Because buyers are self-educating early in the sales process, the traditional relationship between buyer and sales rep has been turned completely on its head. Today’s buyer knows what products and services are out there, and what people are using to solve their problems. With all of this information at his or her fingertips, buyers have done their research and made their decisions long before a sales rep even enters the picture.
Because of this role reversal, today’s sales reps need to be extremely well-prepared when they finally talk to the buyer. If they aren’t, they will quickly find that the buyer knows more than they do–which makes your company look bad. And it’s marketing’s job to educate the sales reps and provide them with the information they need to impress the buyer and show thought leadership.
Marketing Has What Sales Reps Need
As a marketer, you know what your target buyer wants, how he or she behaves, and what he or she knows. If you’re using marketing automation, you’ve probably got more data and insight than you know what to do with.
Feeding market research to your sales reps is wonderful, but it’s not enough. If your sales reps hope to talk about products and needs on the same level as today’s buyer, they need to not only be well-informed, but socially savvy. As a marketer, you have the big data and insight your sales reps need to keep up-to-date, establish thought leadership, and connect with well-informed buyers.
You can empower your sales reps by arming them with the same or better information than the buyer. Marketers can also help teach sales reps how to use social channels (like LinkedIn and Twitter) to engage with buyers, curate great content, and establish thought leadership.
Follow the Buyer on His Journey
Most buyers put a lot of thought into the purchase process. Once your sales team is armed with the right information, they can connect with buyers at each step of a 3-stage process, which is often called the Buyer’s Journey.
The buyer’s journey begins with what is known as the Trigger stage. Something has to compel the buyer to look for a solution to his problem. This is typically in the form of a problem or a pain point. With the right info, the sales rep can be the one to help the buyer find that solution. By providing the buyer with content related to solving a problem (e.g. an article about a new tech trend, a success story), the sales rep can spark the buyer’s attention and compel the buyer to start looking for a new solution to his or her problem. As a marketer make sure you are not only providing valuable content to your sales rep, but you are also training them on messaging and how to use that content.
Once the buyer absorbs information during the trigger stage, he or she starts doing research. The sales rep should become as knowledgeable about customer problems, solutions, and the stage of the competitive landscape as possible. It’s not the job of the sales team to conduct research to keep up with buyers; it’s marketing’s job to provide the critical information to the sales team. This can be done through doing detailed buyer persona and buyer journey exercises to come up with a content plan that addresses questions at each stage of the buyer’s research. Armed with the right data, the sales rep will be ready to talk on the same level as the buyer.
Once the buyer reaches the third and final stage of the Buyer’s Journey – the Purchase stage – your sales rep should be armed to the teeth with data and insight. The sales rep needs to position himself as a knowledgeable expert, not just a salesperson. One surefire way to establish thought leadership and be seen as a trusted adviser is for marketing to provide the sales rep with great content that demonstrates a thorough understanding of the buyer’s needs. Also encourage your sales reps to become thought leaders themselves through blogging, being active on social channels, and content creation.
By following the buyer on his journey and soaking up all of the same information, your sales rep will be more than ready to prove his expertise and make the sale.
Social Selling Takes Teamwork
Social selling can help you establish equal footing with today’s buyer, but you’ve got to get sales on board before that can happen. Sales and marketing need to work side-by-side to make social selling a success.
In order to make social selling work, the following needs to happen:
- Marketing needs to train reps that are open to social media
This is simple. You won’t do yourself any good trying to convince a salesperson stuck in his ways to add Tweeting to his list of duties — it’s just not going to happen. You need to train sales reps who are open to using social media in a professional capacity. Provide sales reps with a social media rules-of-engagement policy so that they know what they can and can’t tweet, and do a formal training.
- Marketers need to share data and insight with sales reps on a regular basis
In order for sales reps to connect with social users, they need quick summaries of the big data you have mined. The sales team doesn’t have time to conduct research and comb through all the information available to marketing. Marketing needs to feed them just the right amount of information that can help them move buyers through the buyer’s journey. Set up monthly meetings to go over details. Also, many CRMs now have integration functionality with social sites so that data can available directly in a prospect’s contact record.
- Sales reps need to provide insight too
Marketing might have all the big data and social media skills, but sales reps have an insider view of buyers, their problems, and common solutions. Sales reps should share their own observations, helping marketing fine-tune the information they summarize and provide. This is highly useful, especially as marketers craft messaging and create relevant content.
Set Sales Up for Success
Today’s buyer is more informed than ever before, but sales reps still have the power to convince and convert.
By helping your sales reps present themselves in the right light, guiding them in establishing relationships and authority, and feeding them the information they need to contribute to the conversation, marketing can set sales up for success.
If you want to find out how you can use big data and social selling to supercharge your sales team and boost revenue, I encourage you to download my latest book, “Revenue and the CMO: How Marketing Will Impact Revenue Through Big Data & Social Selling.” It’s a fun read and chock-full of actionable info that any brand can use to connect with and sell to today’s buyer.