3 Keys to Effective Sales Teams in the Age of the Informed Buyer

Author: 
Glenton Davis

Today’s consumer has access to more knowledge than ever before, adding a burden to businesses to provide truly innovative products and services — and for sales teams to understand their companies’ offerings in a deep and informed way.

From casual browsing to thorough research, online exploration occurs well before customers meet a salesperson. Even in the B2B space, 74 percent of buyers report doing more than half of their research this way.

Customers arrive informed but eager to engage with an expert. That’s where astute salespeople can make all the difference. More than ever, understanding one’s field is critical to sales success. Let’s take a look at several ways you can make sure your sales teams are providing effective customer service in the internet age.

1. Don’t just know your product — know its ecosystem.

For any problem, numerous solutions exist for consumers or B2B clients. Sometimes they solve one problem and do nothing else, but often they are bundled with a larger platform. It’s challenging to understand the best options for any particular need.

That’s when an astute salesperson shines. Whether it’s a question about how your offering compares to your competitors’ or it’s general enough to fit a particular need, broad and deep knowledge in the product field is critical. Ensure that salespeople have the training necessary to attain that mastery and stay current with a rapidly changing industry.

2. See through your customers’ eyes.

With the intensity of today’s research and development and the excitement surrounding amazing new tech industries, it’s natural for sales teams to filter things only through their companies’ perspectives. But to truly meet customers’ needs, you need to see things through their eyes.

For example, consider industries, such as medicine or education, that have strict regulations on personal data. The key issue may be ease of data analysis from the company perspective, but for these customers, maintaining Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act compliance or student-grade privacy guidelines is critical. And in an era of Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulation, selling to any internet-related business requires a clear and robust knowledge of its regulations.

3. Be a guide, not a hard seller.

The hard sell is simply not compatible with a complex world of new technology across a wide spectrum of options. In fact, it’s the quickest way to turn off customers, even if they were initially interested.

Instead, sales team members should adopt the role of a friendly guide through an often confusing array of jargon, specifications, and other issues. Expect that guiding process to be highly interactive and responsive – never just a replay of what customers can find online. This often will (and should) challenge the savvy of even your most knowledgeable salespeople.

But if you have the right salespeople on board, this should come naturally — because today’s technology is fun to talk about. Just make sure that excitement and “geeking out” is tempered with listening to customers and seeking to understand them. They want to feel heard and understood, never dismissed or bowled over.

 Let Knowledge and Excitement Lead

The only way to ensure your staff has the right mindset about sales knowledge is to publicly prioritize it. Hold interactive workshops with a “there are no stupid questions” rule, emphasizing what’s exciting, fun, confusing, or special about what your team is selling. Make sure everyone is clear and engaged.

With today’s hyper-educated public, it’s more important than ever for salespeople to approach customers and clients with information and a healthy passion for the solutions they offer. It’s not just good for sales, but it also shines the best possible spotlight on your brand.

Glenton Davis is a business strategist of the Global Partner Marketing Channel and Programs at Microsoft. He builds products and programs that drive business growth and profitability in a cloud-first world by representing the voice of approximately 225,000 global partners.