Why Salespeople Need to Invest In Strategy and Brand

josh the manufacturing show

SalesReach CEO Josh Fedie was on The Manufacturing Show to share some tactical advice for sellers on maintaining partnerships and the importance of personal brand. He broke down why the buying experience is the reason reps win better business.

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“Enabling Sales to Land Partnerships in Manufacturing”

To kick things off, we’ll start by acknowledging the massive shift going on right now in the manufacturing industry, sellers are finding it increasingly hard to meet the expectations of the modern buyer.

More and more buyers are coming to sellers with very specific questions. They’re more informed and already know most of what the typical salesperson has to say. Today a buyer wants to know a lot more about the implications, next steps, and unique use cases before making a big purchase.

Salespeople in all industries should know that this has big implications because now the degree to which they’re able to succeed has more to do with their ability to develop partnerships than pitch.

Salespeople need double-down, triple-down, maybe go all-in on two really critical things. That’s strategic advice and branding.

What’s more important, salespeople can’t rely on the marketing team, or the agency, or the company at-large to provide those things to them.

To build partnerships with their potential customers and clients salespeople need to offer strategic advice through two methods: creating content and during the limited time they have with the buyer. Over time sellers will develop a personal brand experience that will lead to better deals and increased revenue.

Why salespeople should become strategists

Shifting your mindset from ‘always be selling’ to that of a strategist is really a response to the market and what buyers want today.

Actually, buyers hate being sold to. Many reps know that the tighter you hold the sale in your hand the more it will slip through your fingers.

5-10 years ago working in sales was awesome because salespeople could sit back hile the buyer did all their own research, went to the website, and identified their problems—all the things salespeople used to help them with, but are no longer needed for early on.

Well-informed, qualified, and ready to buy customers would just show up in the queue. Making sales was fun (for salespeople).

For the customer, it was not a great experience because they were in a funnel. A funnel is a business tool and does nothing for the customer. Those who look at funnel see a lead go in, a sale happen, a customer comes out and then that’s the end of the story as far as most were concerned.

To create a better experience for your customers, put down the funnel.

Buyers want to hold on to that all-access-pass they had before they became a customer. In too many cases customers are being told no, actually, you can’t have that, you have to go back and talk to sales, or it doesn’t work that way, or our process is this.

Salespeople cannot just sit and sell anymore they really need to advise on the next right steps and make sense of the purchase to the buyer and maintain partnerships either personally or through a proxy.

To accommodate the demand for a higher quality sales experience requires a strategic mindset and a sense-making approach. Someone who can explain to the buyer what comes next and can sort through the environment of the problem to find root causes and offer prescriptive advice. Otherwise: churn, clawbacks, bad reviews, returns, and etc.

This new type of relationship between the strategist and the buyer begins way sooner than previously thought. Practicing a good funnel would have a salesperson coming in after being designated as a marketing qualified lead (MQL), moving forward that’s just not going to work.

Why the MQL isn’t useful in sales anymore

The term MQL is another business tool that makes little sense to the customer and usually provides an unnecessary impediment to an otherwise good buying experience.

MQLs have become a far less useful metric because buyers have developed different purchasing preferences. This has much to do with the disruptive experiences being offered from some of the best brands today.

Where this gets interesting for sellers has to do with time.

Buyers spend just 17% of their time meeting with suppliers — so if there are three potential suppliers, each gets only about 5% of a customer’s time.

An MQL is an indicator that is mostly based upon behavior. An MQL model asks, what actions did the buyer make that can indicate to the salesperson how likely the buyer is ready to purchase right now?

The great middle of the cliche sales process, the MQL is kinda dead. People interact online, they watch videos, they check out your content, and then they get handed off to somebody and the sale kinda gets lost… It’s not until [the buyer] tells you they’re ready to buy that they actually do. They come from this great digital experience to a bad voicemail from a salesperson with no value only it will always go ignored.

Todd Hockenberry, Author of The Inbound Organization + Host of The Manufacturing Show

The MQL playbook is a clunky experience for your buyer. Instead of ‘just checking in’ when a qualified lead enters the queue salespeople need to be way earlier in the experience by providing valuable content and support.

Buyers are nearly 60% complete with the purchasing process before having a serious engagement with a salesperson.

inbound organization book
The Inbound Organization by Todd Hockenberry

The MQL is not as useful as it used to be however salespeople have more control over the sales process than they did when they relied on marketing to qualify all leads. Now sellers who are thinking more like strategists can play a bigger role earlier in the customer’s purchasing process.

Salespeople have a role in marketing and this means changing up the sales process a little bit. Instead of keeping all of your content to yourself waiting for a customer to walk up and ask you for it, salespeople need to make the connection sooner.

The trap of the ‘hodgepodged sales cycle’

What does your sales process look like? I bet it looks something like this:

  1. The prospect reaches out
  2. They ask you to send them some more information
  3. So you open up your email to dig around for a handful of .pdfs
  4. It’s too many things you can fit in one email, so you send a couple of emails
  5. Maybe you need to attach a file that’s so big you can’t email it so you open up a Dropbox or something
  6. Upload that giant pitch deck into the sharing service for them
  7. You send each resource as it’s requested of you, they call you answer

They asked for something and you answered but what does that look like the buyer or the 5-7 people who need to review that information before making a deal?

In most situations like this, the salesperson is not talking to the person with the ultimate authority. This makes sense, it’s hard to identify that person because only 25% of the time is a buyer interested in talking about authority and budget on the first call.

Typically the buyer you’re talking to needs to present the information to additional stakeholders at the organization for review. Everything is sent over as individual emails and throughout a long sales cycle, things start to pile up.

Then, when you’re waiting with anticipation to hear back—how many times is this the next and only thing you hear back, “Hey, can you resend that thing?”

People buy from people they like and they like people who make it easy to do business with them. Most salespeople don’t even know they were doing anything wrong: they called, you answered.

How to get out of the mindset of the call and answer

They asked me to send a proposal. I sent it. They asked me to send testimonials or references, I sent those things, but what does that do for your brand? How does that solidify who you are, the experience of working with your brand? It really does nothing.

SalesReach CEO, Josh Fedie on “The Manufacturing Show”

We have to get out of that mindset of the call and answer. To do so salespeople should focus more on their personal brand. They should take a step back and ask themselves, ‘once I send this over, what will the experience be? How will I stand out?’

Too many sellers assume that buyers know what the process should be, that they know all the steps they need to take to fix the problem they have.

Sure, buyers have control over learning and gathering information on different vendors and solutions but they often don’t know what the change process should be, all the steps involved with going from point A to point B.

The sale is just one step in a long journey and with that buyers need help.

Specifically, they need salespeople to hold off on sending that quote and negotiating price and instead help them see the offering in the context of their problem and what comes next.

A little story from Todd Hockenberry:

The first time I ever had a title like the VP of Sales, I was 30-something and I was all excited—look at me I got the title.

The first week I had the job the CEO called me. He was a grizzled old sales vet and he had spent many years in my seat and he had called to ask me how my week was going.

I said, “Great, we sent out this quote, we did that, numbers were up and—”

He interrupted me and said, “Son. We don’t sell quotes here.”

I never forgot that just because really, just because you’re sending out quotes does not mean you’re being successful.

That’s the experience many salespeople have been offering, the call and answer—the reactionary short term focus. It really makes sense considering what we hear in sales all the time: the buyer doesn’t want to be sold to.

Salespeople stand to benefit way more by getting out of the sales-as-it-always-has-been mindset, they call I answer playbook and take a note from marketing.

Salespeople are very close to the customer, they get to talk about problems and solutions all day with customers. The value the salesperson can add to the experience a customer has with a brand can be very impactful.

First, focus on your brand and the content you can provide real value by creating content and sharing to your channels and be there for the customer as they’re looking for solutions. Developing your personal brand over time will become an asset.

Second, think more strategically about the next interaction. The quote should get sent, for sure, but does it need to be sent right now? What else could help the buyer at this stage? Be the guide you customer needs to make sense of the situation and better understand what happens after the sale.

The result will be stronger partnerships in your industry and shape the perception people have about you from the salesperson with something to sell to a strategic partner with a solution and a plan.

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