I was asked last week by the Head of Sales for a large division of a multinational B2B brand to present to her global sales team at their annual Sales Kick Off. Her problem? Her team is able to articulate incredibly well what their product portfolio entails, but when asked to explain what the key challenges their customers faced were, well, let’s just say they stumbled somewhat.
And her fear? If her team weren’t able to sell to the needs of their customers then they are, at best, leaving money on the table and, at worst, losing deals. Her need? Change the mindset of her sales team and get them focused in the coming FY on how to use Insights to better engage with their key accounts. I thought I’d share the four main ways we think insights drive better sales engagement:
1. A reason to engage
Let’s face it, when you’re in sales, you are constantly looking for a reason to start a conversation with your prospect. And in an ever more crowded, competitive world, finding that ‘insertion point’ and gaining the attention of a buyer is a challenge. But by using the appropriate insights that can help you better understand buyer ‘need’ you can much more accurately determine the right point to contact and engage your prospect.
Today, there is less and less reason for a ‘cold call’; the insights are available to you to hone your targeting and allow you to contact people, confident that their need is likely to be something you can help with. This clearly has hugely positive implications for sales productivity and also pipeline velocity.
2. Customer intimacy
Selling on the basis of your need (“here’s our latest product innovation – wanna buy it”?) isn’t customer intimate and is likely to be commercial suicide. Time and again we see research which shows that anyone who is being sold to, wants to be sold to on their terms, in a non-intrusive way.
In today’s digital world this is a ‘must’ not a ‘nice to’. In B2B selling, customer intimacy means using the right insights to help you understand the pain point your customer is focused on addressing. Showing you understand this and have a solution is key. Understanding drives trust; you ‘care’, you’ve done your homework and you know what matters to your customer and where you can deliver value.
The customer intimate approach is what drives the shift from a transactional relationship (‘I sell, you buy’) to the (revenue) nirvana of partnering (‘we understand what mutual success looks like and will work together for mutual advantage, over an elongated period of time’).
3. Competitive edge
Let’s face it, it’s a cut throat world out there and nobody is going to give you a free run at a sales opportunity. The competition is real and voracious and they most certainly aren’t afraid to steal your lunch given half the chance. So, why wouldn’t you want to understand what level of engagement your competitors have with your key accounts? Why wouldn’t you want to know which elements of their portfolio your accounts may be most interested in? And wouldn’t you want to know if your account is showing more interest in your portfolio than your competitors?
Again, the right insights will give you this information allowing you to devise the right competitive strategies to either defend your position on an account or to go on the offensive and attack your competition. The right insights will move you from being a passive, reactive competitor to a nimble, fearsome and aggressive one. As a senior sales leader recently said to me: ‘what’s not to like?’
4. Sales and marketing alignment
If I had a dollar for every study I have seen that shows sales and marketing alignment drives greater value (heck, Sirius Decisions has built a massive business off the back of it!) I’d be a rich man. Thing is though, it’s true.Those organisations where sales and marketing teams have a common, consistent view of their key accounts and work in tandem to engage the account are dramatically more successful in generating pipeline. More often though, if men are said to be from Mars and women from Venus, then sales is in one universe and marketing is in an entirely different one!
Again, here’s where insights help; if you are using an insights platform like the Agent3 Platform and sharing that information across teams then your starting point for any engagement discussion is a common one. Both parties understand the contextual position of the account.They know the news that is circulating. They understand the narratives that executives are espousing. And they can see what level, and type, of buying intent there is.This common understanding of the customer opportunity is the foundation for sales and marketing alignment and it’s essential to get right.
The use of insights to drive more effective sales is a classic case of change management. Humans are creatures of habit; they tend to do what they have traditionally done and are resistant to change. When I was on stage at the recent Sales Kick Off I was fairly blunt about this situation because if you are in sales today, you have no choice other than to adapt in order to survive. The dinosaurs died off because they could not adapt to their new environment. And sales executives will lose their jobs if they don’t adapt to the new reality of insight-driven sales. The choice is a stark one and the time is now to make the change by grabbing the opportunity that insight-driven selling brings.