With most sales channels still online these days, it can be difficult to get through to prospects when hundreds of other companies are in their inboxes. However, just because sales has gone virtual doesn’t mean your approach has to evolve.
The best salespeople aren’t sellers. They’re givers – they treat the sales landscape as a sharing economy.
Authentic connection is sorely needed in the volatile virtual business world. We’re not just businesses selling to businesses, after all. We’re people talking to people. When you prioritize building relationships over simply closing deals, the business outcomes will follow. That’s because people recognize the value you provide through trustworthy partnership.
That has always been true, but the tactics have changed alongside digital transformation. Read on for three ways sales leaders can strengthen relationships with prospects virtually.
Align with marketing to create thought leadership campaigns. To build trust and brand affinity with your prospects – before you talk about selling anything – be helpful. Set your prospects up with actionable information to help them better navigate a problem, with or without your product.
Positioning your brand as a trustworthy, consultative source can extend conversations with prospective buyers and lead to higher conversions: according to a LinkedIn and Edelman survey of business decision makers, 45 percent reported that thought leadership has directly led them to do business with a company.
Thought leadership is an effective sales strategy because it grows awareness and trust among people who might not be ready to consider a purchase. With long sales cycles and high investments especially, educating a new audience is key.
One great way to develop thought leadership virtually is through a webinar or panel, where you can share your company’s expertise with prospects without the expectation of product interest. The silver lining of the pandemic is that webinars and other virtual events open up access to anyone in the world, no travel time or expenses necessary, so you can expand your reach.
But planning these campaigns requires you to connect with marketing at the outset. What kinds of questions have your prospects or clients been asking you about? Bring those topics to your marketing team to guide planning so that you can execute an event that’s truly insightful.
Beyond events, sales leaders can provide valuable information through thought leadership by sharing articles, company insights, and other relevant resources to prospects.
This requires you to be present and keep your prospects’ needs and interests in mind as you engage with news from your industry. Sales leaders can also coordinate with marketing teams on email and other direct engagement campaigns to share this curated knowledge on a larger scale.
Introduce prospects to people in your network. Information isn’t the only value you can provide in the early-stage sales process. Sales leaders sit on a vast network of connections they’ve made across industries and jobs.
Just as you keep your eyes peeled for relevant resources to share with prospects, be on the lookout for when you can make a meaningful introduction to someone in your own network.
The introduction might be for something completely unrelated to your product or company. That’s okay. The important thing is to show that you’re thinking of your prospect and are invested in their success beyond making a sale.
For instance, your prospect might have told you on an intro sales call that they’ve also been struggling with their CRM platform, but you’re representing a cloud solutions provider. Luckily, you’ve worked with a number of CRM experts. In a follow-up email, intro one of your CRM solutions contacts to that prospect and let them take it from there.
This strategy may not pay off immediately, but your prospect will take note of your thoughtful act and keep you in mind when they are ready to talk seriously about your product.
Grow your prospect base by deepening relationships with current customers. To increase your odds of finding referrals and getting an in with a coveted prospect, look no further than the connections you already have. Your current customers are an excellent resource for finding new prospects.
But to do this, you’ll still need to focus on being helpful and present with your customers.
Gifting is a meaningful way to connect with customers at important milestones like a one-year partnership anniversary or a personal event like a wedding. Sending a gift of celebration or appreciation at these moments shows your customers how much you value their partnership, which will help keep your relationship top of mind.
It has been difficult to send gifts during the pandemic with so many employees working remotely. A thoughtful physical gift like your customer’s favorite food is a good choice if you are able to mail the gift to an office address, but if you don’t have one, consider these digital-friendly alternatives:
- A voucher or gift certificate to your customer’s favorite restaurant or activity
- A donation on your customer’s behalf to an organization they support
- A virtual outing like an Airbnb Experience
Always include a note explaining why you chose the gift. That note allows you to begin a conversation with your customer and opens up the possibility to ask if your customer knows anyone in need of your services.
These kinds of small gestures build goodwill and camaraderie. When your customer genuinely enjoys working with you, they may feel more inclined to introduce you to someone in their network with a sincere recommendation.
Success Hinges on Strong Relationships
Winning and converting prospects online is a long game. That’s because it takes time to build relationships with people and earn their trust before you walk them through a demo. And it takes even longer when you can’t meet in person.
By sharing knowledge, connections, and joy with prospects and customers alike, you demonstrate that you care about the people who buy from your company beyond just the point of sale. It’ll take forethought and dedication, but it’ll be well worth it for your business in the long run.