As a thought leader selling solutions to enterprise sales leaders, Penny Herscher often gets asked about the trends that she sees in some of the world’s largest enterprise sales teams. Recently, a request came through with just one question: What is the most important shift in sales strategy, technology or process that you’ve implemented or observed in the past year?
Penny shared what she hears the most from our own customers, many of whom are themselves senior sales leaders at Fortune 500 companies. The insight that came to the forefront was that, in order to be successful and grow your business, you need to build trusted relationships with customers that bring real value. The buyer wants to know that you, as a seller, truly understand their pain points and their business needs. They don’t care about all the bells and whistles of the product—they care about what value it will bring to their business. This all but requires that you, and your product, provide year-round value to them—and the only way you can do that is to become intimately knowledgeable about their business. Of course, to do that successfully and stay productive, sales teams need the right tools that provide real-time insights to solve the business problems customers have.
Penny Herscher was featured this week in ringDNA’s 20 Top Sales Leaders Reveal Their Biggest Productivity Secrets. There are many other great sales thought leaders and practitioners who are quoted as well. Read on and learn from the best!
The e-book is available for download here: http://firstrain.it/1erdrl9
Humans respond to narratives, and we are more likely to retain information when it comes packaged in a story; so, storytelling is one of the greatest tools in the sales and marketing toolbox to engage your customers.
In a video from Marketo called “Lead Generation Tips from 6 Really Really Smart Human Beings,” Lee Odden, founder of TopRank Online Marketing said, “Facts tell. Stories sell.” This is the kind of catchphrase you should write down on a post-it-note and stick on your computer monitor—it’s that important. You can use statistics about your product as a selling point, but your prospect’s eyes may glaze over. However, tie these numbers up in a compelling tale about how your product completely turned a business around in its time of need, and you are much more likely to grab their full attention. Numbers make people nod, but stories make them care—and people are more likely to invest in something they care about.
Do Background Research
In the same video from Marketo, Nick Westergaard, chief brand strategist and founder of Driven Digital, said, “Questions are currency.” In other words, what marketers really need to do is identify what their potential client’s questions are and provide an answer before the prospect even thinks to ask. But how do you do that? You do a whole lot of customer research: determine what’s going on in their markets and use big data analytics to get a sense of their industry climate. When you know your audience, you’ll understand what kinds of stories make them tick.
Where Do You Tell Your Stories?
If you haven’t noticed, narratives are pervasive in our culture. That’s because they work well, no matter what medium you use to tell them, be it podcast, text or video. Using them in sales pitches can be extremely effective too. When it comes to digital marketing, video is a pretty safe bet. Internet video is a huge part of marketing and unlikely to go away anytime soon. When it comes to sending a succinct, effective message, video is a medium unlike any other. Make a video to use on a landing page or share on social media.
How Do You Tell Your Stories?
Once you choose a vehicle for your brand story, it’s all about creating a narrative that will sell. The important thing is that it contains all the right elements to engage with the audience. According to Forbes, it’s important to create characters that your clients will root for. After all, a story without a protagonist isn’t much of a story at all. Make sure it’s someone with issues that will resonate with your audience. Remember in grade school when you learned that a story has a beginning, middle and an end? That’s still true. Don’t forget to craft a story arc. In the beginning, present a stable situation, which then gets upset by the introduction of a problem that your product will solve for them.
When we talk about stories in marketing, we’re not talking about fiction. Your stories should be rooted in real encounters. This may sound less interesting than writing the great American novel, but using real events actually makes the whole process easier. You probably have an entire file full of client success stories. Think about one of these sales from the company’s perspective. Rather than just being a percentage point in a sales record, this situation is a story waiting to be told.
Whether you are making a pitch, creating a video or e-book, basing your marketing and sales efforts in stories is the way to go.
Navigating social media without analytics is like crossing the ocean without stars.
No self-respecting ancient mariner, or night-migrating bird for that matter, would try to cross from Knossos to Delos without use of the stars. The ocean is too large, and full, and dark.
But sales people are trying to follow their B2B customers on Twitter without the stars. They load up users and keywords into excellent B2C support apps like Hootsuite or Radian6, but still miss their destination because they can’t navigate the business developments by following people. To understand how your customer’s business, and so your target, is changing, you need to be navigating through all of Twitter and extracting out the B2B business trends buffeting your prospect.
That takes analytics. Analytics that process every tweet and figure out its meaning, in real time. Analytics that figure out whether it is relevant to you. Does it match your personal interests, does it have meaning to your business and your strategy, whether or not the keywords you put in are matched?
That’s what we’re doing at FirstRain; it’s all very personal. We analyze Twitter the way a Minoan navigator would study the stars 10,000 years ago. We’re finding you the path through Twitter’s ocean to get to your ultimate destination: revenue growth.
How’s your current sales model treating you? Is the sales funnel failing to produce legitimate results? It could be because you haven’t updated it for the 21st century. In this digital landscape, more companies are generating their leads from social media, and, in some cases, turning the traditional sales funnel on its head. Read on to learn how to be more dynamic in the social realm.
Learn From Larger Brands
A recent report from Simply Measured found that the most successful brands worldwide tend to tweet frequently. While it’s not surprising that these large brands have a higher following than smaller businesses, they also tend to be far more engaged with social media than peers in the small-business sector. Of the Interbrand Top 100 Brands, 98 percent tweeted at least once a day during the fourth quarter of 2013, while more than half of smaller companies didn’t tweet every day. There is a relationship between engagement and frequency of posts, and every business can benefit from being more engaged.
Engage Your Customers for Maximum Returns
The most successful companies know that when you engage with customers, they will do a lot of your work for you. According to ClickZ, re-thinking the funnel to include social media can revolutionize the sales cycle. Getting clients to advocate for you is a great way to gain new business; there’s no better place for them to share their experiences than through social networks like Facebook and Twitter. You can even use these platforms to gauge new marketing methods. Try throwing out some questions to your captive audience. How did they find your company in the first place? If they found you through word of mouth, you should be focusing your efforts on customer retention.
Identifying Sales Opportunities with Social Platforms
Platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook can enhance the sales funnel in other ways as well. For instance, social media is optimal for lead generation. According to Jeff Kalter on Business 2 Community, a website alone is not enough to generate interest. Some enterprises are disappointed in the lack of leads they are getting from their Web presence, but this can usually be improved dramatically by strategic use of social networking. Promote your blog entries on Twitter and Facebook. If you’re lucky, your followers may share your media as well. Just make sure your presence isn’t entirely geared toward self-promotion. Share information posted by other people, and it’s more likely others will share your original content.
Optimize Your Funnel for Social Media Lead Generation
First, you have to choose one or two channels to work with. Depending on the size of your company, you should probably keep it to just one or two, at least in the beginning. Doing some customer research can help determine which platforms to use. Media companies tend to excel on Twitter, while more visually-oriented brands can do well on Pinterest. Are you in the business-to-business sphere? You may want to start with LinkedIn.
If you already have a Facebook or Twitter page, take a look at your platform from the customer’s point of view. In an article for Social Media Examiner, Nichole Kelly suggests that you make it as easy as possible for potential buyers to make a conversion. For instance, when people do find you on Facebook or LinkedIn, do they have to search around the platform to find a link to your site? Rather than making them jump around, have a clear call to action, you will create more leads.
Segment Your Leads
Kelly suggests that leads found through social media should be nurtured differently. Social media users may enter the sales funnel earlier in the buying process than other leads, so you have to be careful with how you treat them. Don’t immediately ply them with information they won’t need. Create a segment on your email marketing campaign list for leads found on social media. Send them useful information that will help guide them in the eventual decision-making process.
When it comes to landing a sale, there’s just one concept that sales reps need to know. Make it easy for your prospects to say yes. Henry David Thoreau got it right when he famously wrote these three words: “simplify, simplify, simplify.” Although that’s technically only one word, and if Thoreau was really following his own advice, he wouldn’t have repeated it three times.
According to Executive Board, making the decision process easier for customers makes them far more likely to buy. Brands that simplified the undertaking were 86 percent more likely to close a deal, and more than 100 percent more likely to be recommended. All because these brands removed any elements that distracted clients from their main goal: determining if the product would solve their problem.
How is This Achieved?
Essentially, being a resource for this information reduces the amount of thinking your potential customer is forced to do. It makes it easy for them to say yes. And, of course, you’re doing this through completely honest means, and not trying to dupe them into buying your product when it is not, in fact, the best choice for them.
Use these tips to make the sales process more straightforward and increase sales:
If you’re truly making the sales funnel easier to navigate, you are going to have to do a lot of research on behalf of your potential customers. Research customer markets using sales intelligence software and get a better idea of what’s going on in their industries. Use this information to empathize with your customers. Why are they seeking your services? What problem are you going to help them solve?
As Michael Boyette puts it on Salesforce Blog, simplifying things for your prospects does not mean being condescending. Buyers are usually very smart people, and highly intelligent individuals tend to get bogged down in details, which can be overwhelming. One way to reduce the noise for potential customers to get rid of jargony language. Don’t speak with it and don’t include it on any materials. This may be a good exercise for salespeople, as well. How many words does your sales pitch take? Are all of these words truly necessary to get your point across? Do any of them have more than four syllables? Try to use layman’s terms that are comprehensible across different fields.
Streamline Your Online Materials
Prevent sensory overload by having an easily navigable website with an obvious call to action. According to Ellie Mirman on Hubspot, this could mean actually getting rid of a few calls to action. They don’t need to jump out on every page. With your website, you should provide a clear pathway to the information users need. Once again, a little customer research goes a long way here. Use customer intelligence analytics to understand your customer. Rather than telling your potential buyers what you want them to know, try reversing the equation. If you were a decision-maker seeking your services, what information would you be looking for. Reorganize the website based on this perspective and you will have made the research process easier for prospective customers as well.
Be an Open Book
Pricing information shouldn’t be a secret. This is a key piece of information for people looking to buy a product. As has already been noted, you’re dealing with smart people here. If they can’t find the answer to this question, they will probably assume the number isn’t obvious because it’s unattractive.
Unclutter the sales journey, and you may be pleasantly surprised by the results
by Penny Herscher, CEO
It’s Valentine’s Day. The media is advertising flowers and movies, Facebook is filled with sweet sentiments&emdash;but me, I’m working. And, in a moment of curiosity, I plug “Valentine” into FirstRain.
Now, you probably know that FirstRain is a personal business analytics system. For the companies and markets you care about: your customers, your markets, your competition, the market trends impacting your go-to-market. Powerful, insightful, real-time … everything I tell my customers.
Behind all our powerful data science are the fun use cases too. Wine, vacation trends and now, Love.
Key market drivers on Valentine’s Day? Weddings, flowers, gold, diamonds, chocolate and… STDs!
What’s one sure-fire way to improve sales productivity? Work on developing a rapport with your prospective buyers. Yes, you want your clients to like you, but that’s not necessarily what rapport means. As Anthony Iannarino explains it on The Sales Blog:
“Rapport isn’t ‘I like you.’ Rapport is ‘I am like you.’”
This word implies a mutual understanding and an ease of communication. If that doesn’t sound like the typical relationship your salespeople have with potential clients, they may need to work on developing empathy. There are several steps that go into developing this kind of trusting relationship.
What Does Your Customer Want?
With the customer research tools available today, it’s easy to discover what your customer needs. Take a look at some big data analytics and determine what’s happening out there in the potential client’s market. What are the big events and potential problems? Part of being a good resource for clients is having an in-depth understanding of what they do.
Trust Your Customer
It’s important to have some faith in your potential client. Salespeople can be often be condescending when discussing customers, but this is exactly the wrong kind of attitude to have. Often, sales reps have a low opinion of clients, believing that they lie or they’re uninformed. These preconceptions have a major impact on how salespeople interact with potential clients one on one, according to Dave Brock for his Partners in Excellence blog. In order to be a great salesperson, you have to understand that client buyers are people who make mistakes. They may not tell you the truth every time, however, this is likely because they’re misinformed, not because they’re trying to mislead you. To be a trusted resource, you have to be able to connect with these individuals as people, not just buyers.
Be a Good Listener
So, you have the background details that you got from your customer intelligence research. That’s great, but these numbers don’t always tell the whole story. You need a real person to fill in the blanks. Don’t assume you know everything about your customer’s market. Use the data you do know to ask pointed questions. Listening to the answers is what will earn you trust, not telling your potential client something they already know. Use their answers to guide the conversation.
Meet Them on Their Turf
Let your potential client determine how you will communicate. This doesn’t just mean the channel, which you should also take into consideration. It means their conversational style, says Selling Power. Do they like to start out a conversation with small talk, or get right into the meat of things? Are they laid back or chatty? Matching their energy is another good way to build rapport.
Smile and Be Funny
When it comes to customer service, smiling is one of the oldest rules in the book. While business-to-business often seems radically different from say, a restaurant, some parts are still the same. To a certain extent, people are programmed to mirror the emotions we see in others. Your smiling face should be the first thing the prospect sees. You don’t have to grin like an idiot the entire time, just be happy to see them. Humor is also a good icebreaker. Don’t go overboard with the knock-knock jokes, but be affable. Being self-effacing also portrays some vulnerability, which goes a long way in establishing rapport, according to Iannarino.
With a little empathy, you can gain the trust of your prospects, paving the way towards a mutually beneficial relationship. It all starts with building rapport.
Don’t fall into a drab routine with your marketing efforts. While they may be working just fine, if you’re in a rut, you’re sure not inspiring anyone. Rev up your promotional game this winter and introduce some creativity into your marketing campaigns. Customers need a little extra to keep them going, so by making their day more interesting, you may improve sales productivity as well.
Start Out with Some Research
Don’t pour too many resources into a new campaign without doing some customer research first. All good promotional initiatives start with customer intelligence. Plug back into your potential buyer’s market and see what’s going on. What social networks do your ideal customers tend to frequent? Is there a big event that you can use for some timely content? Do the legwork and you’re likely to come up with some great ideas for how to swing a new campaign.
Throw in a Cartoon
Cartoons are incredibly engaging. According to Stu Heinecke for Salesforce, studies demonstrate that cartoons tend to be the most memorable part of a publication. Using cutting humor, a one panel cartoon can say a lot about a product or service. In addition, they can be fantastic tools for engagement, as The New Yorker consistently demonstrates with its caption contest. As of April 2011, 502,416 individuals had submitted 1,595,506 captions, according to The New Yorker. And the contest is still going strong. Not only is the competition fun, but it increases engagement with the publication. Heinecke also says that using a cartoon in an email campaign can double open rates. This is a relatively easy way to spice up a campaign, so why not give it a try?
Try Out Vine
Vine is no longer brand new, and it’s arguably a dying art now that Instagram does videos. On the other hand, Vine still integrates better with Twitter than Instagram does, which makes it an excellent tool. Even better, vines can be embedded in blogs, which makes them easy to share on all kinds of platforms. What is Vine? It’s a six-second video that loops infinitely. This all may sound very strange to the uninitiated, but just like Twitter, the space limitation has made it a unique medium for creative types to play around with. Because it’s so short, it’s also ideal for marketers. Show your creativity with stop-motion animation, or just demonstrate what’s going on behind the scenes at your company. The short length almost guarantees that people will watch it, and you’d be surprised what you can do in that amount of time. If you don’t believe me, check out Econsultancy’s list of the best branded vines from this month.
Business to consumer companies have been all about experience-based marketing for a long time. However, as social media becomes a greater influence, marketers are looking for ways to involve the consumer in marketing once again. B2B enterprises don’t always have the same opportunities to be face to face with potential customers in the sort of playful environment that’s conducive to this kind of marketing. However, trade shows are a great place to try out some innovative ideas. According to B2B Marketing, one of the key ideas is creating an immersive experience. Show potential buyers something they’ve never seen before. With new technologies, this is easier than ever. For example, a corporate car distributor sent executives on a cruise in a 19th century ship, without ever leaving shore. Using 180 degree projection screens, the company created an alternate reality where the visitors appeared to be inside the ship watching the sea.
It’s not every day that you get to work alongside a real life saving hero, but thanks to one of our brave employees, here at FirstRain it has now become a daily occurrence. We are extremely proud of Aaron Shiansky, one of our Sales Engineers, who was honored on Monday by San Francisco mayor Ed Lee. On January 19, Aaron jumped into the San Francisco Bay to save a tourist who fell off the pier.
The woman, a professor from Taiwan, was taking pictures when she tripped and fell into the water. Aaron’s lifeguard training (and bravery!) came in handy: he, along with two other good samaritans, jumped in and saved the woman’s life. After remaining in the hospital in a coma for a few days, the woman is thankfully now recovering in Taiwan. She and her family have said that Aaron will always have a place to stay in Taiwan.
The original story of Aaron’s heroics is here: “Good Samaritan Describes Rescue after Tourist Falls in SF Bay”. And coverage of the award ceremony here: “Men Honored for Rescuing Woman in SF Bay”
Great job, Aaron!
This article by Penny Herscher was posted this morning on the salesforce.com blog. See the original here.
A recent David Williams Forbes article, Why You Should Fill Your Company With Athletes, highlighted seven traits to look for when hiring. David didn’t mean that you should hire only real athletes, but rather, try to hire employees that have “athlete traits that make any individual an exceptional hire.” With the winter games off to an exciting start, and many of our own fiscal years starting up, sales teams are looking to be fast out of the gate. There are many lessons sales teams learn from the best winter athletes in the world.
What traits do athletes have that can translate to sales? Quite a few, actually. Athletes, especially Olympic-caliber ones, are very driven. They know that they have to put in the work at practice to see results in the games—and sometimes that means practices every day, or twice a day. Moreover, they have a never-say-die attitude, and they know how to work through adversity to see results. Managers should try to find salespeople who put in the time and work to prepare for client meetings. Chances are, they’ll be more successful.
The best athletes focus on the smallest aspects of their sport. They know, for instance, that anything that isn’t streamlined during the ski jump can subtract precious tenths of a meter. They have impeccable timing, whether it’s changing positions mid-air, or releasing the puck. And world-class curlers know exactly how much force to put behind the stone. Salespeople have to show the same attention to detail in their accounts. To be truly successful, they should strive to be intimately acquainted with every aspect of their accounts. The smallest event, or hint of an emerging trend, can be the key to making or losing the sale.
Lastly, the best athletes have the best equipment available. In fact, they need the top-of-the-line gear so they don’t fall behind their competition. Even if one person is an inherently better athlete than another, a slight edge in aerodynamics can mean the difference between the gold medal and 10th place.
Of course, the same is true in sales. How can you expect your salespeople to be the best and achieve world-class results if you don’t equip them with good tools—or any tools at all? In order to succeed, they need to be able to have a deep view of their clients’ business and markets. They need to be given the opportunity to react to a management change, or a market shift, and if they have to sift through all of the noise that’s on the Web, there’s a good chance they’ll miss it, or never get to it at all.
As a hiring manager, you need to look for salespeople who are driven and dedicated, but are also creative, detail-oriented, and have finesse. Once you’ve assembled your team, you have a responsibility as a manager to give them the tools they need to be successful. The right people will use the right tools wisely and move the needle for your business.
What can each of the winter sports teach your sales team? Check out the infographic below to find out!