Editor’s Note: For all of our partners with an insights industry product, platform, or service to sell, please read this piece. Simon talks about doing your homework rather than sending out emails that just won’t land with potential clients. So consider this a part of that homework, your first assignment is to read every word. Meanwhile, in case you missed it, check out Part 1 of this series focused on helping insights professionals begin to navigate sales in our world: The “S” Word – Part 1: Who’s afraid of the big bad “S”?
Many of us have been there. Conference season. We sign up to attend the next fantastic event. We add our details to the delegate information. We press enter. And then we brace ourselves. We know it’s coming. We just know. Not when exactly, but we know for certain it’ll happen. We hold our breath and wait. For the onslaught. The email avalanche. The call bombardment. The sales assault!
Sales folks: guilty as charged? It can be tempting to grab that delegate list (or any lead list for that matter) and start launching missiles.
“Make sure to come see us at Stand 54.”
“You’ll want to hear all about our new research product.”
“Sign up for our demo.”
“The keg party starts at 8pm.”
“Clients like you are already talking to us about our fantastic data!”
Delete! Delete! Delete!
Not only will our message fail to land, but we may well have done some serious damage to our reputation and the chance of creating a strong connection. While this post focuses on selling services, the tools explored here are just as relevant to internal insights teams trying to sell in their data and ideas.
The Savvy Customer
Our clients aren’t dumb. They know their stuff. And they’re more savvy about sales and marketing techniques than ever. Chances are our customers are in sales and marketing professionally or work within those teams in our organizations.
They don’t want our stuff. They don’t want our unsolicited information, our opinions, our invites. (Okay, maybe the keg party might get some interest.) But honestly, how we go about these types of sales contacts matters. If you read the first blog in this series you’ll know it’s all about connection. Human to human connection. And a copy and paste email sent to all delegates just isn’t going to cut it.
The Reality is Rapport
Trust isn’t given, it’s earned. And you have to build it. Brick by brick, step by step.
When we communicate with new and existing customers we go through a series of stages. To build a solid connection with a potential customer we have to take each stage one at a time. Skip any one at your peril!
Here’s how the stages of rapport work:
- Stage one – ritual and routine. This is all about the simple greetings and customs of your customer’s culture. It’s a hello, a virtual or actual hand shake. This is where the lizard brain buried inside your head uses its pre-historic wiring to sus out the other person. Can I trust them? Are they a threat?
- Stage two – data, facts, and information. This stage is all about what’s known, the things that can be proven. There are no adjectives at here, nothing is “fantastic” or “effective” etc.
- Stage three – thoughts and opinions. This is where you add your qualifying and descriptive language. Let the other person know the way your think, and your beliefs.
- Stage four – feelings and emotions. Build on your thinking, adding more emotion to the messaging. Let them see why your beliefs matter.
- Stage five – authentic openness. You’ve reached your destination. You’re ready for a genuine, honest conversation.
I’ll say it again – skip a stage at your peril. We need to move up the stages at the same time as our customer. To build trust at each stage before we can move on to the next. But let’s be honest, most sales calls and emails jump straight in at stage three or four. Why is that and how can we stop ourselves from doing it?
Research folks, do your research
Service-led selling starts with understanding your audience. So we have to get under the customer’s skin a little. Even if it’s just a five minute review of their LinkedIn profile. Do we really know what the appeal of our product or service will be for them? Can we see a need that they can’t? Can we frame this need in a way that connects to their world, to what they actually do?
We have to do our homework before we make contact. If we’re unable to find much information, or are still unsure, we can start by asking questions rather than making statements. There’s great power when we engage someone with genuine curiosity. But it has to be genuine. It has to come from a place of exploration. Always keep in mind: is our service, or technology, our product something that can actually help this person?
Avoid the As: Assumption and Annoyance
Do you know what happens when you assume? If not, look it up. But there’s nothing that will get me to delete an email quicker than a sender who I doesn’t know anything about me. Making all kinds of assumptions about me and my needs. They’ve jumped to stage three and four.
“Service-led selling starts with understanding your audience.”
The typical statements we see are:
- “You don’t want to miss out on this great opportunity!” Don’t I? How do you know? Delete.
- “My calendar is open next Wednesday, book a time that works for you.” Is it? That’s nice for you. I’m busy. Delete.
- “We work with hundreds of business like yours.” Oh, so I’m not a unique customer for you? I’m just lumped in with all the others? Delete.
The focus here is on email, but it would be the same in a call. No progressing to stage three or four without permission from the customer. A clear signal that they’re ready and willing to talk in more detail. To know more.
If assumption is bad, being annoying to a potential client is worse. There are all sorts of ways sales teams can be perceived as annoying. It might be their over persistence or their refusal to take no for an answer. Their eagerness to move faster than their client contact. Or it could be something as simple as a cheesy cringe-making style in the way they introduce themselves and what they offer.
We need to give customers space and allow them to define the speed limits. You can nudge at those limits, but do you want to ruin a hard won relationship by pushing too hard? Sales in the research and insights industry is often a long game. If you’re getting the cold shoulder then recognize that and move on to your next potential sale.
Selling requires us to be resilient. To keep going. But it also requires us to be in tune with the needs of our clients. What they want and how they want it. It requires us to be human. So take it one step at a time. Follow the stages and align yourself to your client. And forge lasting connections that lead to long term insights, research, and data par.