Hint: It has nothing to do with digital.
At least 67 percent of the buying process is complete before buyers ever contact your company. Believe that, and your account-based sales strategies are doomed from the start. There are many widely quoted but ill-advised statistics floating around that suggest business buyers don’t really need salespeople anymore—that we should just wait around for prospects to do their research and then call us when they’re ready to buy.
Big mistake! The best account-based sales strategies aren’t reactive. Top salespeople are proactive, disciplined, insightful, and great at building relationships.
Your account-based sellers have one job and one job only—to get in early before a prospect knows they have a need. Our prospects still need us just as much as they did before. But their needs have changed. They don’t need us to give them demos or canned sales pitches, because they can get all that online. What they do need is our expertise, industry experience, and insights about what does and doesn’t work.
Of course, the challenge is getting the chance to have that conversation. The pace of business has picked up, and decision-makers are less willing to meet with salespeople unless they know going in that it will be a valuable conversation.
Referrals Should Top Your List of Account-Based Sales Strategies
I cringe when I read about account-based sales strategies that involve cold calling, cold emails, or connecting with strangers on social media (which is basically just another form of cold calling).
Buyers don’t have time for that. Most sales leaders trash at least 100 emails a day. And they certainly don’t want to receive sales pitches via LinkedIn from people they’ve never met. One sales leader told me he never accepts social media requests from people he doesn’t know, and he considers them “social breaches.”
However, executives will always take calls from salespeople who’ve been referred by people they know and trust. It’s human nature to gravitate towards people we respect and folks they respect. This is a common denominator on a global basis.
I meet with many sales leaders and CEOs because I’ve been introduced by someone they know and trust. Because that person has referred me, my prospect knows it will be a valuable conversation. I don’t always get a client, but I always learn. I learned from the CEO of a Fortune 500 company that he expects salespeople to deliver insights—no product pitches, no talking about themselves, and no asking what keeps him up at night.
This is the new dynamic that salespeople must be ready for. Buyers no longer have time to sit around and tell us all their problems so that we can suggest solutions. Instead, sellers must go into the conversation having already identified a gap they can help to fill.
Where can account-based sellers get that information? From their referral sources—a.k.a., their current clients.
Your current clients know the value of your solution, but just as importantly, they know what challenges their colleagues in other departments are facing. They can give your team the inside track on prospects before they ever make the introduction. That way, your account-based sellers go into meetings with prospects knowing exactly which needs they can address.
Is a Referral Program Ahead of Its Time?
One sales leader told me my referral program is ahead of its time. People don’t know how to build relationships, or they think that relationships and referrals take too long. They would rather rely on digital account-based sales strategies.
That doesn’t work. We can begin conversations and relationships online. But we must nurture, understand, and cement those relationships offline. Otherwise, your account-based sellers can forget about getting referral leads.
Top salespeople recognize that existing clients are their best source of referrals. It’s the #1 way to land and expand within their named accounts. So, they put in the time to nurture those relationships and stay “in the know” about what’s happening with their customers—both personally and professionally. Clients will always take calls from these sales reps, because they provide insights and guidance. They make themselves valuable, trusted business resources. In doing so, they get bigger deals from repeat customers—and they get referral leads.
Customers don’t buy your technology, your service, or your products. They buy because of the impact your team has on their businesses. People do business with people, not with technology. But too many reps forget it’s the quality of relationships, and not the quantity of connections, that really counts. The art of conversation is your team’s competitive advantage. Conversation is the key to problem-solving and relationship-building, which are critical in sales. These have also become unique skill sets in the digital world.
So, let your competitors believe the myth about buyers not needing salespeople. While they’re waiting for the phone to ring or for LinkedIn connections to come through—or cold calling people who don’t want to talk to them—your sales reps will be building trusted relationships, uncovering real needs, getting referrals, and crafting solutions in collaboration with clients. That’s true salesmanship.
Could a referral program transform your account-based sales strategies? Take the Referral I.Q. Quiz and have your sales reps do the same. It’s 14 “Yes/No” questions and should take only a few minutes to complete. It’s your checklist for referral selling. Then give me a call at 415-461-8763 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.