Covid is slowly coming to an end. Companies are preparing for employees to return to work. Sales teams are having in-person meetings and product demonstrations. Marketing teams are exhibiting at and attending tradeshows. Executives are networking at industry conferences.
Yet post-Covid, what many companies are also discovering is their competition is no longer across town, across the state, or across the country. Because buyers are now used to virtual meetings and online product demonstrations, sales teams are learning that in business pitches, their competition can literally be any organization that offers a similar solution, anywhere around the globe.
So, what is it going to take for your company to close the deal and compete on value versus lowest price? “A sales force that truly understands its prospects and clients and knows what’s relevant to help those prospects and clients achieve their business objectives,” says Sam Richter, a Hall of Fame keynote speaker and bestselling author who many consider the face of modern day sales intelligence (www.samrichter.com).
According to Richter, who works with organizations around the globe, whether it’s a pre-Covid, during Covid, or a post-Covid world, no matter what product or service a company has to sell, the task of the salesperson remains the same: build relationships, provide value and figure out how to turn prospects into long-term customers.
“The key to success in sales is establishing a relationship with your prospect before trying to sell to them,” Richter says. “Why would the buyer purchase from company A instead of company B or C or D? Certainly, pricing has a part in it. But assuming the price and quality are on par and the company can deliver on promises, what’s the difference? The difference is the ability of the salesperson to humanize the relationship. Does the buyer like the salesperson? Do they trust them? Does the buyer believe that the salesperson can provide value above and beyond the product or service being sold?”
But how do you establish a relationship with someone you’ve never met before? “By gathering sales intelligence,” says Richter. When Richter first started selling back in the late 1980s, he would show up an 30 minutes or more before a business meeting and talk to the receptionist, or gatekeeper, who usually turned out to be of a wealth of knowledge about the company, its issues and objectives.
“I’d ask questions like, ‘Can you tell me a little bit about your company and business goals? What are the things your boss cares about? What are the issues that need to be taken care of this quarter? What are your boss’ hobbies?’ The gatekeeper would fill my mind with great information. Then I would go in and meet with the decision maker and start the conversation by saying something like: ‘You know, I’ve done a little bit of homework and it seems to me your core business objectives are x, y and z. Is that correct?’
“There would be a pause,” explains Richter, “Then my prospect would ask, ‘How do you know all this?’ I’d say, ‘I do my homework,’ and then because I had asked such a good question, we’d spend the next hour where the CEO or decision maker would share some great information with me. All because I continually asked relevant, probing and meaningful questions. Best of all, more often than not, we’d win the business.”
Fast forward some 3years to the present day, and Richter’s “gatekeeper trick” has become obsolete. “Unfortunately, no gatekeeper has the time to spend sharing information, and it’s difficult to take a prospect out for a two-hour lunch meeting so you can learn about them. The good news is, thanks to the Internet, there are now faster and much more effective ways of getting the job done, if you know where and how to look,” says Richter.
Richter espouses using the “impersonal Web” to personalize and humanize the selling process. “Selling has always been about asking great questions and building valuable relationships,” says Richter. “People think that technology has impersonalized selling, that there’s no time to get to know people. However, using sales intelligence search secrets, there is an incredible amount of information you can gather in a relatively short amount of time BEFORE you walk in the room. A good salesperson can then use that information to ask probing questions, share relevant stories and get to the heart of important issues.”
What are some sales intelligence techniques that Richter recommends?
YouGotTheNews.com: Choose a time frame using the pull-down menu. Enter the name of company – there is no need to add quotation marks as the site automatically adds them for you. Add a location if relevant, and any keywords. If there is a word or phrase you don’t want in your results, add them in the ‘Not’ field. Click the ‘News Articles’ button to search Google News. Click the ‘More News’ button to search local newspaper, industry journals, and other news publications. Click the ‘Press Releases,’ ‘Social Media,’ and/or the ‘Blog Posts’ buttons and discover what the company is saying about themselves, and what others are discussing. Share what you find with a prospect and create an instant connection.
LinkedIn.com: With 750+ million people in its database, LinkedIn is a great way to research people. To search LinkedIn, enter the name of a person within quotation marks, followed by part of the company name where the person works. For example, conducting a LinkedIn search for John Anderson returns more than 7,900 results. However, “John Anderson” “Starkey Hearing” returns only one. When viewing someone’s LinkedIn profile, look for something in common. Maybe he went to the same college as you. Maybe she used to work at a company where you conduct business. When you meet with a prospect or customer, share that you looked at his or her profile, and share what you have in common. It’s a great conversation starter and it can turn the sometimes awkward “cold call” into an enjoyable “warm call.”
YouGotResearch.com: Choose a time frame and enter a broad industry term in the main search field, e.g., manufacturing. Enter additional terms or remove terms as needed. Click on the ‘Trends’ button, the ‘Survey Results’ button, or the ‘Industry Outlooks’ button and the results will be white papers, research reports, survey data, and industry profiles related to your search terms. All of the results will be PDF documents, meaning that you can save them to your computer and attach them to an email or social media connection if you’d like to share the information with a prospect or existing customer. Use what you find to educate yourself about what’s going on in your prospect’s industries. And share the reports you discover with your prospects and customer to further promote your expertise, show that you care about them, and provide value based on what your prospects and customers care about.
Intelngin.com: Imagine if you could ask the engineers at Google to create a search engine featuring only the results you care about. In a sense, that’s the Sales Intel Engine (www.intelngin.com), a custom resource that makes crafting complex searches incredibly easy. The Engine helps you find the right prospects (decision makers) at the right time (what’s going on in the other person’s world where they might want to hear about your solution) with the right message (ensure relevancy in every communication). Just enter a word or two, click the button corresponding to your search needs, and let the Engine do the work for you.
“Having a great website, marketing material, and a well-practiced sales script and sales pitch will no longer help you differentiate from your global competition,” said Richter. “Or said another way, it’s no longer enough to be interesting because to win in today’s competitive sales world, you must be interested.”
Learn about your prospects and customers and what they care about. Use news sources, social media, and other online resources to discover what’s important to your prospects before you walk in the room, pick up the phone, or push send on an email or a connection request. Align your solutions with the issues you know your prospects want to solve. Know more, and win more.