3 ways your sales team can outshine the competition

by Jeff Haden
by Jeff Haden: Bestselling non-fiction ghostwriter, speaker and columnist for Inc.com.
A business without revenue is just a hobby... and a business without a great sales team has no revenue.

So how can you take your sales team to the next level?

The following is from Derek Pando, Senior Marketing Manager - Marcom, of LinkedIn Sales Solutions.

Here's Derek:

Sales has evolved dramatically in the last two decades. The Internet has elevated the role of data in sourcing new leads while making it easy to reach hundreds of people with a single click. Buyers have more access to information than in the past to help them make decisions.

At the same time, corporate spending has become committee-driven. The average B2B purchasing team has 6.8 members, according to CEB. Instead of talking to a member of the finance department, sales teams need to study entire organisation charts to determine who has a say in purchasing decisions. Bigger buying committees with diverse stakeholders, more educated buyers and the ease of spamming have added both challenges and opportunities for the modern sales professional.

Sales snafus - like this unfortunate cloud pitch sent to Amazon's CTO - create a negative experience for the buyer and go viral in the worst case scenario. A good salesperson has the opposite effect of a batch and blast email pitch. Every customer interaction should feel like a handwritten note - personal, meaningful, and relevant to the recipient. Sales professionals have the opportunity to set themselves and their company apart from the crowd by improving the customer buying experience. Here are three ways your sales team can enhance that experience and grow revenue.

1. Map out your buyer's journey

Salespeople used to follow a standard multi-step process - from prospecting to closing - to get deals done. This worked well in a sole decision-maker environment where purchases could be made more quickly, but things have changed.

Group purchasing requires that sales professionals understand the buying experience of individual customers and tailor their approach to that organisation. To do that, you need to map out the typical buying journey by customer segment. You need to understand the actions the buyers take to progress to the next buying stage, such as the buying group has agreed their status quo is unsustainable or the customer has confirmed they can fund the purchase with this year's budget.

92% of decision makers who made a purchase and liked their sales rep said the rep had a clear understanding of their business needs, according to a LinkedIn study.

2. Tailor your approach

To elevate your prospect's experience, you need to understand the individuals on the purchasing team, the business you're selling to, and how individual stakeholders and teams function inside their organisation. You also need to interact with potential leads on their preferred platform, answering questions and providing informative content until they're ready to buy.

79% of decision makers who made a purchase and were a fan of their salesperson said the representative was knowledgeable about their business, according to LinkedIn. Another way to tailor the buying experience is by anticipating stakeholder questions and processes. If most of your customers must eventually seek approval from their legal team before buying your product and a particular prospect hasn't, you could suggest looping legal into their purchasing discussions.

The ability to quickly and effectively address stakeholder concerns, and in some cases proactively and diplomatically pointing out what should be a concern, will position you as an ally while the purchasing team progresses through internal hurdles.

3. Put your relationships first

B2B sales generally isn't about driving one-off purchases. The rise of recurring revenue models, particularly in software, has made building long-term customer relationships essential to success. When a decision maker made a purchase and liked their sales rep, our research shows that 96% of the time they said the rep came across as transparent and trustworthy.

Salespeople should aim to plant seeds that mature over the course of a few years. Finding and building relationships with what CEB calls "Mobilisers" - the people on your customer's team who will drive the buying committee - is essential. Treat your sales territory like a renewable plot of land instead of a forest to be clear cut. Put in the time and energy to position yourself as a resource to prospective customers. It will be well worth the effort.

Top salespeople need to thoughtfully consider and improve their customers' buying experiences to set themselves apart. Putting in the time and energy to position themselves as a resource will lead to outsize results.

Useful resources:
BlackBird Media
Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry from forklift driver to manager of a 250-employee book plant. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon's bestseller list.
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