David J. P. Fisher wrote Hyper-Connected Selling to look at how sales are changing because of technology and the new environment. He started in direct sales over 20 years ago. Today, the information is available to our prospects and customers, that they have the power. The information asymmetry that used to favour salespeople now favours buyers, and that’s great because they can go through a lot of their buying journey on their own. As salespeople, we need to become true guides and resources to help buyers have better buying journeys, to make better decisions, faster and reduce risk.
We think we know how to buy a house; there are many variables. It’s not as easy as going to the internet, looking at a bunch of listings and pushing a button. You might do that on Amazon for a small item, but not for a house where there’s a lot of complexity. There’s a lot more complexity in the B2B buying space, people might not have gone down that journey before, and the last thing they want to do is make a mistake. You must position yourself in their minds as the person who can help them do a better job. This, he said, is what being a Sales Sherpa is. Instead of being a gate-crasher, it’s positioning yourself as that expert, that trusted resource who has gone up the mountain before and can take the prospect up the mountain safely, quickly and easily.
It’s tough for salespeople because the one thing that salespeople, sales leaders and managers, don’t like, is thinking they’re not in control. David said some sales professions are gung ho, alpha, take charge kind of people. It’s silly to think this way. In the old day’s salespeople had the information and could control, they’d drop off a brochure which was the only way that a customer could get some information about the new product. These days, buyers are online; they can look at a white paper; they can do all their due diligence. The research shows that they’re doing anywhere from 50 to 80%, of the buying journey, before ever engaging with the salesperson.
David proposes to instead, keep moving forward, even though you’re the guide, you’re guiding from the back. You’re adding value and suggesting options and asking if it makes sense that we work together.
David said the first thing I would tell any seller in COVID19 right now is that every situation is different. Many blanket statements are being made, especially on LinkedIn. There are lots of fun debates right now is a great time to sell, or it’s it a horrible time to sell. The reality is it’s different for all of us. Their context matters greatly. For some industries, this is not a good time to sell period. And for others, it is a fantastic time to sell.
It’s irritating to David to hear so many sales gurus, talk about how empathy is important right now because I’m like when wasn’t it? Does takes a pandemic, to think that empathy and being a human is important? But there’s a lot of truth here, no matter what kind of industry you’re in if you’re going to engage if you’re going to prospect if you’re going to talk with your existing clients, use some empathy. Don’t ignore the fact that there’s a lot of stuff going on right now.
It’s about having an empathetic human to human conversation, and then understanding the nuance. Salespeople aren’t always good at nuance. We must learn because they might have said something that triggers a holy cow – I shouldn’t move forward. If this person is talking about working from home, they’ve got four kids in the background, their business might be doing layoffs, and you’re going to try to pitch them? You’re not at the top of their list right now. Maybe say, suggests David, should I check in with you next week? Or, does it make sense for us to keep talking about this project? They might say Yes, great. In addition to empathy, it’s just real conversation and listening. Where are you at? Where does it make sense?
David talks a lot about relationship building. Don’t worry about being interesting. Just be interested. Because when you do that, people will gravitate towards you. If you want to get people to like you and engage with you, David said, just pay attention.
If you think about sales being about influencing people, said David, it’s the old school sales adage, people do business with people they know, like and trust. If you don’t have those things, I don’t care what you’re selling said, David. I’m probably not going to do business with you if I can’t trust you. And how do we decide if we trust people? We like people – there’s some shared interest or at least some shared bridge, and then you can make some stuff happen – for sure.