Ready to storm into your next IT sales meeting and wow the room with a snazzy deck full of slides showcasing how great your product is? That's perfect—if you want to get laughed out of the room. If, on the other hand, you'd like your prospect to take you seriously and progress down the funnel, you should do exactly the opposite.
In the IT edition of our Ultimate Enterprise Sales Playbook series, we caught up with Emissaries from companies like Merck, Kellogg's, Johnson & Johnson, and CVS to find out what the right approach to sales looks like in 2018. These former IT decision makers all told us one thing: the days of product-pushing are over.
Instead, sales teams need to dig deep and gain a real-world understanding of their prospects before they plow through the deck.
"It’s really, really important to show up with knowledge of the main issues we’re facing and the values we have as a corporation," our Emissary, a former VP of IT at Kellogg’s, explained. "That would increase the likelihood of moving on to the next round."
In order to move your deals into the "closed won" column, you've got to change up how you—and your team—sells to enterprise-level buyers. Here's how.
1. Always be closing adding value
IT leaders need to stay ahead of trends, so they're constantly doing research to understand changes impacting their industry and field. That means they're also likely brainstorming solutions, and moving down the "awareness" stage of the marketing funnel—well before you even enter the picture.
Today's buyers are empowered and less dependent on salespeople when making purchases than ever before. In fact, more than half (57 percent) of salespeople feel that power has shifted to buyers when it comes to B2B enterprise sales, according to a HubSpot survey. That survey also revealed that 60 percent of buyers want to connect with a salesperson during the "consideration" stage—after they've had time to do their research and make a shortlist—while just 19 percent want to connect with a salesperson during the "awareness" stage.
This means your prospect probably knows all about your solution's feature set before you reach out to them. So how do you pitch when your features are old news?
Start by adding value the moment you enter the room. Prepare use cases that demonstrate how existing customers have used your solution to overcome their challenges. Be upfront about what your solution can—and cannot—deliver, as well as any potential hiccups or challenges the prospect might encounter, especially around integrations.
Remember, your prospects can’t be experts in every field. Your solution might appeal to them, but to be a true partner, they will look to you to be that industry expert who can help them understand and optimize your solution.
Lastly, leave them with more than your pitch deck. Invite them to industry events, or provide them with literature that can inform their buying decision.
“We leverage vendors as a way to also understand trends in the industry," our Kellogg's Emissary said. "To get someone’s attention, invite them to a conference or webinar where they will get value.”
2. Introduce yourself at the right moment
Are you bombarding prospects with email after email, and expecting a response? That's no way to make an introduction or get noticed.
A better approach is to build up your network of contacts by attending industry and buyer events as much as possible. One Emissary, the former Director of Engineering at Refinery 29, also recommends getting involved with social CTO/CIO groups.
Showing up at industry events or participating in relevant professional groups can go a long way toward establishing trust with buyers. Studies show that word-of-mouth referrals from friends and trusted sources are the most important factors when it comes to purchasing a new product.
Finally, before you reach out, are you sure you're actually contacting the right person? Only half of B2B buyers contacted by sales professionals are the right person to talk to about new business, according to research by LinkedIn.
Sometimes—even after the most painstaking due diligence—you still won't be sure who the real stakeholders are. But, if you know someone who has worked with the organization in the past, they may be able to steer you in the right direction.
3. Differentiate yourself by showcasing expertise and building trust
Introducing yourself to buyers is a start, but IT is a noisy space, so you'll need to distinguish yourself from the crowd.
If you want to stand out from your peers, you'll need to be able to demonstrate expert knowledge in your field. When deals are made, it's because IT buyers believe you're a trusted partner and thought leader who they can learn from and grow with.
The fact that IT executives are always looking to know about the latest industry trends is actually pretty good news—it leaves the door open for you to provide insights they’re looking for. But to be credible, you'll need to be able to speak to a wide range of topics, not just your own content. That's how you'll convince buyers that you will be able to consistently deliver value as a partner down the line.
It may sound difficult, but putting in the legwork at the beginning of your engagement with buyers will actually make for less labor downstream—and the payoff of having developed a trusted partner within the organization can be huge.
The world of enterprise IT sales has changed dramatically in recent years. To close deals with today's buyers, sales teams need to do more research than ever before to know who the decision makers are and what challenges they're encountering. They've also got to add value through industry insights and educational material from the very first encounter forward.
Lastly, buyers are going to choose a partner who they can learn from and with whom they can grow. Building trust is key here, so put a pause on the pitch deck, and listen to their needs before you start talking solutions.
To get all the insights from our Emissaries, download your copy of the The Ultimate Enterprise Sales Playbook: Selling Into the IT Organization today.