I have to thank Kevin Gaither for my discovery of AudioBooks this week. Last year at AA-ISP Leadership Summit, Kevin and I were talking about the difficulty of running our AA-ISP chapter meetings in the #1 & #2 most traffic congested/longest commute cities in North America (Kevin in L.A. and myself in Toronto). Kevin was talking about this new book "The Challenger Sale" and how it's completely opened his eyes to viewing his sales team differently. I joked that I have an extensive sales book library - all half read.
He then told me about his commute between L.A. and Encino, California each morning, that hasn't gone wasted with Howard Stern and top 10 radio. Kevin has been downloading books onto his phone and CRUSHING his consumption of sales information. The light bulb hit me over the head and cracked, why wasn’t I doing the exact same thing? Nine months later (give me some slack, I got busy), I downloaded Audible to my Samsung, and have digested The Challenger Sale & Blue Ocean Strategy in a few days. I now have the time to digest 1 new sales book every week! Think about my sales knowledge by 2014!
I pose this question for sales reps that are struggling to open doors and connect with prospects. If you're a newish sales rep, and questioning yourself on "how the hell is a CFO or CIO going to take me seriously?" or "how can I make my LinkedIn profile demonstrate I'm a creditable resource"... This blog is for you.
Your buyer (whether a CFO, CIO, CMO) has spent the last 20+ years working in their field, perfecting their understanding of their function in the organization. They are ill-impressed with sales reps that make vague, high-level comments (that sound like giant clichés) and/or LinkedIn, Twitter, email messages that have content that's dead basic. For our buyer persona (CSO, VP of Sales) there are still many that need to understand "what is Social Selling", but they are really interested in "what is the potential opportunity cost of not using a Social Proximity model in their lead gen flow by2015". Back to your buyer persona, the way your buyer became a CIO/CFO is by having a deep rooted set of Knowledge & Insight into their role, and they expect you to have the same about their industry and challenges.
If you haven't read "The Challenger Sale", download and listen to it. You'll have a true appreciation of how buyers are looking for you to TEACH, EDUCATE and provide valuable insight on how can help them with their business challenges that they may or may not even be aware of.
The more I grow as a sales professional, the more I've come to realize that my greatest asset (and most powerful currency) is Knowledge & Insight. VP's of Sales buy from us because they believe our knowledge base on Social Selling is unparalleled. That trust though, begins very early on in the sales process. You as a sales rep need to understand that your ability to bring challenging, fresh ideas to your buyer is what's going to separate you from that 100th cold call with vague purpose.
What can you do to grow your Knowledge & Insights?
1. Identify Blogs via LinkedIn Skills & Twitter Lists
Blogs are the essence of thought-provoking content, written to help buyer’s think differently. I love to read Fast Company & Inc. Magazine, but most of the articles neglect to push the envelope. They are also not unique (in sending this to your prospect as something they haven’t seen). Instead, do the following:
- Go to LinkedIn Skills (under News) and look up skills your buyers have. Not CFO or CIO, but skills they've added on their profile that are unique to being a CFO. An example for Vice-President of HR is "Global Mobility", "Time & Attendance", "Payroll", "Human Capital"... These are the unique skills a top-notch VP of HR would possess. Once you're inside a skill in LinkedIn, it maps out "Top Professionals" for you. These are the leaders and influencers that VP's of HR emulate. Look at their profiles for blogs and/or articles they are curating in their Activity Feed. This juicy information is what gets a VP of HR to think hard about their current business. These are all fundamentals of Social Selling, finding or creating valuable insights that you can share socially that creates a Priority Shift in your buyer’s head.
- Map out these sales influencers and industry leaders in Twitter.
Twitter is an amazing source for great articles. Go onto the profiles of leaders and influencers that YOUR BUYER would find interesting, and look at their content. Also dive into their Lists to see if they've already created a "Top CFO's" or "HR Leaders to Follow" list. You can also look up these lists independently.
2. Start listening to books that YOUR BUYER would read!
Reading sales books are great, for your baseline knowledge to enhance your career, but your buyer DOES NOT CARE about sales models! Mine does (I sell to sales leaders) but most likely you sell to CEO's, CFO's, CIO's. Start identifying books that talk about the innovations in their world, you'll be amazed at the next-level conversations you'll have. The most important stage any buyer will go through in assessing you is "Do I or Don't I feel she has been me before... Does she really understand what I go through each day"?
Now if you're 25, you will never be able to empathize with your buyers 20+ years of experience (don't even try). Instead, be able to talk beyond their fundamental understanding of where their function/industry is heading. Be able to have conversations with your buyer that get them to ask you "wow, where did you hear that?" Don't necessarily take for granted that you're sales manager has given you THEIR prospective of what a CFO thinks about, most likely they've never been a CFO either. Take the initiative to get to understand your CFO buyer, past the few key buzzwords that your sales manager gave you to sell your product.
The Bottom Line
If you don’t want to be left behind the 8 ball – you really need to start to take action. The following blog posts on utilizing Social Selling strategies using LinkedIn can help you start. If you are really looking for some hidden gems on how you can attract a very specific prospect, I recommend you check out – 42 LinkedIn Tips
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