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Marketers, Give Your Salespeople the Info They Need to Succeed

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In Daniel Pink's new book, To Sell is Human, Pink talks about information asymmetry in the sales process. He points out that the reason people have historically distrusted salespeople is because salespeople had all the information and the buyer had none. That explains the popularity of the term caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).

Pink contends that we are now in the age of information symmetry. In this age, the buyer and seller both have a balance of information. However, I contend that we are  in a state of information asymmetry, in which the buyer now has more information than the seller. In fact, the asymmetry has become so significant that the ability of the sales rep to do their job is greatly at risk.

That is why I argue that social selling is required to succeed. And when I talk about social selling, I’m talking in much broader terms than making sure that you’re connected to someone on LinkedIn or are following someone on Twitter.

I am talking about arming the sales rep with the same or better information than the buyer has. And I contend that the responsibility of arming the sales rep falls in marketing’s lap. It’s the CMO that owns the responsibility for providing the sales reps with better information than the buyer has.

We understand that the buyer gathers information from a wide variety of sources (usually online). We can even find out where the buyer gets their information and how they perceive that information. Historically, marketing has been working on influencing the perceptions of buyers via engagement (often on various social media channels).

The new imperative for marketing is to share with the sales organization the same information that the buyer is gathering. In other words, marketing needs to take all the tools it is using to collect information about the company’s products and services, and the perceptions buyers and customers have about the company’s products and services, and then provide that information to sales.

How Marketing Must Help


What I’m really talking about here is having the marketing organization enable the sales team to have a deep understanding and empathy for the buyer as they proceed through the customer journey. Sales should fully understand what information the buyer is being exposed to and how they’re reacting to it. The sales rep now has an opportunity to meet the buyer exactly where they are in the customer journey with a full understanding of what they think and feel about the company’s products and services.

Armed with that information, with the ability to empathize with that buyer, the sales rep can now play the role of a valued advisor to the buyer. The best news of all is that this is the role the buyer wants the sales rep to play.

In fact, the sales rep who achieves a deep level of empathy with the buyer can move from a valued advisor to a trusted advisor. This can be accomplished when the sales rep acknowledges the issues and concerns that the sales rep know have been uncovered and discussed by other buyers who have shared those issues and concerns with his buyer.

The sales rep who treats the buyer as a highly informed person will earn the trust of that buyer. But the only way to treat the buyer is a highly informed person is for the sales rep to be highly informed.

Marketing already has the data collection and reporting tools at the brand level, now they just need to aim those tools in a way that collects the information that is most meaningful for the sales team.

When marketing proactively brings these insights to the sales team we will eliminate information asymmetry in the buyer’s favor, increase the value of the sales rep in the buyer’s eyes, and enable the sales rep to have the impact we are paying them to have.




 


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Glenn Gow is founder of Silicon Valley-based marketing firm Crimson Marketing. He is an expert in marketing strategy for tech companies and the author of Revenue and the CMO. Follow his insights on tech marketing at the Crimson Technology Marketing Blog.

LinkedIn: Glenn Gow

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Comments

  • by Vinay Bhagat Thu Feb 7, 2013 via blog

    Glenn - I totally agree with the thesis of your article and saw this issue at my last company. All too often sales enablement focuses on educating reps on "our value proposition", objection handling, and core SPIN sales education. In my experience, product education level varies according to the philosophy of the sales leader.

    In this increasingly social world, customers will have more and more access to "the real scoop", or hear concerns from other customers, that sales people sometimes struggle to uncover or address. The effective organization needs to make sure that this information is well understood, and that reps are armed to address those issues quickly as they arise.

  • by Jeff Thu Feb 7, 2013 via blog

    You raise some interesting points - some of which are easier said than done. One of our most significant challenges as a start-up company has been to attempt to discover what information is most important to our potential customers. You are right in that there is so much information available it has tilted the scales in the favor of the customer. However, I'm wondering - from a practical standpoint - how we can weed through the vast amounts of information and distill it into the items that are truly important to our customers. I'm sure part of this will happen over time as we listen carefully to the conversations we're having but I'm curious if you could give any guidance on how we at least establish a good foundation of information on which to build.

  • by Glenn Gow Thu Feb 7, 2013 via blog

    Vinay,

    As you know, new tools are being created every day to help companies be smarter and have the "social intelligence" to be more effective.

    I believe marketing should drive this effort to enable the sales teams. The the CMO who does this well will be viewed as a hero by the sales teams.

  • by Glenn Gow Thu Feb 7, 2013 via blog

    Jeff,

    One way to approach this is to look at your entire target market as a whole and leverage one or more of the dozens of social media listening tools available to you.

    Another way is to work with the sales team to identify one or two "perfect customers" that truly represent your target market and focus just on them. By focusing on one or two (assuming they truly represent your target market) you can focus on key individuals within those accounts to understand what they're going through.

    Marketing can follow everything those individuals are doing and saying online and sales can report on the conversations they are having with those individuals. Together you can create that good foundation you're looking for.

  • by David Fri Feb 8, 2013 via blog

    Great article, Glenn. Do you happen to have any examples of companies that are doing a really good job of this today? Or do you know of any companies who are doing a particularly good job enabling "social selling?' Thanks.

  • by Amber King Fri Feb 8, 2013 via blog

    Agree. It is important that salespeople are armed with their prospects information. By understanding your prospect, you would know what to offer.

  • by Glenn Gow Fri Feb 8, 2013 via blog

    David, I don't think there are good examples of companies doing a good job of this today. It's too early in the "social selling" lifecycle.

    There are companies that are experimenting, and making a lot of progress including IBM, EMC, and Cisco.

    I hope that helps!

  • by Sudhir Mon Aug 5, 2013 via blog

    Nice article. Since marketing gathers and acts upstream of sales, marketing folks possess very valuable information. Traditionally, sales rep come in much later in the cycle and get a disproportionate amount of credit/blame when they close/fail to close the deal.

    Can marketing arm the sales with valuable information much earlier in the cycle? If so, sales can actually work closely with the customers to define the product requirement and help design the RFPs. In such a scenario, your product has the inside track while the competing products are being evaluated against your product on an RFP that you helped design. I'd say that's more than half the battle won.

  • by Glenn Gow Fri Aug 30, 2013 via blog

    Sudhir - you're exactly right. Marketing and sales need to work together to share their knowledge with each to be better prepared to engage with the buyer. Not only does marketing have valuable information, but sales too understand the customer on a whole other level from marketing.

    I think you'll find this quite useful - http://www.crimsonmarketing.com/can-marketing-speak-the-sales-language-an-i...

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