How to Find and Connect with Early Stage Buyers

There is a popular school of thought that suggests demand generation is the responsibility of marketing, and that salespeople’s time is too valuable to spend on prospecting. Instead, they should spend their time responding to marketing-generated leads.

Needless to say, we disagree with this point of view. We don’t believe that salespeople should waste time cold calling low-quality prospects. However, we do know that sellers can build awareness and credibility with targeted prospects by using micro-marketing methods.

There is no doubt that buyer behavior has changed over the last several years. Buyers have more access to information than ever before. As a result, they usually don’t engage with salespeople until they are far along in their decision process. However, buyers will seek the guidance of peers, subject matter experts, and thought leaders early and often, when seeking potential solutions to their problems. This is an opportunity for sellers to connect early with potential buyers and win more business.

Seed Planting and Social Listening

Today, effective sellers are doing a lot of “seed planting.” For example, if they come across an informative article from an industry analyst that highlights an issue that they can help solve, then they can share a link to that article in a personalized email to a prospector with a LinkedIn group. In doing this, they are not pushing their own product, but raising awareness of an issue that is of value to prospective buyers, and demonstrating their own industry expertise at the same time.

Good sellers are also devoting more time to “social listening”. For example, we recently discovered a VP of HR in a LinkedIn discussion group asking for recommendations on sales training companies. One of our sellers monitored and participated in that group. He saw the post, made contact with the VP, and it turned into a real opportunity.

Your salespeople should be proactively building relationships with individuals who have the potential to buy from them. They should dedicate a percentage of their time to business development activities that don’t necessarily result in immediate interest or action. Instead, they can educate themselves to gain expertise in their chosen domain and eventually position themselves as a trusted resource. Smart sellers are creating their own personal brand as a recognized expert among their peers and customers. Salespeople who become recognized experts have a much better chance of engaging earlier with buyers, thereby gaining a competitive advantage.

Keep it Simple for Success

This kind of micro-marketing activity can be done efficiently with common tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, and old-fashioned e-mail. Your salespeople should be connecting or following prospective buyers, listening for buying signals, and engaging in discussions when they can add value. While trying not to sell overtly, they can position themselves as experts with an informed perspective, build relationships, and engage early in dialogue with buyers.

Provide Value without being Obnoxiously Assertive

To be effective micro-marketers, salespeople must think from the customers’ perspective and understand the challenges they face that are relevant to what they sell. Sellers should demonstrate thoughtfully that they have a unique perspective on how to address customer issues through their product/services. However, they must present a point of view in a compelling way that catches the attention of someone who is in a decision-making capacity. Then, they can post ideas wherever buyers are having online conversations or searching for insight.

How to Best Enable Salespeople

Sales leaders can help salespeople develop micro-marketing skills through a combination of formal and informal approaches. Formally, you can support sellers by making sure they have the right messaging and insights to offer to buyers.

However, sales leaders can also encourage salespeople to step up and develop their own expertise, or to take some of the ideas that marketing is providing and put their own twist on them. Sellers should be able to take big concepts and make them relevant to each buyer.

Sellers can be a powerful source of insight to customers, which will lead to more opportunities. As a sales leader, don’t let your salespeople off the hook for new business development. Instead, encourage them to focus and develop their own expertise. Micro-marketing skills will go a long way towards helping salespeople to position themselves as experts and engaging with early-stage buyers effectively.

We’ve put together a helpful graphic that describes what effective micro-marketers do to engage with early-stage buyers.

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