Legendary author, salesman and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once famously said,
You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.
Anyone who has been a champion salesperson will agree: the more attention you put on helping your prospect, the better and faster a sale will go. At the very least it means selling a product or service that provides tangible benefit to prospects and customers.
But in today’s world of social selling, it goes much further. Today help has become the keystone of insight selling. It’s rather ironic that the more high-tech we become, the more activities like sales are reverting to “genuine and real.”
There are some basic natural laws at work here. If you recall the last time you actually helped someone, it probably felt pretty good. This is because people are actually wired to help–it’s a natural instinct, and ultimately one of the most satisfying activities you can undertake. In sales helping is also extremely wise. The arc of a business relationship is a long-term investment. That investment relies, in the end, on the amount of help put into it.
Become an Expert
The salesperson of yesterday learned just enough about a product or service, and just enough about a prospect’s usual needs or issues, to give a solid pitch. It was rather hit-or-miss, and the good ones obviously had more hits than misses.
Today that pitch will likely get you little to nothing. Today a prospect is exploring your product—and those of your competitors—online. They’re forming an opinion and are well on their way to a buying decision before ever contacting a salesperson. In other words, by the time you hear their voice for the first time, that old standby pitch is probably not going to cut it.
Today you need to make yourself expert in everything having to do with your marketplace. It of course means your product or service. But far more importantly, it means learning every detail of what your prospect company does, what issues they encounter, how your product or service addresses those issues, and what your ideal buyer looks like. More broadly it means learning all about the industry, current events within it and what they mean, how government regulations affect it, and how the industry as a whole operates. It also means learning all about your competition–their strengths, their weaknesses, where your product surpasses it– and equally as important, where it doesn’t.
It means learning about your prospect’s or customer’s pain and uncovering it–even when they might not know something is a “pain,” As stated in The Challenger Sale by sales expert and author Matthew Dixon, you want to make them say: “I never thought of it that way.”
First, Think Social
In the world of social selling, the first and probably most important level of application of that knowledge is through social media interaction. Your prospect or customer is everywhere on social. You have to play where they are.
Get on Facebook, on LinkedIn, on Twitter, into groups in which your potential prospects take part. Offer sound advice. Make yourself a trusted expert in your field.
Let’s say you sell call accounting software. You would start by looking around social media platforms for groups discussing the various issues of call accounting. You enter into conversations on Twitter, answer questions posed on Quora, and interact with members of these groups on LinkedIn. It is best if you do this without ever mentioning that you sell call accounting software—in fact most such online groups don’t allow product promotion anyway. So in that respect you’re selling yourself–your personal brand–not your product.
But if you genuinely provide help and make yourself a trusted expert, to whom will these people turn when shopping for call accounting software? Someone they trust. And so you must make yourself that person. That is the power of social.
Listening Pays Off
Probably the most important part of this formula is active listening. In the past a salesperson was all too willing to jump right in there with that pitch. Where prospects have been upset by salespeople, that was often the reason: the salesperson didn’t take the time to find out who that prospect really was and how the product would help them—or even if it would. The same is obviously true with a prospect company. If you don’t take the time to learn all about them and their issues and become too anxious to make your pitch before you have, that is very likely a lost sale.
Going back to the call accounting example, let us say you’ve made first contact with a potential buyer. You should first ask probing questions about the company, its operation, why call accounting is needed at all, what application they currently use and why they might be looking for a new one.
Once you have all this data in hand, you will then know how to skew your pitch to actually help them and show them how you can solve their unique needs. You’ll know which features of your call accounting offering to push, and what advantages you offer to them over their current application and over your competition.
Of course, behind all this must be your actual intention and willingness to help. This can’t be faked, folks: if you don’t truly want to help your prospect, you won’t get to first base.
But given a good a thorough understanding of your product, a good measure of homework, a comprehensive understanding of the industry and, last but certainly not least, a capacity for listening, you can then help your prospects.
And if you’re helping, you’re selling.
A Few Helpful Links:
- Adjusting the Progressive Pipeline
- 4 Steps to Improve Sales Performance Management
- How to Motivate Your Sales Team