In the business-to-business (B2B) realm, a disconnection often exists between what customers desire from sales representatives and what sales managers seek in prospective hires. Regrettably, I observe this chasm expanding.
This disconnection is problematic, especially when a customer-first philosophy, which aligns with customers' preferences, is in place. In this piece, I delve into what I perceive as the four most valuable attributes a sales representative can possess in 2023.
Here are the top four attributes that customers desire from their salespeople and suggestions on how to integrate them:
Statistics suggest that prospects contribute merely 25% to the conversation during an average sales call. If this is true, isn't it obvious why customers yearn to be heard? Active listening is a trait that customers covet. The reason is simple - they long to be understood.
Customers and sales managers alike highlight problem-solving as one of the most crucial attributes of a salesperson. However, a sales representative must thoroughly comprehend the issue or challenge to resolve it or propose an appropriate solution.
Selling to today's customers involves more than merely showcasing your expertise. It is about listening attentively to their needs and convincingly demonstrating that you can fulfil them.
Active listening is crucial in any thriving sales strategy in the present customer landscape. It's the gateway to sales success in the future. Yet, it is more intricate than just processing someone's words.
There's a consensus between customers and salespeople that successful salespeople excel at problem-solving. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that sales managers prioritise this when recruiting reps.
Sales managers often need to be more accurate in identifying the problem. They sometimes view problem-solving as surmounting reasons for the prospect's resistance to purchase, overlooking the customers' concerns and devising a solution.
The art of problem-solving isn't about sidestepping objections; it's about demonstrating and proving that your product, solution or service can address the customer's issue or requirement.
The first step towards effective problem-solving is asking insightful questions, provided you understand how to use the responses. Sales reps should ask profound questions that target the root of what's hindering prospects and customers rather than superficial questions that can be easily self-answered.
Problem-solving is more intricate than mere arithmetic. It demands knowledge, diligence, commitment, and practice. So, your sales representatives need to be able to sharpen their problem-solving techniques.
Interestingly, customers often cite confidence as an essential trait for an effective sales rep, while fewer sales managers mention it. This should be the inverse.
However, it is sensible when considering the other attributes customers prefer. For a customer, confidence doesn't just imply confidence in selling skills; it signals confidence in resolving the customer's issue, need, or challenge.
After attentively listening to your buyer, present your proposed solution with assurance. Elucidate why your product will address the buyer's problem, need, or challenge. If salespeople exude confidence in problem-solving, buyers will be convinced they can resolve their issues.
Confidence is a skill that your sales representatives need to nurture.
Establishing a relationship is vital for prospecting and closing on the sales side and for customers. For your customers, your sales representatives should never be sales reps. Instead, they should serve as the customer's liaison with the company, their troubleshooter, and advocate. Most customers characterise the sales reps they eventually do business with as trusted advisors.
A genuine relationship forms the basis of trust and advocacy. A few years back, customers might have listed attributes they value in sales reps. However, this is a new era of buying and selling, with more empowered customers than ever before.
Their priorities and preferences are evolving, and as a seller, it is imperative to adapt accordingly.
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You can read this article in Swedish on Onlineguiden.