Featuring Ken Stout, CRO of True Influence.
Business is virtual these days. Nobody is in the same room for long.
Your Sales team is likely spread out across the country, if not the world. Just getting all your field reps and associates in the same place for team-building and strategic planning is a major undertaking. Every minute the whole team is together is at a premium.
Now imagine if during all this activity, you had to squeeze in a presentation from a vendor who’s flying in to talk to you about their sales force automation solution.
It should come as no surprise to Sales professionals when I say that it’s getting harder and harder to get meaningful facetime with B2B sales prospects.
In today’s virtual business climate, a chance to communicate with prospects over the phone or via video conference is considered high-touch. It can take months of nurturing and relationship-building to land an in-person sales call opportunity. And even if you can get together with some of your prospects in the same room, the meeting almost certainly will include call-ins by important decision-makers from remote locations.
It’s always been challenging to command the attention of a room full of customers, but in today’s virtual selling environment it can be downright daunting. It’s just too easy for remote participants to drift off, or check their work e-mail, or find any other of a million reasons to not be engaged with your presentation.
Unless you give them a compelling reason to stick with you.
Facetime is about building the relationship
Listen, I am salty when it comes to the value of a handshake and personal interaction in B2B sales. But I’ve come to view the hard-won chance to meet face-to-face with a prospect as a chance to build a deeper long-term relationship, not necessarily as the end game in getting them to sign on the dotted line.
The purchase journey is no longer a straight path. Prospects’ interest and affinity for your company can rise and ebb as they research and consider big purchases in a sales cycle that can often last 18 months or more. In this reality, the big win for a in-person sales call is making a lasting impression and developing trust.
These days, I tell my team to go into sales calls, either in-person or online, with something of real value for the client. Odd as it may sound, this often means leading with a “non-sales” message – or at least a non-transactional sales message. Don’t lead with an ask; instead, come to the table with information that’s going to help the prospect make an informed decision.
At True Influence, we are investing in educational sales collateral that establishes us as thought leaders. These assets not only focus on our own products, but how the market is moving in general. This is a departure from the old-school philosophy of pushing hard to close that deal, but I believe it’s the best way to build credibility with B2B prospects who are constantly researching their own purchase decisions.
There are so many options out there that you have to put yourself in a leadership position. You have to define yourself before your competition does. You have to be more than a couple steps ahead.
Grab their attention and keep it
There’s really nothing revolutionary about the B2B sales philosophy of establishing yourself as a thought leader in your market. If anything, the increasingly virtual nature of sales has simply made giving prospects useful insights and information an imperative, instead of just a really good idea.
This tip sheet from videoconferencing provider GoToMeeting stresses that providing “unique, exceptional data” right out of the gate is essential if you want to keep virtual sales call attendees engaged with your presentation. I’d say this is true of both personal and virtual calls; prospects are just more easily distracted today than ever before, and you have to quickly cut through the noise and make it clear you are bringing real value to the table in exchange for their attention.
But what is “exceptional data”? It’s information that your prospect needs and wants to know. As I’ve said before, you don’t want to go in front of a group of decision-makers with a basic A-B-Cs presentation if they’ve already done their homework and now are interested in differentiating between products offerings. That’s a great way to get them looking at their watches or checking email on the other screen in their home office.
Intent Data monitoring solutions, such as True Influence’s InsightBASE account acceleration platform, give you the account-level intelligence you need to craft powerful, personalized sales presentations that grab prospects’ attention. Intent signal analysis shows you what topics your prospects are researching across the Internet, as well as the frequency of searches and the formats of content they are engaging. Analysis of this data helps identify prospects’ current stage on the purchase journey, as well as the questions that are keeping them up at night.
The same insights that help your marketing team personalize content for your Account-Based Marketing (ABM) programs should be helping your sales engineers conduct smart, useful initial discovery calls and produce killer presentations for your field associates.
Speaking to your prospect’s’ specific interests immediately establishes your credibility and cuts through the distractions that can derail a sales call.
Virtual is here, but face-time is not going away
I don’t mean to come down too hard “virtual” business. Sales teams have reaped a ton of benefits from virtual tech, most notably in the form of cost savings. Current estimates place cost-saving of teleconferencing and other virtual tech at somewhere between 50 percent and 90 percent, and inside sales teams are growing at about 15 percent a year.
I do not, however, buy into the breathless predictions that inside sales will completely replace a traditional field source. There is simply no way to replace the power of a face-to-face meeting to build the relationships that are the lifeblood of long-term B2B relationships. (Like I said, I am salty.)
Instead, I view virtual technologies as great for client maintenance and service, which of course are how you keep the relationships you’ve worked so hard to establish healthy and growing. Cost-savings realized on these activities can be funneled into field sales efforts to build new relationships or develop complex new programs and services for existing clients.
These face-to-face opportunities are going to be increasingly hard to win, however, and demand that you go in with all your boxes checked. You aren’t likely to get a second chance at a personal meeting in virtual world where so much business is conducted in sound bites and quick video calls.
More than ever, credibility is everything
B2B sales is all about proving your value to the customer. And in today’s virtual business world, you seldom get the chance to do that in person. Building your credibility by providing valuable information that’s tailored to your prospects’ business challenges is more important than ever, whether they are sitting across a meeting room table or are viewing a screen 1,000 miles away.