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The October 17th Telarus Tuesday call brought CompTIA Faculty Member, Kathryn Rose to  overview traditional and digital selling strategies that will help the sales team start to form relationships with the right decision makers. The entire recording can be found here.

sales strategy with telarus master agent Your Buyer has Changed

According to Channel economics IT is now consumed more than 80 percent of the time as an operating expense. Because of this, new and different strategies are critical. No one wants to be sold, instead they want to work with people and companies they trust in their business. When you think of a salesperson you probably picture the slicked-back-hair version of the person standing on the used car lot. This is what your prospects see when they think of salespeople as well. The days of fast-talking sales reps are gone. In today’s world of tweets, posts, and reviews,anyone who feels conned into buying something will let other know about it. This will destroy your reputation along with your company’s. Instead of focusing on the sale as the end result try focusing on the relationship you are building. Buyers want relationships, as much as 90 percent of the buying process is done before engaging with a provider. How are you getting noticed?  If you are a sales manager it’s important to pay attention to who you are hiring. Is it the stereotypical salesperson or is it someone who is concerned with long-term gains that are made only through relationships and trust? The method of sales has changed as well, 90 percent of decision makers will not respond to cold calls. You want to make sure you have the right team in place, CompTIA has bucketed four key competency areas for the next generation of sales teams.

4 Quadrants for Success

  • Sales Athlete – have a keen understanding of the sales process, effective qualification and discovery, delivering the right value proposition to the right influencers and decision makers, and closing and maintaining the business. In the recurring revenue model, particularly, It is no longer about a deal but instead about a long term partnership with your customer. We must understand much more about marketing, the online influence and brand affect and how that impacts the sales process.

  • Trusted Advisor Collaboration Acumen – trust has never been as important as it is today to win the sale. So individuals must successfully demonstrate individual trust and inter-organizational trust throughout the sales cycle. In addition, basic skills like follow through and effective listening are as important as ever. Sales makers and leaders must collaborate with partners, suppliers, and customers for successful business outcomes. A critical skill worth calling out in the trust equation is listening. Often in the sales process, sales people jump straight into what their product or solution does, but what does it do for your prospect if you don’t know what their pain points are? It’s always better to let the client tell you what they need.

  • Business Acumen – sales makers and leaders must understand their customers’ business, their strategic plans, their challenges, opportunities and their profit models.  Examples of business acumen include: knowing the internal operations of the client, helping them develop the business case, being able to interact with all decision makers (c-suite and below), and helping the client through the risks and pitfalls of the decision

  • People Leadership – a successful salesperson is the one who ends up being elevated to management but sometimes people thrive as individual contributors on a team yet they are not effective leaders. Being able to both identify and articulate the  qualities of effective leaders as well as developing those leaders is key to your success. People leadership also extends to your prospects and clients. Your sales team must have a high level Industry expertise. It’s imperative to understand the solutions you offer, and how those solutions fit into the bigger picture of IT and the overall organization’s goals.

Building Your Sales Strategy

Once you have clearly identified the skills required for success it’s important to effectively set the sales strategy. Your strategy needs to include the sales model, the sales process, skills, compensation plans and unified company expectations for success. Your sales strategy should include two components.

  1. The defined overall territory, geography, vertical or sales model you have adopted;  this component involves the compensation plan, and the roles of the sales team. You’ll want to define who will cover inside sales and outside sales and what the standard protocol is between the two roles. Are they in competition or support of one another? What role does marketing play into the sales cycle? Clarity on functions and roles is essential for long term business success in an organization.

  2. It is important to identify the sales process. Determine the proper mix of tools your team will use to capture lead generation, sales activity, etc. Once a tool has been decided on, processes and procedures should be established and mandated.

Some of the most important considerations in standardizing tools are:

  • Sales Process Map – this would be utilized as a specific sales process for your company, either an internal process or one of the sales models in the industry.

  • Opportunity Management Process & Percentage to Close – this is the opportunity management process you adopt, which includes your CRM, funnel management discipline and process, and your percent to close definitions.

  • Common Vernacular – definitions that all sales individuals use when discussing the company’s sale process and identifying opportunities through the pipeline. For example, what defines a 20 percent opportunity vs an 80 percent opportunity? Every salesperson should know how to identify these the same way.

Sales Playbooks

To standardize the process, many companies use sales playbooks. The definition of a sales playbook is a collection of tactics or methods that characterize the roles and responsibilities for you and your sales teams. Playbooks lay out clear objectives, identify metrics for measurement, and provide a common value proposition and framework for closing deals for your company. Playbooks are unique to companies and can even be unique for an individual solution. Best-in-class companies always have comprehensive tried-and-true sales playbooks they are evolving as they learn new techniques, and add new products or improve current ones. Effective sales playbooks will have the following content included in them:

  1. Introduction to the business, the company mission/values, and rules of the organization.

  2. Roles of Sales people in the process.

  3. Buyer personas and buyer journeys.

  4. Priorities and time management guidelines.

  5. Products and pricing.

  6. Sales process.

  7. CRM

  8. Commissions and incentives.

  9. Selling model.

  10. Sales metrics and success.

Identifying Prospects

Once you have the plays and playbook outlined it is time to build in the prospecting piece. Here it is critical to know who you’re selling to. Once you’ve defined your ideal customer you can find many prospects for you to target. Perform further research on who they are and who else might be involved in the decision-making process. Many people can be involved in the decision, it’s important to know who these people are and what they need so when you get on a call with the team you can address all of their concerns.

To further identify how your solutions will fit try to envision their pain points. People buy when they are in pain. In any sales process the different types of “pain” your prospect is experiencing will typically fall into one of the these three categories:

  • Technical – Network is too slow, or security issues. Many salespeople get stuck here and immediately launch into their sales pitch: “You have a problem; here’s how I solve it.” If you stop here, you might not get the full picture. You want to ask questions like, “Could you be more specific about the issue?” and “What do you think is causing the problem?” This way you will get to a deeper level of pain you can solve, the more pain points you solve, the more likely you will sell your solution.

  • Business or Financial – How are these technical challenges impacting the bottom line? Start inching toward a budget discussion. If the business’ bottom line is being impacted by the challenge, then they will be more likely to want it solved quickly and you can create value for the prospect.

  • Personal Interest – Many times, people do things for their own personal interest instead of their company’s interests. If a potential buyer has a personal investment in the problem being resolved, maybe they want more visibility or to look like a hero on the project they will be far more likely to want to work together with you to solve it.

So now that you’ve identified the prospects, how can you reach them? A few years back the best way to generate demand for your business was to grab the local phone book and get busy smiling and dialing. Internet has changed everything, especially for sales teams. Two recent survey found that more than 90 percent of decision makers said they never respond to cold calls, the success rate of cold calls to appointments is only 0.3 percent. In other words you would need to make more than 1,600 calls to generate five sales meetings. This is happening because buyers are changing the way they buy just like you are changing the way buy. You need to be engaging with your prospects where they are and that is online through social,  content marketing, and selling strategies.

IDC conducted a study which found that 75 percent of B2B buyers and 84 percent of C-level or vice-president level executives use social media to make purchasing decisions. In the study IDC describes the three stages of a typical B2B purchase:

  1. Early Stage – this includes researching how the business can be improved, determining whether it’s worth investing in a solution and searching for possible alternatives.

  2. Middle Stage – this consists of creating a shortlist of vendors and products. Recommendations from third-party experts are heavily valued at this stage.

  3. Finale Stage – this includes finding answers to questions before they make a decision. This is the stage where buyers find social networks to be most valuable. If your prospects are using social networks during the buying process then it’s important for you to use social media to fill your sales pipeline.

Reps who are riding the social selling wave are outperforming those who don’t. In fact, studies show that sales reps with high social network activity achieve 45 percent more sales opportunities, and are 51 percent more likely to hit their sales quotas. The good news for you is less than 30 percent of companies are actually employing social selling strategies at all, so there is huge opportunity for you and your team.

So, how can you use social selling as part of your sales strategy? The major difference between traditional and social is that traditional selling is a numbers game, social selling is a relationship game. In traditional selling you buy leads, social selling, you create and leverage professional networks. In traditional selling you have limited or no insight into who the prospects are, but you can target key decision makers with social and create a warm introduction environment. What is social selling? Simply put, it’s using social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter to find and engage with your prospects and customers. By interacting with and providing value to your prospects and existing clients through social networks, you are social selling.

Another way to get on your prospect radar is to become a “Thought Leader” in your particular industry. The best way to do that is to create and curate good content that speaks directly to your buyer’s pain points.  According to a study by Demand Gen Report, more than half (51 percent) of B2B buyers rely on content now to research their buying decisions. Decision makers consume at least 5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep. With social selling, the sales and marketing teams need to be aligned like never before. Marketing needs to understand the personas, their pain points and the types of content they consume, and then create it. The sales team needs to research and find articles and content from relevant sites that will bolster their reputation as a trusted advisor. Sharing opinions, wins, solutions, case studies and the like consistently will keep your team and company top of mind. Of course, social selling isn’t just about social media. The whole digital marketing suite is considered the roadmap to social selling success. Once your prospects are engaging with you on social, you send them into the funnel with an eBook or a whitepaper or direct them to your website to “learn more” they can fill out an opt in form and now you can add them to your email marketing drip campaigns to nurture them until they are ready to move into the next phase.  All of these tactics work in concert to get you through to a successful sale. Last, it’s important to know the digital marketing and prospecting laws and regulations in the geography in which you are operating. ICAN spam and other regulations on email marketing can impact your ability to get messages out to your prospects.

The Value Proposition

When deciding on a selling strategy, besides honing in on your ideal client the other most important piece is being able to easily articulate your unique value proposition. Why you? Why should they buy from you and not someone else? Especially in the digital age you must be able to convey this in all of your sales and marketing activities. What is your unique customer value proposition? Customer value proposition is comprised of why the customer buys, and the unique value your solution offers. There are essentially three element to a good value proposition.

  1. Identify the company’s main target.

  2. Specific value the company’s products offer.

  3. How your company meets the individual needs or desires of its customers.

Customer Retention

Acquiring new business is a key element to success and part of a successful strategy but do not forget about retention. Retaining those customers and your current customers can reap large long-term gains in revenue. Gains not only in the revenue they generate, but if they refer new clients you can rapidly fill your pipeline with little effort.

Even though the cost to acquire a new customer is five times higher than retaining older ones, 44 percent of the partners we see put more focus and more money towards new customer acquisition. There are big financial reason to shift your focus from acquisition to retention. One of the reasons is that existing customers are more likely to try new things and spend more money on new solutions. Another reason is that by increasing customer retention by just five percent increases profits by 25 to 95 percent. Here are some retention strategies you can use:

  • Make retention a priority in your organization plan. You’ll want to define who on your team is responsible, what tactics you will use for retention strategies, and how you will implement them. For example, you will need to shift the team’s focus from outbound cold-calling, acquisition themed advertising and marketing, to communications with existing customers.

  • Make sure you send frequent communications. Communicate and establish relationships with as many of the decision-making contacts as you can. This way If someone that is key to your account leaves, you may not have to start all over again. This saves time and money. Simple things like giving them a shout out on LinkedIn when they get a promotion or giving them a recommendation or endorsement can go a long way.  Keep relevant articles or white papers handy that will help them be better at their jobs.  Make sure your team (you can even put it in the sales playbook) knows who is responsible for what communications.

  • You will need a budget shift. Be sure you include enough budget to support retention efforts as much as you have supported acquisition in the past. Focus on service, provide the best service and be the most responsive and you will have a loyal customers. Maybe hold customer events and give awards.

This webinar was provided by CompTIA. For more information about CompTIA, visit their website.