Social selling, empathy, and emotional intelligence are tossed around often in a sales context. It’s also not always clear what to do with these terms, since they refer to broad psychological concepts. However, they’re all important, were so even before COVID-19. In this article, let’s talk about some specific principles and actionable takes on how to be a more socially aware sales team, from sales prospecting to closing.
You’re probably already used to listening in the context of a sales meeting: you show up present, ready to hear out what your client is saying, and you ask good questions. But, chances are that you don’t do this as much in the top of the funnel.
Even before you’re in a sales conversation, listen to the tone of the market overall, at a high level. Most sales teams have a basic or instinctive level of what prospects are going through, but it behooves both sales and marketing to develop a more holistic understanding of what your buyers are going through on a day to day basis, apart from just what your product does and its narrow functional area.
If you sell provider credentialing software to health systems, you might have a good idea of “how they typically manage their credentialing process”; my advice is to go one step further. For example, pay attention to understand their average propensity for career growth: how much they care about upward momentum vs maintaining their position.
Another tip is to listen to the specific words they use to describe certain things: sometimes both you and your marketing team use a very “seller-centric version” of terms. Ask yourselves: are these terms my prospect uses too, or are they unique to our company? For example, do you use the abbreviation “MAP”, or do your prospects actually spell out “marketing automation platform” or “marketing ops platform”? Tune your vocabulary at a granular level to match their world.
The upshot of this is that you should be able to comfortably discuss life and work in general, in a cocktail party environment with your client base. Many reps couldn’t do that, think they don’t need to have that deep of an understanding of their clients to do their jobs, or don’t know how to go about it. But the truth is that you’ll pull in more leads and win more deals by being more deeply relatable.
Work to truly be one of them.
What Counts as “Adding Value”?
You probably logically agree that having meaningful conversations with prospects is going to work better for you than being a transactional closer, but what does that mean, especially now?
Well, people are not only busier than ever, but there’s generally less money to go around at all levels, in a downturn. So, while you may not typically get blowback for sending a blog post link without context to a prospect, that type of behavior is typically not truly a value-add, and will be 1-2 notches more irritating to a prospect right now.
Here’s a heuristic that will help you figure out what is truly valuable and what’s just fluff:
If you spent a 30-minute meeting never discussing your product, but only discussing you or your company’s point of view, could your prospect implement your advice in 2-3 distinct ways, the following week? Or would they simply know more about your product’s features? Your conversation should feel custom .. in fact, all sales should feel like custom sales. That’s what people want. To know they’re getting something specifically designed for them. (And don’t forget, not everyone needs to learn everything you offer. Too many features will overwhelm someone, so only share the most important and relevant.)
This may seem like a subtle distinction, but it’s palpable. Count the value of your prospecting meetings and sales conversations in terms of how much your prospect learned from you, about how to do their job better. Not just how your solution works.
Applying This In MedTech
Adopting a socially aware sales mindset is especially important for teams selling medical technology and services to doctors and hospitals. While COVID-19 has been impactful to health systems across the country, some areas have had to manage many more cases than other areas. Before you approach the prospect, first and foremost understand how their practice or facility was impacted and where in the recovery cycle their local community is (i.e. is their county allowing non-emergency procedures, are their resources still being taxed with increasing rates of cases or deaths). Carevoyance published a free COVID-19 impact resource that is updated daily to help sales reps assess what reality the doctors or hospitals in a given area are experiencing
Scaling the Socially Aware Approach
The biggest reason why these strategies and team values don’t often scale well, is that they’re difficult! It’s far easier to be a lazy, low-value-add sales team that merely takes orders from already-interested buyers.
But, by working with marketing - and, in some cases, by pushing marketing politely but firmly - you can scale this approach across a whole department or company. For example, let’s take the two tips of “match your vocabulary to your clients’ diction” and “focus on teaching them how to be better at their job, not what your product does”.
Imagine if your training program had added modules to it, that were updated often, including the commercial teachings (hello, Challenger Sale!) that your company believes in, and a literal glossary explaining how your buyers talk about the topic, very specifically. That means more than just a few high-level quotes and testimonials. This takes work if you’re currently unclear on those teachings, but it’s a worthwhile investment into sales enablement. Work with a sales consultancy who understands this, if you think it would be too difficult to get this right when purely working internally.
Let’s take the example of NurseGrid, who sells scheduling software to large teams of nurses. One of their commercial teachings is: “scheduling is chaotic, and needs to be real-time. Static shift management doesn’t account for the reality of shift changes and the always-on mobile generation of nurses.”
Note that “Use NurseGrid to improve efficiency by %X blablabla” is NOT a commercial teaching, that’s a product benefit. Make people think differently, and you’ve done your job as a sales department
What’s the Outcome of All This?
Suddenly your sales department meetings become dramatically more helpful, because they are focused on bringing in subject matter experts to teach real things that matter about how your client base can be better at their jobs, with real stories and tips and tricks that sales can share.
By design, all of the teaching you offer should lead naturally to whatever your solution is. But, remember the Challenger Sale framework, or even the “Start With Why” model: first people buy the reason for the solution, followed by the new way of doing XYZ, and lastly do they begin considering specific products for making that change happen. Flip that script in the wrong way, and you’ll depress your win rates, ESPECIALLY now that budgets are tighter than ever.
The educators, the teachers, the Challenger salespeople among us, will prove themselves as the cream of the crop in this crisis, which is both a public health and an economic predicament.
RevenueZen is a growth partner to companies who want sustainable, scalable, long-term marketing and sales growth. They can help you build your content strategy and implement social selling in a scalable and honest way. Contact them for the most helpful conversation you'll have with someone new this week.