Consumer buying habits have changed. Customer no longer find you in the yellow pages of a fat phone book. They have the technology in their pockets to find and research you and your competitors online. They are numbed to hard-sell techniques and annoyed by obtrusive advertising. Your marketing department knows this. To generate solid leads, they work a strategic plan of brand development and content marketing.

When a prospect reaches the bottom of the marketing funnel, responding to a CTA, placing a call to your company or filling out a contact form, that lead is passed off to sales. What do your salespeople do with those leads? While making a sale is still the goal, the role of the sales rep has changed from that of a company-centric promoter to a consumer-friendly advisor. Keep these concepts in mind when closing in on a deal.

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Focus on the buyer’s needs and not yourself

You may be the best in your industry. You may have established a stellar reputation over decades of doing business, but consumers don’t care about your company, and many are skeptical about claims in an environment where anyone can create a website full of fact-free boasts. You are not selling a product; you are selling solutions.

When you follow through on leads, whether through email, snail-mail or phone, your main message is, “We know your problems. We have solutions for you.” Your marketing department knows your target’s pain points. Be prepared with solutions before you pick up the phone.

Become the go-to advisor

Your goal is to build a relationship with your prospects. To do this, you need to understand their goals and the obstacles they face attempting to reach those goals. You are then in a position to offer advice.

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Three-step formula to success

  • Listen to your prospects concerns. They may be typical for the industry, but each business or individual has a unique set of circumstances that you must consider. Ask questions to encourage your prospects to elaborate with their own experiences.
  • Diagnose their problems. What is causing these issues?
  • Be an educator. This is where the sales rep-advisor brings his or her industry experience into play and can suggest how your company can help solve problems.

Go above and beyond

Social media and online review sites have changed the marketing landscape. A December 2016 survey by Fan & Fuel Digital Marketing found that 97 percent of consumers factor online reviews into their purchasing decisions. It’s not enough to close a sale, you need your customers to spread the word. Merely meeting the terms of a deal isn’t enough. You must exceed expectations if you want to turn customers into advocates. Focus on improving consumers’ experiences with your company. Follow up on sales by seeking consumer feedback and quickly resolving any problems. Throwing in a referral incentive may help build a loyal following.

To successfully navigate the new marketplace, you need a sales force that understands your company vision and the culture of your customers’ personas. Sales reps need to have listening skills and know how to build trust in an age of skepticism. Focus training on these points, and you’ll be crushing those sales goals.


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This article was written by Gillian Burdett for CBS Small Business Pulse