In the previous chapter, we covered the vital necessity of patience in social selling. We pointed out that social selling steps may appear passive, when in fact they’re anything but that. Salespeople need to learn this patience well if they are to succeed at social selling—and sales managers must allow them the time and space to do so.
Now we should cover something that has always been necessary, but today it merits a different kind of attention: focusing on the buyer.
What do we know about the buyer today? Due to the evolution of the internet, we’ve seen a radical change in buyer behavior; social networks have become an integral part of the buyer’s journey. Long before they ever contact a sales rep from your organization, they’re (virtually) out there reading independent product reviews, interacting with your customers, finding out for themselves what your product or service might do for their company.
If there’s one thing you can say about change, it is constant. Hence as the buyer’s journey evolves further, we can expect to see further changes. For example, every buyer in the B2B sphere is also a consumer, and the online consumer shopping experience has given rise to expectations that all purchasing interactions should be frictionless. “Easy to do business with,” “highly responsive,” “great service and great price”—these used to be competitive differentiators. Now, they are nothing more than table stakes, and buyers expect and require them in order for us to be in the game
In another example, buyers only purchase from those, in the end, that they trust. In a 2014 study, United Sales Resources found that 50.1% of buyers said that “trust” was the number one driver for their purchasing decision amongst like providers. We’ve seen many examples of how this trust is earned through social media interaction and through demonstration of salesperson expertise, great products, and great service. This trend will continue to spread and solidify all across B2B business.
These are obvious examples of changes that have come about that will, more likely than not, remain with us and become even more apparent in the buyer journey. But where else might this journey be headed?
Continuing Buyer Research
We could speculate endlessly—and sales pundits around the world no doubt will, just as they always have. But speculation won’t help your sales force move further ahead and become increasingly efficient. That takes understanding. And it now comes back to you, the sales manager, to help provide your team with that understanding.
First, you can talk directly to your customers about their buying habits, and lead the way for your salespeople to do the same. As a sales manager you can simply do one of those famous, “I’m just checking up on our service” type calls, and while you’re at it, ask them about some of their buying habits today. Are there new social media channels they’re checking out? Where are they turning for data? To whom are they listening? What do they expect from a company like yours, in terms of provision of help and information prior to a purchase? What are they doing now that they weren’t doing a year ago?
You can even host events for your customers, at which you can garner this kind of data. You can, of course, host online events as well.
Then, make sure to get your salespeople up and running on these same kinds of questions. You obviously wouldn’t want them doing this while they’re trying to close a deal—but afterwards, why not? They will likely want to check in on their customers anyway, from time to time. It’s how future sales are made. And it can be as simple as a quick email.
At the same time, you as a sales manager should be watching general buying trends. There will be articles about them, and additionally you can peek in at forums and online groups, listening and asking questions, as well. Of course, there is always the personal interaction at conferences, trade shows and the like—and dinners or after-hours gatherings at such events are great places for data collection.
A Pivotal Role
Remember, you as a sales manager are a leader. This doesn’t mean that you are just leading the team in helping and pushing them to make their numbers—it also means you are leading the way in forging new trails, discovering new trends and even creating some. Helping the team stay on top of buying patterns certainly fits in with this role, and will ensure your team is always forging ahead and remaining successful.