If you don’t understand your buyer today, you’re never going to be able to reach them. Just because it’s easier to find buyers through social channels like LinkedIn or Twitter, it doesn’t mean they’re going to listen to you. After all, they don’t even know who you are.
In traditional sales methodology, individual sales professionals would typically reach out and talk all about themselves. Hey Mr. Buyer, here’s a whole bunch of information about my product, my service, all the things that it can do and all the things it does for other clients. Are you interested?
This actually goes against a fundamental principle of human psychology and communication called The Law of Reciprocity. I’ve mentioned this before in a number of posts. It’s very important that sales professionals fundamentally understand The Law of Reciprocity because, simply stated, it means: I am more likely to provide value to you if you have first provided value to me.
There’s lots of different contexts this very simplified version of law of reciprocity can have within the sales process. If we look at that principle compared to traditional methodology, traditional sales methodology was working against human psychology and the psychology of our buyer. I’m reaching out with information all about me. Can I have your value? I haven’t provided you any value up front and I’m asking you for value, ie your time by way of discovery call, maybe even a demo, maybe even a proposal review, right? I’m asking for your time and value without having really delivered you anything.
What we see as more successful is the modern sales approach. When you first seek to provide value to a buyer and spark up a conversation based on their interests, you’re significantly more likely to get a response. Why? Because that buyer then has already received value from you, and based on the Law of Reciprocity, they will want to reciprocate that.
Know Thy Buyer: Do Your Research
For us to start off a value-driven relationship we must first know what our buyer deems valuable. In order to find out that crucial information, we need to identify core areas of value and interest that our buyer has. Every single one of us has them both professionally and personally.
Professionally, I’m very interested in social selling and sales best practises, digital marketing best practises, industry trends, growth, new strategies and innovation. If someone approaches me with value, something that I didn’t know or that peaked my interest, I would be likely to engage with them in a conversation.
Personally, I’m interested in things like skiing, scuba diving, rugby, green technology, renewable resources, charitable organizations and entrepreneurial ventures. I would be more likely to engage with someone who used these topics to reach out than if they used a needle in haystack approach leading with information about their solutions.
To lead with value, we need to be able to analyze in a very quick and concise manner the information we have available to us about our buyers from places like:
Their LinkedIn profile.
Their company profile both on LinkedIn and on other social websites.
Their company website. Maybe they even have a bio depending on what level of decision maker they are.
Mentions in blog posts, videos and press releases.
Content they’re sharing.
If someone is sharing content, they’re not doing it simply for the sake of clicking the share button, they’re doing it to grow response and corporate engagement. They want to see people in their network and in the marketplace are deeming the things they share valuable.
These places provide us with many opportunities to analyze the information we have at hand about our buyers in this modern selling landscape. And there’s an order we can leverage points of value and interest for discussion topics.
Points of Contact
First off, we want to identify if we have any common connections with our buyer. Do we know any people in common? If we’re a second-degree with them on LinkedIn that means we have at least one person in the network, which means mentioning their name may provoke a positive response and ability to connect with our buyer or potentially leveraging that person for an introduction. We can use common connections to get in front of our buyer.
Likewise, do we have any common connections among our work history or client base? Have we maybe worked at some of the same companies? Has our buyers worked at companies that we’re now working with? These are again commonalities and connections that we can leverage to help separate ourselves from the stereotypical sales professional.
We operate under a lot of prejudice as a sales professional. The last 20 years of bulldog, pushy, hard-sell tactics used by old-school sales professionals have not been kind to our reputation. Now that doesn’t ring true for the majority of us in today’s buyer/seller relationship. But nevertheless, many people out there hold that negative idea of a stereotypical sales professional.
We need to use things like commonalities, connections and similar interests to break down these barriers and present ourselves as a human with real value to offer, rather than a stereotypical sales professional only interested in the bottom line.
b) Common interests
In a second tier of commonalities, we can look for common interests. Do we have any common interests based on the online presence of this buyer we can analyze? Things like:
Bios on maybe a website as well as their social activity.
Are they sharing information?
Are they writing blog posts on their company blog or on LinkedIn publisher?
Are they sharing content through social channels that we can potentially have conversations about?
Thirdly, we’re looking for any commonalities around alumni. Did we go to the same university? I recently spoke with someone who closed a $250,000 opportunity based on a conversation he started about a college football team. He and the decision maker both rooted for that team because they went to the same college.
That individual sent the decision maker a LinkedIn message something along the lines of “Go Devils.” It peaked the buyer's interest. They sparked a conversation around a common interest, and sure enough it lead to a business conversation and a $250,000 win for this individual over something that was seemingly not important.
Lastly, do we have any relevant information to provide around this person’s industry or area of expertise? Can we find information on an industry trend or a competitor’s strategy? Can we find information that pertains to their particular area of expertise? Maybe they’re a marketing or sales professional in an insurance business. Can we do a little bit of research and find a valuable ebook, blog post or YouTube video that could serve as a backbone to the conversation?
Another Way In
If we have gone through these potential commonalities and have not found any, we have a decision to make. We can one, simply find another prospect because as we know, not all decision makers are created equal. Some decision makers are easier to get in touch with based on our levels of commonality and their online presence. CEB estimates the average B2B decision-making group includes 5.4 buyers. Some of them you may share more commonality with than others and therefore those will be your best way into the organization. Once comfortable with those individuals, leverage them as a way into the rest of the organization.
Second option is to socially surround the prospect. Maybe you’re working with an SMB, and the CEO is the only person in the organization you can work with. You’re having a difficult time identifying commonalities. Socially surrounding increases the amount of future information you have on that individual. If you are following them on LinkedIn, Twitter and create other alerts with different tools, you can then maximize your visibility. Maybe two, four weeks down the road, this CEO is mentioned in a press release, shares a piece of content or joins the network of someone who you directly know.
Maximizing your visibility of these individuals’ online activity is going to help you get a foot in the door with them by utilizing trigger-based selling tactics.
In summary, commonalities are what helps separate us from our stereotypes that we all carry around as sales professionals. They help us break down the barriers of communication. And by providing value based on what we know of our buyer, we’re more likely to get a positive response from them.