October 30, 2008

Experts outsell salespeople every time

The level of expert knowledge is the key factor differentiating high-performance sales people from the rest.

The demise of the salesperson

Buyers are increasingly sceptical of sales people. Experience has thought them not to believe everything that they are told, or top rely on the salesperson for; insight, information, or expertise.

The rise of the expert

Nobody wants to be sold to. Yes, people need to buy things and making the right choice is getting more and more difficult. But, for most buyers the fewer sales people they have to meet the better.

That's because most sales people make the buyer's decision, more, rather than less difficult. Experts, on the other hand, are always welcome. So, to are trusted advisors. That is why experts out-sell salespeople all the time.

New job titles don't make experts

In recent years many salespeople were re-packaged as 'consultants', 'advisors', or 'specialists'. But little else changed and buyers were not foolled.

Titles alone don't change the salesperson’s; level of product and industry knowledge, credibility in the eyes of the buyer, or ability to ‘get down and dirty’ in solving customer’s problems.

We asked a group of 50 professional B2B sales people in London if they considered themselves to be experts in their fields. Only 5 answered yes.

Making the transition

From 'sales person' to 'expert advisor' is a small change in words, but a major change in attitude, skills levels and sales approach.

Salespeople begin to walk taller when they see themselves as an expert. They also begin to act a little different. Buyers begin to act differently too, engaging more, listening more and trusting more.

The expert has to be able to:

  • Identify customer needs, some of which may be underneath the surface, by asking good questions.
  • Consult and engage with the customer, on his/her, being sufficiently confident and knowledgeable to advise, educate, persuade and inform.
  • Demonstrate knowledge, without appearing as a show off, or ‘know-it-all’.

Product Knowledge is not enough

The number one complaint of buyers used to be lack of product knowledge. But product knowledge is only part of the expertise equation.

Knowing the product and in particular how it works, is not the primary interest of today's buyers. Buyers want to know how it will help their business meet its particular needs and challenges.

The first step is to become an expert in your solutions and how customers use and benefit from them. From there it is to become an expert in your industry and your marketplace.

Are you an expert?
Take the test:

  • Does the customer see you as qualified to help and advise them, or simply as somebody trying to sell something?
  • Do you know the customers' industry, its opportunities and challenges? Have you taken the time to really understand their business and its strategies?
  • Can you tell the customer how others have benefited from your solutions and in detail how they are using them?
  • Do you have some insights, or information that is otherwise not available to the buyer?
  • Have you had enough product training? Are you certified?
  • Have you read leading research papers on the industry and the technology in question?
  • How visible is your profile as an expert; have you written something, joined a professional body, or given a talk?

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