Whether you’re an account manager or a sales rep in B2B sales or B2C sales, making sure your customers are heard, understood, and validated, throughout the sales process is crucial. The lack of in-person, face-to-face interaction in a virtual sales environment can make it more challenging to make our customers feel that empathy and connection.
Our focus today is on the soft skills of selling, those nuances will go a long way in forging relationships with your prospects and long term customers alike.
Understand Your Customer’s True Needs
The problem we’re solving for is relationships – because even B2B sales still happen person to person. At the core, the sales rep to decision maker relationship is still person to person, based on human connection. As we unpack that relationship, we (as salespeople) help our customers address their stated business needs, their unstated business needs, and also their unstated emotional needs: to feel appreciated and uniquely valued.
A person’s deepest unstated needs are to be heard, understood, respected, and valued.
Everyone likes to feel uniquely valued and special. Think about your favorite restaurants, or your local coffee shop. Doesn’t it feel good when the waiter remembers your name, or the barista knows just how you like your coffee?
There are ways to ensure your customer feels all of these things, ways to help form and drive the relationship; and not just for the sake of making the sale or “winning.” You need to actually care, because your motive is transparent. It’s about forging meaningful, fulfilling relationships.
In honor of Black History Month, I wanted to call attention to Maya Angelou, the great poet, memoirist, writer, and civil rights activist. She has an incredible story and has moved millions of people with her words. One of her most well-known quotes is this:
“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”
This idea perfectly captures the sentiment we’re trying to drive home here. People want to feel good. The question is, how do we make our customers feel good about working with us, their sales reps, in a virtual sales world?
This isn’t a gimmick, trick, or hack. It’s a mindset shift, one that requires you to care about your customer so that you can truly serve them throughout your relationship in the sales process and beyond. It’s like we always say here at ASLAN, “Sell your process, not your products.”
The ServeMore³ “Formula” for Sales Reps
We’re talking about the human aspect of selling here. We normally directly address sales reps and sales leaders about the selling progression, but this topic goes beyond that – into your personal lives as well.
The basis of this whole concept rides on the idea of being OtherCenteredⓇ, not just acting OtherCentered or doing/ saying things to “win” your customer over.
Our ServeMore³ (Serve More to the power of three, or “cubed”) formula consists of three parts:
Care More + Learn More + Do More = ServeMore³
Make a decision – You are making a decision to put your customer and their needs first. As humans, we naturally default to ourselves, taking care of ourselves, putting our own needs first. Think about it, you don’t have to teach kids to be selfish. It comes naturally and from a need to survive. Our survival instincts still kick in – even when they’re no longer necessary. We need to acknowledge that and make a decision to shift our mindset if we want to be truly OtherCentered in our selling approach. Decide to serve your customer.
Listen. Stop and think about what the other person (your customer) has going on. Actually listen and hear what they are telling you and what is implied. Pay attention to what is different. Listen for cues about what is unique about them.
Paying attention to people is in and of itself unique. People don’t pay attention. Especially sellers, we are all guilty of trying to advance the sale on our own terms. We worry about what we’re going to sell, how much, by when, etc. Don’t just go through the motions. Be present.
Do More is about taking and applying what you have learned by caring (deciding) and learning (listening). Show your customer that you’ve been paying attention by doing something simple to reflect that.
Putting it in Practice
Here’s a quick list of ideas and examples for sales reps to start thinking about incorporating this into their selling practice/ process:
- If you get an OOO message when you contact a prospect or customer that says they’re returning on the 3rd… when should you call them? If you’re self serving, you probably call on the 3rd, wanting to push your own agenda and get the ball rolling. But if you take a moment to be OtherCentered and think about the other person, you can empathize with the challenges that come with a first day back in the office: an overflowing inbox, work to catch up on, back to back meetings, etc. Wait a couple days, and when you do reach out, tell them, “I know you were away, I wanted to give you a few days to get caught up before I contacted you.” I can’t tell you how many times people have expressed appreciation for this approach.
- When you call someone and they tell you, “I have a hard stop at noon because I have to ____,” actually pay attention to what they say. It will tell you something about them and their life and what’s important to them. For example, if they say, “I have to wrap this up by 4 o’clock because I gotta get to my daughter’s soccer game,” archive that information. Before you hang up, something as simple as, “By the way, have fun at the game and good luck to your daughter’s team” will go a long way. It will make your customer feel heard and understood. But you have to mean it, and feel it. If you’re insincere, it won’t carry any weight with your customer or prospect.
- When sending a calendar invite, put what is important to your customer first – something that will jog their memory and make it easy for them, not you. For example, put YOUR company name first and the topic of the meeting. For me, that would mean putting ASLAN Training Discussion. Putting their company name first in the invite might help you remember the meeting more easily, but it won’t serve them.
- If you’re taking a customer out to dinner (remember those good old days?), pay attention to their drink order and remember it. Make a note in your phone later on if you need to. This doesn’t mean you have an exceptional memory, it means you care enough to pay attention and remember something they enjoy. The next time you go to dinner, ask if they’d like that same drink again. It makes people feel special.
The purpose of all these examples is to encourage salespeople to think differently. This concept isn’t about some big, drawn out sales relationship… it’s the little things that happen in seconds, as you’re talking with your customers.
ServeMore³ is not the same thing as being relational. Many salespeople think relational skills are about “warming them up” by building rapport, asking about the weather, etc. But this idea does not mean “go make small talk with your customers.”
It means you need to recognize who your customer is (task or relational) and meet them where they’re at. With a task oriented prospect, you may say something like: “Alright, let me get right to the point to save time” or “ Why don’t I put this all in a spreadsheet, since it seems like that’s how you like to work.”
People will notice these things and appreciate them.
Sales Leaders, Serve Your Reps
For sales leaders, if you care more about your sales team, so that you can learn more and then do more for your reps, that builds loyalty and respect. If it’s genuine, you will see pay off on both sides.
Find out what is behind that paycheck – why do they come to work everyday, or in today’s global climate, sell virtually from home everyday? What is their intrinsic motivation?
OtherCentered Selling is Fulfilling
Our podcast is full of personal and professional stories that highlight the idea of ServeMore³.
And the kicker of it all is that you will enjoy your role even more. Other-Centered sellers are more fulfilled. It feels good to make people feel good. Serving your customers well feels good.
In the time of virtual sales, we often all look the same in Zoom or our products are similar, but the way to stand out is how you make people feel – and the way you make people feel is by caring about them so that you can ServeMore.
It’s not rocket science, it just takes thoughtfulness.
A little “homework” for you all, check out this video on YouTube. It’s a 3 minute clip from the movie, Hidden Figures, that perfectly illustrates the concepts of Care More, Learn More, Do More. It’s about the impact we have on others and how we make them feel.