After two decades in sales, I’ve seen a lot. But one of the greatest challenges I’ve faced is building customer-centric sales teams.
Why? Because it’s a moving target. Buyer behaviors are always evolving – and sales teams need to keep up with them. Technology plays a key role here. Software development is getting faster every day, and so is the way consumers adopt this technology. Here are some of the most recent examples:
- Real-time Messaging – It’s how people prefer to communicate today for everything. This can be seen in the growth of WeChat and Facebook Messenger, but also in business applications like Slack and Skype for Business. Clearly there’s a demand for immediate responses.
- The On-demand Economy – Companies like Amazon set a new standard for how long it should take to buy and receive something (i.e., the Amazon effect). Buyers can now pay for things with one click and receive them within days. We’ve seen this expectation spread to other industries as well, from car rental to flower delivery. Which leads to the next trend.
- The Mass consumerization of B2B – This “on-demand” lifestyle has spread to B2B. Consumers now have the same expectations in their professional lives when it comes to speed and delivery. And there’s no longer only one buyer in an organization. More people than ever before are swiping their card for business solutions, across different levels and departments. This is one of the reasons the SaaS industry has been multiplying.
Despite these massive changes in consumer behavior, most sales organizations haven’t adapted to meet these new expectations. People want fast; but, in B2B especially, I see so many sales leaders using slow, outdated methods. These methods are grounded in people buying on their terms, not the consumer’s – insisting on endless forms and drawn-out conversations. I even saw one HBR study saying 65 percent of customers spent as much time as they’d expected to need for an entire B2B purchase just getting ready to speak with a sales rep. There’s nothing “real-time” or “on-demand” about that.
So what’s a sales leader to do? This is where conversational sales comes in.
Conversational sales is all about giving your best leads a direct, real-time line to your sales team. It’s about removing the friction in the buying process so buyers can have the conversation they want to have, when they want to have it.
But what does that look like for sales teams?
At Drift, this means moving the sales rep further up in the sales process – sometimes talking to prospects when they first land on our Website. In other situations, it simply means picking up the sales conversation wherever a buyer prefers to engage – whether through email or a one-on-one conversation on your Website. And 100 percent of the time it means engaging with people in a consultative way – not with an aggressive sales pitch.
Look, I get it – making your team available for this level of service may seem daunting at first. But there are plenty of technologies and AI-driven solutions that can help protect your time while giving your prospects the buying experience they demand.
For example, sales reps are able to engage prospects right from the start with a live chat tool driven by a bot. This automates the lead qualification process, leveraging a basic script of questions that help you figure out if the prospect chatting in is the right fit for your product. It’s a win-win – consumers get the real-time service they expect while sales reps are able to dedicate their valuable time to the best leads.
And this technology is just scratching the surface. There are tons of other solutions on the market and being developed that can be leveraged for conversational sales – from one-click prospect meeting scheduling to “smart” outbound email sequences that connect to your real-time messaging. Outbound reps are able to take their prospecting to a whole new level.
The Takeaway: Technology That Enables Conversations
The specific tactics and technology are less important than the greater opportunity – which is to remove the barriers to conversations. Actual conversations are where a great rep shines anyway.
As world-class sales trainer John Barrows predicts, “I think AI is going to make good sales reps great, great sales reps incredible, and average sales reps irrelevant.”
Sales teams that embrace the idea of leveraging technology to create better conversations will have a competitive advantage. It’s the best way to be helpful to modern consumers and, as CEO David Cancel says, “Helping is the new selling.”