Is meeting customers face-to-face feeling like a thing of the past, amidst video calls, emails, and texts? How can you build a relationship with a customer or prospect, when it’s less likely you can meet at their office or take them to lunch? How can you still build customer ❤️ into remote interactions?

Get personal. This piece by the folks at Zendesk gives a good overview of the what, why, and how of personal selling. It got me thinking about the dilemma those of us in sales and customer success have been puzzling over even before the pandemic—How does personal selling work when it’s hard to get personal?

 

Get creative

The change to “personal selling” may have seemed abrupt because of the pandemic but the transformation was already underway. In the B2B world, many clients were already remote, making the “drop-by” a thing of the past. Many sellers were already scaling back on travel, meals, and customer activities. This transformation didn’t make personal selling less important, though — in fact, quite the opposite.

How can you build personal connections in a virtual world? How to build relationships that give you an edge over your competition? For a quick start when using tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, don’t fall prey to the temptation to “get down to business” because time seems more precious. Start with a personal connection, even just a “how was your weekend?” and be mindful to find time to go deeper, too. Get to know more about your customers’ hobbies and family. Find out little things, such as if they are a local sports fan or if they like the upcoming fall weather.

Last week I had a first call with a brand-new contact. Gwen is coordinating the fall retreat for her company, and I have the privilege of being their keynote speaker. Our call was scheduled for an hour and we had a lot of ground to cover. As we started the call, though, I noticed a picture on a corkboard over her shoulder, of two young kids and a black shepherd dog that reminded me of one we have of our kids when they were young. I asked about it and she took a couple of minutes to walk me through a few family pictures and some additional memorabilia, allowing me a glimpse into her family life and what’s important to her outside of work.

Gwen and I also discussed the professional journey that had led her to her current role, so I had an appreciation of her skills, what she liked in a corporate environment, and how she connected to others. Now, we feel we know each other a bit and we have built a bit of trust, a foundation for growing our connection as we work together. We have also connected on LinkedIn, of course — another powerful way for us to get to know each other’s history and thoughts.

 

Get to know the chain of command

A key step that is often missed in virtual settings and is very important, especially in a B2B environment, is getting to know all the players that are involved in your customer’s purchasing decision. For example, if you were flying from Dallas to Chicago to do meetings with a prospective client, you’d also plan meetings with others in the office throughout the day. You would possibly meet with a CEO or President, maybe the head of finance, head of IT, sales, marketing, operations, manufacturing, etc. — those making the buying decision and those would be using the solution you were selling.

With more sales happening virtually, don’t assume that you’ve checked all the boxes just because you’ve talked to the person who makes the final decision. Take time to understand and learn who else contributes to the decision; how your customer’s (or prospective customer’s) organization (and their part of the organization) wins if they adopt your solution; and how each stakeholder personally looks good if they choose your solution and get the outcomes that you are promising.

 

Audience-focused, benefit-led selling

How your customer looks to their organization, and how your solution better improves their life is monumental. Prospects considering your solution wonder, “what is in it for me — how will this solution make my life better or easier?” With personal selling, you get to understand the other party’s “win” and present the benefit in the terms that align with them. You take an audience-focused, benefits-led approach to your sale, always putting the customer first.

If, for example, you sell a manufacturing solution, the outcome for the business is not the fact that they have purchased your software (that is your win, not theirs). What your customer and their company are looking for are wins like increased uptime on their assembly lines, streamlined training for employees, and increased overall production. When selling an administrative software solution, the outcome for the business is more efficient processes for their employees, increasing focus on key tasks by removing administrative overhead, and reducing errors.

Approach the sale from your customer’s point of view. Consider not only what makes your product or service a win for them and their organization, but also how it will benefit them in a personal way. Will they look good in front of senior leadership and possibly get a promotion? Will this raise their personal profile in their industry, or will your solution enable them to go home at a decent hour and spend more time with their family?

Bottom line: It’s up to you, as a seller, to get personal to win the deal. Understand what your customer values and highlight for them how your product or service will deliver it.

Does your organization need help implementing personal selling? I love sharing what I know, reach out to me today to discuss a training plan to get your team on the right track the better sales.