Gaining Ground on the Informed Buyer

In a previous post, I discussed how sales reps are playing catch up with informed buyers.  I wanted to revisit that post and drill a bit deeper into this problem and potential solutions.

There is no question that Buyer 2.0 is ahead of Seller 2.0. Simply put, buyers can research companies and products via the Internet and social media without revealing their objectives or identities.  By the time purchasers raise their hand, they have already sized up potential options and formed purchasing biases.  Some of this information gap can be made up by marketing through the use of better lead nurture and targeting tools.  The rise of marketing automation services such as Marketo and Eloqua is a partial response to Buyer 2.0.  Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon sales reps to be more strategic and better informed in their sales approach.

Sales reps should be making warm calls not cold calls. A warm call is based upon a basic understanding of the industry, company, and executive before picking up the phone or emailing somebody. You only have a few seconds to provide a hook before the voice mail is erased or the email is sent to the trash bin (assuming they even opened the email).  Sales reps should avoid generic openings (e.g. I’m X from Y and we do ZZZ … snooze) and introduce themselves with a compelling reason for the prospect to listen or read further.  This might be commentary on a recent blog post from the prospect, insight into their industry, or a claim to have addressed a problem at one of the prospect’s competitors.  In short, sales reps must quickly pique their prospects’ interest.

Sales reps need to target the window of discontent when a purchaser is open to new solutions or alternate vendors.  Sales Triggers are an excellent way to identify these opportunities. Triggers are news stories associated with at least a company and an important business event. Instead of simply being about a company or industry, triggers deliver specific reasons to call now (e.g. M&A, exec changes, PE/VC funding).  Furthermore, triggers are associated with firmographic information so sales reps can identify opportunities within their territory and vertical markets via build a list prospecting.  Sales triggers should also tie to rich company and executive profiles to assist with lead qualification and sales messaging.

Sales reps should be engaged in social media. This includes groups on LinkedIn as well as general Twitter and LinkedIn activity. Postings should always be professionally focused (reps should leave the personal content to Facebook) and related to the reps’ industry, target verticals, or business in general.  Social media activity should go beyond simple likes and re-tweets.  The sales rep’s goal is to establish a professional identity which means they have to have to develop a personal voice.  Marketing can assist with the messaging by passing along some general content (e.g. blog posts, webinars, and trade shows), but effective social messaging must be more than generic corporate reposting.

Furthermore, sales reps should know their product line cold and then apply this knowledge to specific job functions and industries.  I’ve seen too many sales reps that don’t know the basics of their product offering much less the benefits to specific user types.  A sales rep that is less well informed about their product or service than a purchaser will almost always lose the sale. A sales rep that can only speak to features and vague benefits will also fail to provide the prospect with a compelling reason to purchase.  This means that they need to speak in terms of benefits and values, not features.  Buyer 2.0 already knows your features and those of your competitors. Reps must therefore establish a compelling reason for prospects to select their product or service.  Failing to do so is sales malpractice.

Do you have more tips on keeping up with Buyer 2.0?  Tell us in the comments below. 

Michael Levy
Michael R. Levy is a contributing writer to our blog and the principal of GZ Consulting, a market research and competitive intelligence consulting firm based in Massachusetts. Michael founded the firm in February 2012 after leaving Infogroup where he was the Manager of Strategy and Competitive Intelligence. Michael focuses on information services including sales intelligence, CRM, data hygiene, and marketing automation.
Michael Levy
Michael Levy