Throughout my career, I have been on both sides of the sales process, as a buyer and as a seller. As a buyer, I’ve observed that salespeople whom I admire most share this one characteristic, and I’ve found it effective in convincing me to do business with them. Put simply, I have always respected a salesperson who had the ability to teach me something. I’m not talking about a salesperson who could recite all the features and benefits of the product or service, but rather someone who presented himself or herself as a knowledgeable subject matter expert.
At its core, a sales pitch is an opportunity to show customers how your products and services will help them achieve their goals. What better way to show customers how you can help solve their problems than by teaching them something? If you’re able to teach customers, they will naturally be more likely to want to learn more about the value of your products and services.
As you think about ways to improve your sales communications, here are some steps you can take to educate current and future customers.
Become a subject matter expert.
Learning everything you can about the market you’re working in is the first step to becoming a credible authority. Attend the conferences and trade shows your customers attend. Read the trade journals, research reports and blogs your customers and prospects read. Follow and engage with industry influencers on social media. This type of behavior is a prerequisite for any salesperson who aspires to be a true partner to their customer.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes.
If your customers think you’re just in it for the quick sale, they’ll be less likely to believe in you and your company. Invest the time to educate yourself on all aspects of the customers’ business. Learn what keeps them up at night. If you’re empathetic about the customers’ problems, you’ll have a crystal ball into their needs and expectations.
Tell customers something they don’t know.
To strike a chord with customers, offer useful information. While you probably have a fancy presentation deck about your company and its products, push it to the side and lead with valuable educational content (white papers, research reports, articles, how-to guides, etc.) that demonstrate your unique perspective.
Show the customer how you can help.
Your customers are being inundated with messages about products that claim to be the solution to all of their problems. How can you separate your message from the pack? Host meetings and webinars to walk your customers through the latest research findings and case studies supporting your product. A success story that is backed by data will bring your message to life in an educational and memorable way. Engage your customers with questions and make it interactive.
Nurture the relationship.
Be relevant and consistent with the delivery of your educational content. If you have knowledge you can share about a timely issue, get that information to customers before they have a chance to ask you for it. If you get in to the habit of anticipating customer needs, you’ll become a valued resource they can always count on.
Learn from your customers.
Each time you engage with a customer, it’s an opportunity for you to learn something, too. Over time, you’ll be able to pick up on the common challenges and pain points of customers. This collective insight should help you to address current and future needs.
Almost every day I hear from a salesperson who is trying to sell me something. While the product may be different, it often sounds like everyone is reading from the exact same sales script. If you want to stand out from the crowd, save the aggressive call-to-action tactics for later and lead with some useful information that can move a customer’s business forward. Be a subject matter expert who is known for sharing knowledge to help customers make the most informed buying decision possible.
You have to earn your customers’ business by showing up for them each and every day. If you can demonstrate that you care about their business and want to help them succeed, you will earn their business, trust and loyalty. You’ll close the deal, live up to your promise and become so much more than just a vendor — you’ll be a partner.
Here’s the one thing you can do to move beyond a quick sale and into a long-term partnership.