision. ABM consultancy Sirius Decisions calls these teams of decision-makers Demand Units, and identifying them is essential to ABM success.
You must also understand the market position of your prospect and how this purchase is going to move the needle for their business. As the ValueSelling Associates survey indicates, this requires a level of financial literacy that many Sales team members simply don’t possess – ensuring your team can credibly discuss the prospect’s bottom line may require partnering with other resources in your company or investing in training.
You need to position yourself as a consultant, and not just a Sales rep looking to make a commission. I find it particularly useful the idea of heading into a call with proof points that the Demand Unit can use to build an internal business case and justify its buy decision. B2B sales Case studies that spell out real, measurable and relevant benefits are golden here.
And – you guessed it – those require a lot of homework.
Where Intent Can Build Your Expertise
As I said earlier, Intent signal monitoring can inform much of the research and content creation required to position your Sales team as subject matter experts.
Intent lets you anticipate a prospect account’s most pressing challenges and create content, like those case studies, that cut to the chase. Search and content consumption patterns not only identify key points of interest, but also a prospect’s current stage in the purchase journey. Ninety percent of seeming like an expert is talking about the right issues – a market leader looking to extend its reach is not going to care about how your product helped a startup get off the ground.
Intent also allows you to give the prospect a global perspective on its market. The same signal analysis that you use to prioritize ABM accounts can be aggregated to illustrate trends of which the prospect may not be aware. And you can refine your Intent analysis to focus specifically on what the prospect’s main competitors are researching online. This immediately positions you as an expert consultant who’s offering key business insights that buyers say they aren’t getting from other Sales teams.
Knowledge is Power
Sales professionals once were viewed as a primary sources for information about products and services. Not anymore. Prospects are better informed than ever before, and as a result they are distrustful of vendors who don’t offer them unique, compelling information. It’s a lot work, but it’s an investment yur company must make to win new business.
If you’re ready to learn more — and to get some practical advice on adding intent data to your marketing strategy, download a copy of our ebook Quick Start Guide to Intent-Based Marketing.