Great salespeople close more deals. But finalizing the sale comes at the end of the process.
And you'll never get to that point in the sales process if you don't start by building trust, especially since trust is the biggest factor buyers consider. So how do you create an atmosphere of trust with potential customers -- and with current customers?
Today's B2B buyers are looking for information that is useful, relevant, and not overly "salesy." More than likely, they're subscribers to Amazon Prime and Netflix, accustomed to highly personalized experiences and curated content.
Meanwhile, at home and at work, they're inundated with un-targeted ads and irrelevant marketing content. In this environment of heightened customer expectations and information overload, conventional sales tactics like cold-calling and blast emails no longer work.
Businesses are recognizing this reality and adapting. They're hiring more specialized sales professionals with strategic skills, integrating their marketing and sales organizations and investing in technology to shorten sales cycles and close bigger deals.
All of this represents a necessary evolution of B2B sales, but it's incomplete without a crucial ingredient: Trust.
My team at LinkedIn recently surveyed more than 1,000 B2B decision-makers and sales professionals to understand what matters on both sides of the buyer/seller relationship. Trust came out on top. For buyers, trust is the #1 most influential factor when closing a deal, ranking higher in importance than economic considerations like price or return on investment.
However, trust is a valuable asset that today seems to be eroding. According to Edelman's trust barometer, trust in business is declining, as is trust in government and NGOs. Trust in the media reached all-time lows in 2017.
Here's the good news. Although it may seem counterintuitive, technology can help to build trust.
Establishing trust can be much easier if sales professionals leverage sales tech to do three things really well:
1. Learn about the buyer and their business.
Buyers expect and respond to personalized, relevant messages. Our study found that 77 percent of buyers want sales representatives to integrate customized data and insights into their interactions. The same percentage said they wouldn't engage with a salesperson who didn't do their homework or know about their business.
Sales technology helps to achieve this personalization. For instance, being in tune with a buyer's social media activities enhances the seller's ability to demonstrate their understanding of a prospect and relate to their particular context.
Of the top sellers we surveyed, 94 percent use social networks to gain insights into prospects' trigger points, like job changes, promotions and new mentions, and personalize their outreach accordingly.
2. Find common ground.
While trust in institutions is declining, peers and subject matter experts increasingly are seen as trustworthy sources. Edelman's study found that consumers are more likely to trust people who resemble themselves than they are to trust CEOs, board members or government officials.
In the sales process, finding common ground can take a few different forms. A mutual connection significantly builds trust: our research shows that buyers are five times more likely to engage with a sales professional if the contact is made through a shared connection. Eighty-seven percent of B2B buyers have a better impression of sales professionals who are introduced through someone in their professional network.
Buyers are also more likely to trust a sales professional with whom they share an interest, skill, or industry group. On LinkedIn, sales professionals see a 46 percent lift in message acceptance rates when they have one of these things in common with the prospect.
These "profile" commonalities are almost as predictive of response rates as a shared alma mater. Automation and predictive analytics technologies are here to help and can even surface these connections at scale.
Using these insights, sales professionals can turn cold outreach into more strategic relationship-building.
3. Demonstrate sales professionals' expertise and industry knowledge.
Sales organizations and sales reps are realizing their online presence and thought leadership are assets that can open the door to new, more relevant conversations with prospects.
Buyers prefer sellers who are educated about their business needs and are thought leaders within their industry. Sixty-two percent of B2B decision-makers say they look for an informative LinkedIn profile when deciding whether to work with a sales professional and 86 percent would engage with a sales professional who provided insights or knowledge about their industry.
We're seeing a trend of buyers actively profiling sellers on social platforms to evaluate whether a response or intro meeting is worth their time. Social platforms make it possible for sales reps to show off their knowledge, expertise and who they are beyond the scope of a given deal.
Successful sales organizations have identified that trust is at the core of modern sales, and that technology is an important part of building trust at scale.
Today's sales tech can automate and improve complex and time-consuming processes like culling through buyer profiles for relevant signals, identifying mutual interests and connections, and surfacing the right content to demonstrate subject matter expertise.
This can lead to new conversations, trusted relationships, and ultimately, closed deals.