Editor’s Note: Ah, Sales, the aforementioned “S” word. In GreenBook’s mission to connect research users with service suppliers, we’ve seen first hand how Sales can either lead a company to success or make prospects cringe. That’s why I’m so excited that we are kicking off a series on the “S” word, specifically written for insights and analytics professionals. Simon Arrowsmith, a masterful consultant and storyteller, is bringing new thinking to you, our valued readers. Enjoy this piece and our subsequent articles, and change your mindset!
The data and insights industry is a competitive space. And it’s only getting more challenging, whether you’re a full service research firms or a ResTech disruptor. Selling your products and services is obviously crucial, but are you making the best of all your resources? Are you connecting to customers in the way they want? Are you thinking differently about the “S” word?
This series will focus on the new world of sales. A world where customers are savvy, are onto the old selling “tricks”, and are looking for a different approach. A world where your sales team isn’t a slick set of suits who live by the mantra, “always be closing!” Nope. In fact, this series should really be called the “S” words, plural. Because it’s about a world where every single person in your organization is in sales, where your service speaks loudest, and where your story is everything.
A Mindset Shift
Think about a memorable poor sales experience you had. What made it unacceptable? Was the sales assistant disinterested, reading a script? Maybe they were overly eager, too quick to sell and move on to the next in line? Did they pass judgement on your needs without really exploring them? Or were they just plain rude?
Now think about the last time you engaged in a truly positive sales transaction, perhaps at a local retail outlet. You were likely already looking for a product or group of products. Did a sales representative welcome you to the store? They may have shown you various options based on the information you provided. Maybe they explored the benefits of one item over another. Did they lead you or allow you to lead, taking note of the cues and data you offered to match you to the best purchase?
We’ve been led to believe that B2C sales are significantly different from B2B. And while of course there are variations, essentially a purchase decision is being made. And it’s being made by a human. A human that wants to be heard, to be understood. A human that is looking for a connection more than a transaction. Yes, even in B2B.
A B2B connection could be a range of things. It could be based on association – does this new business relationship feel right? Do creative agencies choose MacBooks over a PC laptops because of their capabilities or the association the Apple brand has with creativity? The connection could also be about the perception of trust. There’s that old business adage, “no one ever got fired for hiring IBM.” If I buy from this brand, I can only look good to my company – I’ve reduced the risk. Or the connection could be relationship – the feeling that you’re partnering with the right people, people that will make you look good or perform better.
Buying is emotional. In our B2B bubble we need to shift our thinking to match. We need to sell data services, research technology, or insights in a more emotional way.
The Secret is Service
The methods we need to start developing all involve providing a better service. They’re consultative. They’re about making the customer successful.
Client success is not a new idea, but the term itself seems to have embedded itself into the consciousness of sales and marketing teams. ResTech firms in particular have adopted the term from their Tech brethren to describe a role as well as a process. And it looks like other data and insights teams are following suit. We give each other titles such as Account Manager, Development Specialist, or Relationship Manager, for example. It’s almost as if we’re running sacred of the word sales.
But these roles are different. They’re built around the idea that finding the right solution for a new or existing client is key. They fuse the role of salesperson with service specialist. This connection needs to be nurtured and fed to achieve stronger sales results. The needs of customers have changed and smart sales teams are changing too. But the smartest have seen that the sales team is only the beginning.
“It’s time to reset the sales narrative. To find ways to reinforce the human connection between you and your customers, and generate amazing results.“
We’re all in Sales Now
Whether we like it or not we’re all part of the selling process. That’s right. In reality we are all on the sales team now. Once a client has been onboarded and working with their contact within the organization, the data analyst or research team for example, the act of selling is still ongoing. The problem is that the teams that carry out these functions aren’t equipped with the sales tools to understand and make ongoing sales success. And for many in services roles, they don’t want to: I’m not in sales, I’m an expert, a specialist. I don’t want to practice the Dark Art of persuasion.
Fear around the word “sales” probably comes from the cultural associations we have with it. From the toxic environment of Glengarry Glen Ross to the tired cliché of the Used Car Salesman. The “sales team” brand never stood a chance. And to be honest I’ve seen my fair share or teams that adopt some of the more unhelpful behaviors in the traditional sales world. It’s no wonder people run scared and don’t want to be “in sales.”
The good news is that the skills needed for selling in 2023 are the same skills required to provide excellent, specialist customer support. And, in truth, they’re actually the skills that the best sales people have already adopted.
The (Not That) New Skills of Selling
Our journey in this series is going to weave its way through the hills and valleys of selling skills. Throughout, I hope you’ll see how, with a few simple changes, you can shift closer towards a service-led sales focus.
We’ll be exploring the value of trust and how rapport is the first part of client success. We’ll look at how you can build an effective narrative that meets the needs of your potential and existing customers – focusing on how they see the world and where you can connect to that. We’ll look at how to structure connections to make the strongest and most memorable impact with clients. And we’ll also explore the importance of remembering that, in amongst all this data and machine learning, we’re still humans connecting to other humans.
It all comes down to the things we pay attention to and the actions we take. It’s time to reset the sales narrative. To find ways to reinforce the human connection between you and your customers, and generate amazing results.
Welcome to the “S” word.