Social media, the internet, Amazon, Google..., you name it - they have all influenced the way people buy and sell. A dramatic shift has happened over the last 10 years and with the patience of buyers diminishing and the ability to access information accelerating - sales professionals need to be more prepared than ever before.
In the past, buyers leveraged sales people to gain information about their products and services. Today, buyers are already well-equipped with the majority of the information sales people were traditionally responsible for conveying. So what information do our customers already know about us?
Buyers already know who your competition is - the days of "hiding" our competition from the customer is gone. Prospects know who the usual suspects are and it takes them less than 5 minutes to figure that out on the web.
Buyers already know what your product does - just by going to your company's website and clicking around for a couple minutes, they have a good understanding of what your products are and what problems they solve.
Buyers have a good understanding of what your price is - for some products and services, pricing is listed right on the company's website. This makes it easy for prospects to compare against your competitors and have a general idea of the cost and packaging. Also, customers hang around other customers at different networking events and seminars - a lot of them share this information with one another whether we like it or not.
Buyers already know your product's pitfalls - there are blogs about everything out there from consumer reports to product forums and social media sites like Yelp and Facebook which give your prospects insider information about how others view your product. Whatever the downsides are with your solution (every company has at least one), your customer is already aware of them.
Buyers already know your company's reputation - similar to how customers learn about how your product is perceived in the market is also how your company is perceived. Prospects can look at Yelp, Facebook, blogs, news articles, etc. to get a glimpse of what people are saying in real time. If you work for a publicly traded company, all good and bad news will be available to the outside world (often times before you know yourself).
So how can you make this all work to your advantage? Come overly prepared. Knowing that your prospects have all this information at their fingertips - be sure to have some data points to respond with when they are brought up. Here are a couple of examples:
Since your customer probably has a good idea who your competition is, be sure to have some bullet points on how you are different and what makes you better. You can never know too much about your competition. You should know their solution as well as you know yours and be able to identify their weaknesses to the customer and create FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt).
Your prospect probably has a good idea of what your solution offering is before you ever have the chance to tell them. Start the conversation off with something like, "Before we get started, I want to get a better understanding of where to start our conversation. Can you tell me what you already know about ____________?"
There is one thing that is consistent in every deal out there and that is a pricing discussion. The disadvantage we have as sales people is that customers have a general idea of what pricing is before we ever present it to them. Because of this, it is imperative that you drive home the value of your solution and demonstrate a strong ROI and TCO throughout the sales process. Also, know all the different pricing options your company provides (financing, delayed payment, volume discounts, etc.)
You will be getting objections throughout your sales campaign (which is a good thing btw, it means they are interested). One of which will be with regards to the weaknesses of your product. Know ahead of time how to respond to these comments. Perhaps there is something on the roadmap with your product that addresses the weakness or articulate the strengths of your product that overcome these objections.
Stay on top of your company's latest news, blogs, twitter feed, press releases etc. Chances are your customer is reading them. If something happens that has a negative impact on your company and is in the news, know the company's response and the facts around it.