I enjoyed reading Andrea Johnson’s recent article, discussing the importance of research by sales reps. While the entire article is very well-written, today I’d like to focus on one sentence that really caught my attention: “In one meeting, that [sales] rep launched himself from a vendor to a business resource.”
It’s a great sentence, because it beautifully captures what B2B marketing and B2B sales are all about. Of course we are vendors, trying to sell something to prospects. It’s the irony of the modern B2B sales cycle though, that as long as we are perceived as “vendors,” we will have a hard time selling anything to anyone. But if we can launch ourselves from “a vendor” to “a resource,” that changes everything.
B2B buyers are smart. They have access to plenty of info, and as Ms. Johnson says, they use that info and research their options. The last thing they need is a vendor telling them how awesome his product is. What they do need is someone that gets them and their issues and can offer quick, affordable ways to solve those issues.
This also goes back to the age-old marketing lesson of always highlighting benefits rather than features. Your prospect will be bored beyond belief if you attempt to speak at length about your product’s features – those features mean a lot to you but very little to her. What she does want to hear about is how your product is going to benefit *her* company, solve her particular issues.
So how does one get to a place where they are a valuable resource to a potential buyer rather than an annoying vendor? Ms. Johnson discusses several ways to become familiar with a specific company’s needs, the first quite simple – online research. Being the marketing automation geek that I am, I can’t help but add that marketing automation is a wonderful tool for getting a feel for a specific prospect and getting to know them better.
The very ability to closely monitor a potential buyer’s behavior on your website, his responses to your emails, the actions he takes, the pages he browses – this can provide you with very intimate insight into what that person is looking for, and – just as importantly – what he is not looking for (which you can learn from, say, his lack of response to a certain email campaign).
With great tools available to you such as prospect activity tracking, online research and – as Ms. Johnson suggests – inside information from within the company, there truly are no more excuses for ever making a cold call again. Get to know your prospects before talking with them, and you’ll elevate yourself from a “vendor” to a “resource.”