The goal of any sales rep is to become a trusted advisor. The problem is that sales reps wear many hats throughout the sales process, so they need to ensure that they can rely upon every step of the way. A sales rep starts with their initial prospecting outreach, through to delivering on agreed-upon follow-up and proposal material, to ultimately having their company fulfill their promises.
Reps that can execute their plan with their prospect are on the journey to becoming those trusted advisors. However, there is a non-linear component to achieving the vaulted status. That is knowing all the issues around where they can help.
Think of it, how often do multiple reps propose similar solutions to a prospect, yet one rep stands out head and shoulders above the others?
Why? That rep becomes the angel on the prospect’s shoulder, providing valuable information.
How do reps like that become the trusted advisor?
Using data, a rep can quickly triangulate how to become a trusted advisor.
The formula is as follows; people want to talk to people that are interesting to them, and people want to talk with people who will help them advance in their careers.
Being an interesting person with information allows the sales reps to slip into a trusted advisor’s role.
Here is a three-step framework using data science to enhance a sales rep’s reputation.
Table of Contents
Step 1: Domain expertise
Can your rep talk the talk? I was talking with Victoria Gagnon from ConnectLeader the other day and she had an anecdote about how while she was in the transportation industry, the causal use of single word allowed insiders to quickly identify outsiders.
A rep that is considered an insider is closer to being a trusted advisor.
How do you gain that domain specific lexicon?
Usually, a hiring company requires a certain level of domain expertise and checks that box with previous experience or educational background. While those measures provide the foundation to build on, they don’t necessarily mean the candidate has the domain expertise to be an insider.
When I was with the Journal of Visualized Experients (JoVE.com), we did an exciting experiment. We had two cohorts; one group was PhDs with domain expertise. We trained them as sales reps. The other group were experienced sales reps with a science background. We found was that the PhDs with a little sales training dramatically outperformed the sales reps with science backgrounds. While we were a start-up and had little experience training people in sales, that would surely be a biase against the PhD turn phone slinger. However, it was not.
What was the turning point?
When the sales reps with science backgrounds would talk with their prospects, they would often be out of their league and need to rely on the JoVE production team to aid in the ideation and creation of the video article. However, when our scientist salespeople got through the call’s initial awkwardness, they were able to talk peer to peer, because of their comfort with the unique language scientists use.
This leads us to the next data-driven approach to becoming a trusted advisor.
Step 2: Industry knowledge
As eluded to above, someone that knows the current state of an industry is a valued asset to anyone who wants to know about that industry.
Often people are stuck in their job, heads down, moving from task to task, meeting to meeting, without regard to what is happening in the broader world around them. Sometimes they lift their head above the smog to read a LinkedIn post, attend a webinar, a conference, or go to a local networking event to gain a single nugget of truth. For this reason, a savvy sales rep is someone who can spoon-feed key bits and bytes of industry knowledge to a willing prospect will be a trusted advisor.
How & why?
A good sales rep is continually bouncing from prospect to prospect within their set industry. Like a snowball rolling downhill, the sales rep is grabbing, picking up, and collating information at a rate on par with a journalist with a deadline.
A sales rep that can talk with one prospect, pick up relevant industry information, then fire it at the next prospect (abiding by NDAs & proprietary information rules and regulations) wrapped in relevant context and potentially actionable advice will be a sales rep who has a Rolodex of clients and prospects that continually answer their calls.
This leads us to the third and final step of a sales rep becoming a trusted advisor.
Step 3: Relevancy
You can be the leading expert in a particular field, but if I don’t care about, it isn’t relevant to me, why should I spend any time listening?
A sales rep needs to be relevant to their prospect and customer’s needs.
Without relevancy, information is valueless.
Think of it, if you are selling an agent-assisted dialer like ConnectLeader or ConnectAndSell, that can take a rep from twenty dials a day to fifty dials an hour, that’s pretty awesome right?
Suppose that rep only needs to call twenty people a day because they have a small addressable market of named accounts. In that case, the value of being able to dial more becomes less relevant.
So how does a rep wrap relevancy around domain expertise and industry knowledge?
Find out how and on what your prospect is rated.
This is where data science comes into play.
First, what are your prospect’s role and responsibilities?
Don’t know? Look at a job description for a similar position at a similar company.
Great, you got that information.
Now, look at another one, another one, another one, and so on.
In short, find every job description for that role at similar companies over the last couple of years. You should start seeing some trends.
- What are the common responsibilities?
- What are the outliers?
- Are the outliers from five years ago becoming common?
- Can you make any predictions about how that job is changing?
With data, a sales rep can dig into what their quarry is rated and how they are judged.
In short, when a sales rep can walk a mile in their prospect’s shoes, they have a much better chance of turning the corner from service provider to trusted advisor.
There are no two ways about it; sales is hard.
A rep who becomes a trusted advisor consistently brings value to their network and will hit their targets earlier than their peers.
Value comes in many shapes and sizes. Using data science, your reps can bring timely and relevant information to your network at a regular cadence, delivered in the industry’s vernacular, and will position your rep as a trusted advisor.