Buyer Engagement: 3 Surefire Sales Strategies
Sales reps have a hard job. And with continuing economic uncertainty, engaging buyers to close deals is set to be an arduous task as we head through 2023. Explore 3 sales strategies that can help improve buyer engagement now.
With continuing economic uncertainty, buyer engagement is set to be an arduous task as we head through 2023. Yet, we’ve been here before (2009 anyone?!) and the world still turns, customers still have problems to solve, and sales targets must still be met.
The difference this time is that sellers are still adapting to virtual selling, driven by the global pandemic and a resulting shift in buyer behavior, which is no doubt here to stay. Despite the debate over workforce productivity, modern organizations and their employees continue to reap the benefits of flexible working practices that equate to less face time with sellers. And, according to Gartner, B2B virtual sales interactions will continue to rise over the next 5 years. We have no doubt that as Millenials and Gen Y move into decision-maker roles, the appetite for a confident and efficient B2B digital buying experience will only make the virtual sales trend even more prolific, fueled by seamless B2C experiences that have become the norm since most of our lives are online.
Couple this modern way of selling with the inevitable objections triggered by the possibility of a global recession, and it’s fair to say that the vast majority of sellers will find 2023 to be their most challenging yet when it comes to buyer engagement.
Buyers will also have a lot to contend with this year. Every business worldwide will grapple with improving competitiveness and productivity, and generally doing more with less, as we each manage the risks associated with a global recession (whether it happens or not). Budgets will be cut, and priorities will change….but problems will still need solutions. And so in order to drive projects forward, buyers will want and need to be confident that their purchasing decisions meet the expectations of the buying committee, and ultimately deliver value to their businesses. They’ll be meticulous about their research before shortlisting prospective solutions and will expect sellers to partner with them to achieve their goals, as opposed to making a quick sale.
To be successful sellers in 2023 and beyond, organizations must realize the importance of the buyer experience by investing time and effort to meet their needs and expectations.
38% of sellers have closed deals over $500K without ever meeting the buyer face to face.LinkedIn, Global State of Sales Report, 2022
Stats like this one 👆demonstrate that virtual sales can be just as effective as traditional methods, while positively impacting productivity with less time (and cost!) spent on travel and meetings. But the effectiveness of virtual sales relies heavily on the quality of execution, and an understanding that live meeting practices do not transfer 1:1 to virtual settings.
Here, we explore what sellers must consider to improve buyer engagement and close deals in a challenging market.
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Trust is a big deal
88% of customers stated they believe trust becomes more important in times of changeLinkedIn, Global State of Sales Report, 2022
The key to improving buyer engagement this year will rely heavily on trust. Most organizations will be cautious about spending valuable dollars, and there will be an increased aversion to risk until markets and inflation stabilize. Too often the sales process can feel transactional, with a one-size-fits-all approach – but not this year. Buyers will seek to work with brands and individuals they trust to facilitate an intelligent purchasing decision that solves their problems and/or delivers real ROI.
Don’t confuse building trust with building a relationship. Sure, ideally you want both, but building rapport with a prospect doesn’t necessarily equate to a trusted partnership.
Instead, buyers will be reassured by sellers who clearly understand their business, what they need to achieve and the blockers that prevent them from doing so. They will need to feel confident in their recommendations to the buying committee, even if they are not an expert in the solution. The seller will need to demonstrate their expertise and understanding to gain trust, and put the customer at the centre of a buying journey that is focused on their objectives. A 2022 report reinforces the value of trust, with 87% of business buyers expecting sales reps to act as trusted advisors, but only 61% of business buyers say they generally trust sales reps.
Knowledge is power
Getting to know prospects from the inside out can be resource intensive, and sales teams that adopt this approach may feel nervous about the amount of time they spend on research instead of ‘selling’. But there is nothing to fear. The 2022 State of Sales report from LinkedIn found that top-performing sellers reported spending less time on traditional selling tactics than average performers. By spending more time on prospecting research to get a deep understanding of the business and improve buyer engagement; and updating their CRMs with valuable insights into the buyer committee, these top sellers apply their knowledge to ensure they win more often.
After all, knowledge is power. By becoming an expert in their prospects’ business and its challenges, by utilizing multiple data sources, sellers become the trusted partner to guide the buyer in their decision-making process.
Gaining that knowledge requires an in-depth discovery process that includes the awkward discovery questions that we don’t like to ask. But in doing so, not only will sellers develop a more thorough understanding that builds trust, but they’ll also get the insight needed to effectively drive the deal forward saving time and energy in the long run.
Amp up your discovery
To understand your customer’s pain, utilize these discovery questions:
- How is the economy impacting decisions and priorities?
- What’s the largest business pain the company is experiencing?
- What are the biggest budget asks?
- What are the concerns of the executive team?
- What is the decision-making process and who is involved?
Improve buyer engagement with a summary of their pain points and goals, and use content as the communication tool between both parties, to ensure you’re capturing their needs.
The Sales Experience you offer matters
Buyers now expect a seamless and personalized experience along the entire customer journey, which will in turn reinforce their trust. In virtual sales, connection to buyers is often via an impersonal computer screen, leaving very little time to impress, with buyers left to sort through what’s relevant in a series of emails with attachments about the product, extra services, and pricing. Buyer overwhelm (it’s a thing) can lead to buyer indecision, impacting sales pipeline predictability, win rates and ultimately revenue.
88% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its product or servicesLinkedIn, Global State of Sales Report, 2022
The buyers’ experience through the decision-making process will influence whether they can rely on the seller as a trusted partner, and will likely be viewed as a reflection of the overall brand.
By building a comprehensive understanding of the prospective buyer and their business challenges, sellers arm themselves with the knowledge they need to truly put the buyer at the center of a buying experience that addresses their needs, concerns and expectations. Buyers expect to be enabled with the right information to make an informed decision. Sellers also need to consider whether their buyer contact has the information they need to sell the solution to the buyer committee, even when they are not in the room, and enable them to do so.
Keep it simple
Make it easy for your buyer with readily accessible and relevant information that they can easily share to champion for you internally. Multiple, static documents littered with mistakes not only confuse your prospects, but also dilute confidence in your brand. The rise of digital sales rooms is making it easier and more common to centralise buyer information in one place, making the overall experience better for your buyer. And easier for them to sell internally and champion the deal.
Taking time to impress your buyers with a world-class sales experience, that directly meets their needs and makes it easy to buy, will not only help to turn prospects into customers, but also turn customers into advocates.
Foundations for a successful future
While many sellers will be tempted to overcome challenging quotas in 2023 with a spray-and-pray approach, savvy sales folk will understand the value of building trusted partnerships, even in a virtual environment, that position them as an invaluable resource. As sellers, we may be in for a challenging year but it’s also an opportunity to develop and hone strategic sales skills that set us up for success in 2023 and beyond.
What can you do right now?
- Centralise all your buying material to make it easier for your buyer to distribute. How do you know which attachment they’re sending around?
- Think about the information your buyer needs, and what their stakeholders need. Are you including pricing/ROI info for the CFO? Are you catering for their marketing team? Ask your buyer what it would take to sell this internally and partner with them to create an experience that meets expectations.
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