“If you know your next point of view, you can’t possibly be listening.”
We’ve all had conversations that feel like a one-way street.
You know the kind I’m talking about: they’re the ones where the other person just waits for you to finish so they can start talking again. In conversations like these, it’s not really a dialogue between two people, it’s more like a monologue. Not surprisingly, at least one person always walks away feeling like they haven’t been heard.
Unfortunately, in the world of B2B sales and marketing, we’re guilty of putting our prospects through this very same experience.
Whether it’s dropping them into automated and impersonal email flows, or doing batch-and-blast sales outreach, we spend too much time talking at potential customers instead of having real conversations with them. And, in the process, we forfeit our chances of developing the kind of relationship that has the potential to close deals.
That’s why I decided it had to end. At my company, we’ve been saying we need to “hold the hustle” and focus instead on building real relationships with prospects.
The end result? More sales–which is something we can all agree on.
But how do you scale conversations in the B2B buying process?
I’ve given this a lot of thought as I’ve overhauled our process at Nudge. So today I’m sharing the four key ingredients to building stronger business relationships using a conversational approach.
Remember, you’re there to do one thing: listen.
Strong relationships are built on one thing: great conversations. Find a way to deliver great conversations at scale, and you’ll be on the fast track to delivering sales and marketing results.
But I get it: that’s easier said than done in B2B.
Which is why you’ve got to start with the basics. And for any company that’s looking to scale conversational sales and marketing, you must teach your sales reps to do one thing really well: listen to prospects.
When you’re asking the right questions, making the right observations, and introducing a point of view only when it aligns with the conversation at hand, you’re on the right path.
Our goal is to never start cold conversations. So make sure you get either a warm introduction from the strongest connection in your network, or, in the case of Drift, let your buyer come to you via chat. With the information and tools we all have access to, prepping for conversations that are relevant to your prospects shouldn’t be a huge obstacle. Spend your time doing the right research beforehand so you can spend more time listening and serving your buyers.
The buying experience is everything.
In the world of B2B, we’ve become way too obsessed with building frameworks and buying flows that only make our lives easier, not the lives of our prospects and customers. And that’s the antithesis of the approach you want to take with conversational sales and marketing.
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We all obsess over the experience someone has with the look and feel of our website, brand, and product. But do we ever stop and ask ourselves what it feels like to buy from our company?
If you’re going to deliver an outstanding buying experience, you’ve got to turn a critical eye on your buying process. Ask yourself: Is it easy to get a hold of someone when a prospect has questions? Do visitors to your website have to fill out forms, and jump through hoops just to book a meeting?
At Nudge, we learned that delivering a great experience isn’t just about making sure our website and product look good–it’s also about making sure the buying process is frictionless, and on the buyer’s terms.
One of my favorite questions to ask prospects is, How do you buy? Usually, buyers will detail exactly how they make purchasing decisions at their company. Regardless of whether you intend to sell to that specific individual in the moment, you can always use that information to help you build a relationship with another buyer in the same or similar industry and role later on.
Let the buyer’s reality guide the conversation.
It’s good to be prepared for sales conversations–no question.
But if you’re going to take a conversational approach and truly listen to your prospects, then you need to start with a blank canvas. Ask questions like “what’s your discovery process?”, “how do you set priorities?”, and “how do you evaluate solutions?”, and use responses as a means of guiding the conversation. Let the buyer tell you what their reality is like, and what specific challenges they face.
When we do this, we’re not listening for the next opportunity to continue talking, we’re listening in order to understand.
Yes, it’s a slightly more difficult path, but it’s the only path that will lead to long-term success.
Listen to the buyers who don’t speak.
Most sales professionals aren’t deluged with calls from qualified execs eager to buy.
That’s why it’s imperative that you listen to the buyers who aren’t speaking to you directly. And you do that by:
- Following industry news events, like changes in leadership, product launches, growth announcements, and even shake-ups. This is the exact example of how listening can be broader than words spoken in a one-to-one conversation.
- Reacting to each event with a well-crafted observation, challenge, or question. Your point of view can only be effective if it’s driven by the buyer’s reality, and not your own.
Any point of view you have might be carefully thought through in advance, but you should only use it when it’s relevant to a conversation you’re having with a buyer. Remember, no one likes–or benefits from–a sales or marketing monologue.
If you plan on putting your prospects through the same “me first, you second” methodology that has ruled B2B sales and marketing for the last decade or so, you can expect more of the same dismal outcomes.
But if you’re truly interested in true 10x growth, then you have to study the conversational approach to sales and marketing.
And you can start by actually listening to your prospects in a variety of ways: when they’re on your website using one-to-one chat, when they engage with your brand, or when there’s a news or business event that can serve as the fuel that kicks off a conversation.
Whatever you need to start that process, let your efforts be guided by the broader goal of fueling conversations with the prospects that could become your best customers.