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Skip the Pitch and Create a Vision

By: Colleen Francis

The days of the “ideal buyer” have gone the way of the dinosaurs, and so has the routine sales pitch. In this new marketplace, your next hit might come from a company’s CFO instead of the customer service team you work with normally, or from a new prospect’s maintenance department when you typically sell to company tech crews. Regardless of who it is, these diversified buyers all want one thing: unique buying visions tailored to their business.

In fact, a recent LinkedIn study found that 77% of buyers won’t engage a salesperson who’s skipped their homework on the company’s specific business issue. They expect sellers to give them insights that lead to breakthrough, “aha” moments, and new approaches. They want case studies with buying journeys that resonate, and compelling calls to action.

One of my clients—a small, medical device manufacturer—answered this buyer demand when their usual sales pitch, focused on cold email marketing, kept them at a 3% closing ratio. They decided to flood their market with high-value educational materials aimed at creating buying visions. And just one year later, they were producing 250 inbound leads a month with a 20% closing ratio. That’s a 70-times better closing ratio than cold calling!

Let’s now look more closely at what makes the best buying vision:

A Personalized Focus

Smart salespeople communicate each insight to a singular buyer within an organization. They articulate what matters most to those buyers in a unique way. For example, an industrial supply company speaks directly to an equipment maintenance manager about reducing the repair time for their machines. At the same time, the seller has an insight for the CFO about cost savings through vendor reduction, and another insight for the customer service manager about lowering customer churn.

Diverse Buyer Acceptance

As mentioned before, anyone throughout a company’s various departments can request your products. Therefore, you can’t narrow your sales and marketing to a single target. Consumer companies were the first to recognize this. For example, beer companies used to only market to men between ages 21-30. They believed that since this group spent the most on beer, earning their early support meant long-term loyalty.

Today, beer companies see the over-55 crowd drinking more beer with more disposable income. Companies like Molson Coors are responding with diversified marketing campaigns, creating ads that feature people in their 50s and 60s. By replacing their “ideal buyer” profile with a pluralistic sales strategy, these companies are capturing a higher market share.

Solutions Applied Everywhere

Successful companies know their products affect all departments within a prospect’s organization. Given the plurality of buyers, every segment (whether grouped by generation, position or department) has their own motivation to take action. You must speak to all of them.

For example, an oil distribution client uncovered an opportunity with a huge company when a prospect’s customer service manager reached out to the distribution company’s seller. The prospect’s manufacturing team couldn’t identify the cause of issues with product quality and delivery that had their biggest client ready to bail. In speaking with the oil company seller, the customer service manager then discovered a possible lubrication problem in the production machines and called around. With my client’s help, the issue was confirmed and then resolved quickly and profitably for both. Now my client routinely creates buying vision statements that speak to sales and customer service teams who might be facing customer complaints.

Demonstrated Capabilities

Companies with the best buying visions know that prospects need compelling reasons to reach out and that they’re looking for those reasons mainly through online research. That’s why easily-accessible web material is key. A technology client, for example, started flooding their target market with detailed how-to videos describing problems and solutions along with interviews with clients they’d helped. The result? They improved closing ratios and started growing faster than the market.

Illustrated Value

The only value that matters is the one that matters to your customer. And this goes beyond sales value to the meaning behind the money: defining what those numbers represent in a way that matters to your customer. This is what monetization of a client’s issue needs to look like. Successful companies illustrate problems with both tangible and intangible value. Tangible value consists of self-evident facts. Intangible value includes added perks: the value that’s not directly related to your product or service but that makes you unique in the market. This value can even be indirect, emotional or peripheral.

Meaning Created Internally

Your own employees must be on board with buying visions before clients hop on. People—millennials especially—stay longer, work harder and are more productive when they feel they are creating value and that their work is meaningful. You create this meaning when people see the results you bring. Case in point: a parts manufacturer was struggling to solve delivery problems within the organization. Sales were sliding, and customers were angry. They created a “war room” to look at sales daily and to review key metrics. Amid their problem-solving work, they also gathered good news stories. As people could see the value they were creating, overall morale improved.

Communication from Within

It’s unfortunately all too common that people within organizations might not know about everything that’s going on, including new programs and the latest success stories. I once worked with a senior executive of a large accounting firm who was completely unaware when I asked about new service offerings in a different division. This demonstrates the need to make sure that your company’s updates and successes percolate deep down into your organization.

Knowledge Shared Freely

Publish your buying vision everywhere. Don’t be stingy or worried about giving away your secret sauce. You need to create an environment where the prospects say, “I’ve learned so much for free, just imagine how much I’ll learn when I start paying them!”

One of the most compelling examples of this I’ve ever seen was a video and speaking tour developed by Workopolis that showcased their project with an Olympic Committee. Their CEO in the video masterfully framed the problem they were solving: how do you recruit people to a job they’re going to lose after a short period of time? Then they showed a series of dynamic solutions.

In this diversified market, the more expertise you give away for free that relates directly to buyer needs, the more likely prospects will find you. And, most importantly, will do business with you based on their unique buying vision.

Colleen Francis is the President of Engage Selling.
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