Now, more than ever, prospects have collected information and been influenced by factors beyond the seller’s control well before your first sales conversation.
The marketing department should have done its job to surround the prospect with good and worthwhile information ranging from content relevant to them to publicly available case studies and customer reviews. If this is lacking, be prepared to play catch-up in the first sales conversation — if it gets that far. Understand and appreciate the concept of the “buyer’s journey” which, simply put, is the set of steps and decisions a prospect goes through to become a customer.
If a sales process mindset dominates the conversation hoping to push the prospect through the various sales stages defined by the seller, a conflict between the two processes will quickly materialize. It is definitely important to have a defined and disciplined sales process to ensure proper reporting and sales pipeline accuracy, but do not lose sight of the buyer in the process.
Great salespeople can set themselves apart by being tuned into where a prospect is in the process and even anticipating next step, including information needs.
Sales pitches will flow much smoother and be more relevant if they are timed to the prospect’s decision-making process versus where the seller is in the sales process.
This can be an institutional mindset shift and must be mapped to the customer acquisition process: low touch, high velocity models with disciplined qualification before getting to a salesperson and higher touch, lower velocity models that require explicit knowledge of what needs to happen when and what content is needed and is most effective. Remember that even with the best research and qualification, the prospect may not be ready to commit to a buying process when the pitch is delivered, so always follow up.
Follow-up is such an important part of sales or any type of relationship-building, so remember to do it, whether you use some type of automated system or work with the marketing department on a more sophisticated email nurture program. Just make sure it is done. Timing is not always right, so being disciplined about 30-, 60-, and even 90-day intervals for follow-up with something in context to that prospect can not only set a salesperson apart, but position them well when the buying process kicks off in earnest.