Have you ever scrolled through a review page for a product or service? Let’s say you’re looking at reviews for a restaurant. Even if the crowd has mostly given the place the star equivalent of approval, there are always some dissenters. I used to think: “Well, everyone has a bad day once in a while. Hopefully the restaurant doesn’t disappoint.” But what if poor reviews aren’t caused by the kitchen staff over-cooking the salmon — but that the restaurant just wasn’t relevant to the customer’s expectations and needs? One customer seeks a place where they can talk, while another loves loud music that creates an energetic party atmosphere.
The relevance of an experience to a customer’s needs and expectations significantly determines whether something is deemed good or bad; a hit or a miss; worth the money or not. That’s why it’s so important that sales reps pay attention to assessing, demonstrating, and elevating relevance to their customers.
Creating relevance in a virtual, hybrid selling environment
Customers being 100% virtual has presented sales teams with a Rubik’s Cube style puzzle to rapidly solve. The ones who are figuring out how to approach virtual selling have an advantage, because they can be effective in a traditional, virtual, or hybrid work environment. While we may not yet know what the exact mix will be going forward, I believe that customers will ultimately decide. They’ll also make judgements about suppliers, rightly or wrongly, based on their perception of whether that supplier is relevant to their needs.
Don’t overlook relevance. You can lose deals, even when all the facts are with you, because someone else scored higher in the prospect’s thinking.
So how do you ensure that you are highly relevant to your customers? Here are three tips to get you started:
#1: Start with the right mindset
Words carry meaning, and the word “selling” implies a push process. It’s something a rep initiates and completes: “I sold them” or “I closed the Henderson account.” However, especially in Business-to-Business (B2B) selling, we often find more success when we co-create or jointly architect solutions with our customers. Approaching the prospect with this collaborative mindset communicates different intention and, assuming you actually mean it, offers a different energy to the customer interaction: “It’s not about me. It’s about you.”
#2: Be human
In a virtual or hybrid work environment, it’s more difficult for reps to “favor their way” into an account with events and perks. But humans still buy from other humans, so it’s beneficial to get to know them and let them get to know you. For starters, ditch the slide deck — especially in the first meeting. You may have noticed that multiple virtual meetings are becoming the norm, so you’ll probably still get the chance to show the Powerpoint if you really must. Spend your first meetings getting to know your customers as people.
Here’s a breakthrough tip: ask questions and listen. I like to reinforce this with a lyric from the Broadway musical “Hamilton”: “Talk less. Smile more.” You need context from your customer in order to be relevant to their needs, and listening is the key.
#3: Be personal
All that listening gives you insight into what is relevant for your customer. You don’t have to dump unnecessary information on them. You can be personal. You can tailor your interactions, invite the right people to meetings, and ensure that any content you send adds value instead of adding to the noise. Even if the marketing department supplies all your content, you don’t need to toss everything from the closest persona category at your customer. It’s impressive that your company created 50 videos, but you can differentiate yourself and be of greater service by personally curating content for your customers as unique individuals — rather than as broad categories.
If someone likes you because your company hosted them at a golf tournament, that can make you relevant in one sense — but that strategy is harder to do now. People are not looking to be reeled in by a sales rep. They’re looking for real, genuine support by trustworthy professionals. In his book “Eveyone Communicates. Few Connect.” author John C. Maxwell writes, “Nobody wants to be sold but everyone wants to be helped.” Truly taking on the other person’s challenges increases relevance so that customers know it is in their best interest to choose you.
Want to learn even more about the unique challenges of the hybrid working environment? Sign up for our free on-demand webinar, Prepare Your Sales Force for Success in the New Hybrid Working Environment. Join live on June 3 at 1:00 p.m. (eastern time), or register and receive the free event recording to watch after the fact.
Lee Mayfield, Founder, Flipdeck
Lee Mayfield is the President of Presentek and founder of Flipdeck, a simple content organizer that empowers sales reps to quickly find and deliver relevant content to their customers. Visit Flipdeck’s profile page to learn more.