The Information Age has created a marketplace built predominantly of connected buyers who have largely determined whether or not to buy from us before they ever make contact with a sales rep. Due to readily available info about your company and competitors, sales support is unnecessary early in the buying process, forever changing the role of the sales rep.
To save your sales team from market extinction, you must evolve the way you approach connected buyers.
Early in your first interaction, focus on determining what information the buyer has gathered so far and how he got to you. Needs assessment, pitching and product education will follow, but only after determining the existing foundation of knowledge.
The connected buyer is not interested in starting from scratch; you must join him at the place he is in the buying process. By first understanding the steps the connected buyer took to get to you, his interpretation of why it was worth calling you, and what he expects from the sales interaction, you will be able to guide the conversation in a way that's comfortable for your connected buyer.
Start by asking your prospective buyer for the referral source. Then thank them for considering your company, showing appreciation for their desire to interact and positively reinforcing the decision to continue exploring your company. Reiterate the one-sentence elevator pitch, that he's likely seen on your website, and then ask what triggered his decision to seek out the product or service. With the right follow-up questions, you'll uncover the trigger point and what factors are most important in his decision.
Next, ask how long the connected buyer has been exploring different options, and follow up with questions about his exploration process (e.g., who was involved, what steps were taken, what put your company on the short list) to uncover critical buying information you'll need to advance the sale, including influencers and the decision-making timeline.
Finally, recap for the prospective buyer what you've learned about his needs. If he agrees, explain your value proposition. Tailor it, on the spot, based on what you've learned about the buyer so far.
If a one-call close isn't feasible in your business, ask for a follow-up meeting to discuss the prospective buyer's needs in greater depth. Be sure to confirm the key stakeholders will be present, the names of which you'll fortunately already know from prior questions.
To maintain your sales team's relevance to the connected buyer, teach them how to change their approach and focus on a different line of early questioning to enable them to personalize their pitch in a meaningful way sure to resonate.
Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and CEO/Founder of RedRover, a sales training and marketing firm based in Memphis, Tennessee -- www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovecompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).