Some consider the sales rep a nearly extinct—or slowly dying—creature. With the amount of information available online about products and services, and the volume of online peer reviews, the average buyer doesn’t rely on brands to make their purchasing decisions anymore.
In fact, many studies show that buyers don’t trust brands. That’s why customers are turning to their peers for recommendations instead.
Many sales models don’t address the core issues today’s sales teams face: reps are still connected to the brand—and that’s not a positive association for many buyers.
Instead of reps trying to force themselves into the buying process – where they are largely unwelcome—they need to learn to LET GO.
Instead, sales teams need to harness the power of their customer advocates to do the selling for them.
At Influitive, we call this “surround selling.” We let our top customers sing our praises to their peers. When it’s done correctly, our best advocates handle integral parts of the selling process for us.
Surround selling: getting ahead of the buying decision curve
Since interactions and advice discovered on social networks hold so much sway with buyers, it only makes sense to surround potential customers with social proof and peer validation as early as possible in the buying process. By encouraging happy customers to talk about their experience with your brand online, they’ll create genuine reviews on third-party websites, participate in discussions in forums, leave blog comments and add their voice to relevant social media conversations. And by encouraging happy customers to talk about their experiences with your product or service offline, they’ll talk to prospects on your behalf, speak at events and ultimately refer their friends.
All of this activity has much more legitimacy than anything your brand can create on its own. It also adds value to all stages of the sales process, including your prospect’s initial discovery.
You may be wondering why our customers are happy to promote our brand. The reason is our model is rooted in advocacy. We serve our customers first, help them build their network and skills, and then shine the spotlight on their accomplishments. Once they’ve become passionate advocates, we weave their success into our selling process.
How to train your sales team to surround sell
Before you can train your reps on the tactics, you need to create a culture that is centered on advocacy. This is supported by three high-level concepts: to Connect, Educate, and Delight.
Connect. Sales reps should build their networks by connecting with every single existing customer via social selling – whether or not they are the ones who made the deal. Then, they should act as a matchmaker between prospects and customers, with a focus on helping them, not selling to them. Once you’ve connected people, your company is bound to come up in conversation. You’d be surprised what can happen when you’re able to spark those organic connections.
Educate. You know buyers are out there conducting research, so provide the tools and information they’re looking for. Make it easy for them to find reviews, blog posts, and forums that talk about your company and its offerings. Think of creative ways to connect references with prospective buyers.
Delight. Make sure buyers have the best possible sales experience with you. Along with making the purchase process as painless as possible, think about doing something unexpected, like sending your new customer a book on a topic that came up during your discussions. By delighting customers in this way, you greatly increase the chances that they will give a referral and eventually become an advocate for your brand.
Think of surround selling this way: your customer is an untapped asset. To successfully use them in the sales process, you must encourage them to advocate on your behalf by making it easy and rewarding. Their genuine enthusiasm for your brand will naturally draw potential customers to you.
Influitive’s sales team will be sharing how we infuse advocacy into every step of the sales process in a series of blog posts. Check back regularly to learn how you can create an army of advocates to help drive your sales initiatives.