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When Trust Is Not Enough in Sales

Editor’s Note:  We are putting the final touches on our next ebook – Predictions 2013:  What’s In Store For Sales, Marketing and Big Data In 2013?  The ebook features predictions from over 20 industry thought leaders.  Today’s post come from Colleen Francis of Engage Selling.  Check out predictions from Jonathan Farrington and Andrew Gaffney.  Stay tuned for the full ebook. 

Advocates will say that the benefit of Big Data is that it organizes disparate sources of information to allow us to target better, be smarter about our business and make better decisions.

For sales people, I’m not sure that will be a benefit in 2013.  Why? More data. And more options. And more decision points.  And a more complex matrixed decision committee. And more opinions. Equals one confused buyer, longer sales cycles and more losses.

While we can’t ignore Big Data, we do have to learn to sell differently in spite of it. This is the transformation I see smart companies making in 2013.

For many years, developing trust and rapport was considered the hallmark of a great sales process. Driving sales required exposing your sales team to a maximum number of prospects and developing trust and rapport with those prospects. Important is not the exposure, but the relationship.

The theory has always been that, all things being equal, if a prospect trusts you more than another potential supplier, when the time comes for them to make a purchase, you’ve won their business. But today, just knowing, liking and trusting a potential supplier is not enough. It’s important that the prospect also sees you as an expert in their business. One that they can trust not only personally but professionally to guide them through their purchase and future business problems.

In 2013 buyers will consider expertise an essential element in any purchasing decision.

So how do you add that element to your sales process, especially with a team focused on selling? And how do you demonstrate that expertise to your clients and prospects?

It’s often difficult to motivate sales reps to focus on developing expertise when they want to develop relationships, but the two can go hand in hand. If your team has developed expertise through their experience in the industry and the problems your clients want to solve, it’s essential that you demonstrate it and prove it to your clients.

Buyers seek proof of your expertise in order to mitigate the risk they take on in making a purchase with you. That proof goes beyond just your word that your team is experienced and well-versed in the issues your clients face. Motivate your sales team to undertake activities that demonstrate your expertise and help to build their network at the same time.  Here are three profitable ideas:

  1. Encourage your team to develop case studies around client success stories that demonstrate your company’s understanding of common and specific client problems and how your solutions address it.
  2. Gather testimonials from satisfied customers about the care and knowledge that your team puts into customer care.
  3. Provide opportunities for your team to demonstrate their knowledge through industry articles, speaking engagements, teleseminars and webinars that put them directly in front of your prospects with an opportunity to get to know your company outside the sales process.

Once you’ve established proof of your expertise, it’s possible to elevate your sales further by focusing on who knows you, as opposed to who you know. There’s a subtle difference in these two concepts. Instead of making calls and being proactive in your outreach, focus on getting yourself out there in many different ways.

Make yourself ubiquitous.

Your prospects should see you everywhere, from social media to events, sales strategies and other approaches to the marketplace. Seeing you everywhere within their market draws customers to you. By providing exposure outside the traditional sales process, you introduce prospects to your solutions and your team in the places they trust and frequent, which is an opportunity to build rapport, trust and proof of expertise.

Written by

Colleen Francis
August 20, 2014