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What clients expect from salespeople and how to deliver

September 8, 2021

When your reps are in a demo with potential clients, there are expectations on either end.

From the rep’s perspective, the expectation is to get the client on board and close the deal.

In reality, they’re not going to get there if they’re not fulfilling the client’s expectations.

But do your reps know what your clients are expecting? Do they know how to fulfil those expectations?

If you answered with “Yes, of course!” this resounding yes means one of two things:

  1. You’re either a champion leader or...
  2. You’re a bit out of touch. 😉

Not to worry though! We chatted to Ben Riall, author of The pillars of an Elite sales career: How to build a six-figure sales career in tech. He gave us the tips your team needs to fulfil expectations and close deals faster.

Flick through the menu 👇 to jump to a section and gain some B2B sales insights!

Demonstrating your understanding | Being a consultant VS being salesy | Waiting too long or acting too quickly? | Your bare minimum checklist | Cognism’s sales process handbook

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Demonstrating your understanding 👩‍🏫

Much like being in the classroom when the teacher asks you to take out your homework, your reps can’t just tell your clients they’ve done their research.

They’ve got to show that they’ve done it.

And the top 2 things they’ve got to demonstrate?

  1. A clear understanding of the client’s business.
  2. A clear understanding of the client’s industry.

Understanding the client’s business

Ben explains that understanding your client’s business is all in the pre-work.

But demonstrating to your client that you understand their business is more than just Googling this or Googling that.

“It’s about showing respect. What you don't want to do is ask questions that are very obvious, or that you could find the answer to on their website. Your understanding of their business should be found through in-depth research.”

Here’s what showing the client that you understand their business does not look like:

Telling them that you’ve researched their company, read their annual report and then saying: “this really stood out to me.”

What it does look like is saying:

  • “You’re doing this, it looks really interesting - what are your thoughts on it?”
  • “I’m interested in seeing the direction your business is going in in this particular area.”

Essentially, the only way your reps are going to demonstrate their understanding is in the way they ask the client questions.

These questions have to be relevant and must clearly come from doing their own research.

“Your reps clearly have to have done their homework to be able to even think in that perspective and think that sharply.”

So, how do they go about this research?

If they’re going in cold, your reps might just pick up the phone and start a conversation with their standard pitch.

This will work for SMB and smaller accounts. However, they’ll need a different strategy for the larger side of SMB, mid-market and enterprise accounts.

Here are the things your reps should research on those larger accounts:

  • Picking out key areas on the client’s website.
  • Deep-diving into the client’s financial report.
  • Structuring questions before going onto a cold call - it should be a free-flowing conversation but to maximise time, it’s good to have a structure in mind.
  • Starting from the top-down and linking your questions back to your research.
  • Analyse their company on LinkedIn to understand its structure and how light/heavy they are in particular departments
  • Read relevant LinkedIn profiles to identify some hidden gems, that can be used in your upcoming calls

🔥 Hot tip: Always take the size of the account into consideration - there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to research. 🔥

Understanding the client’s industry

This is incredibly dependent on the type of salesperson your rep is.

Are they a specialist in a particular field or is this a one-off pitch to a specific industry?

You’ve got to remember that if your rep is a biotech expert, for example, the client needs an expert to guide them through the process.

If this isn’t the case, the client could simply go to a website and read up on what they need.

So, it’s up to your reps to show them that they understand the industry and how to meet their needs.

But they need to go further than merely offering advice.

Your reps need to:

  • Subscribe to industry publications and bring their e-reading into conversations with the client.
  • Research the industry thoroughly.
  • Read reports, surveys and information from the client’s competitors.
  • Learn from your current customers - are there any approaches that worked for businesses in the same industry?
  • Network with their colleagues - ask teammates who are working with similar clients, who are further ahead on their buying journey for their advice.

🔥 Hot tip: Borrowing ideas from colleagues is a great way for your reps to deepen their expertise. 🔥

Your reps need to hit three key points when demonstrating their understanding:

  1. Show the client that they understand their business before they jump on the call.
  2. Show them that they understand the uniqueness of their industry.
  3. Show them that they’re a specialist in what the client does.

Ben expands on this:

“Ask yourself questions and approach it as though you really want to understand this question right now. Then, go and answer it, and form little independent research projects yourself. Bring this understanding to your meetings and it will come through. The great thing is, once you've done it is always there.”

These days, outbound sales is a lot like table stakes; there will always be competition and so your reps need to stand out from the crowd.

This means listening to podcasts, attending live and virtual events and making social selling part of their day-to-day.

It’s only by accumulating all this knowledge in the first place that they’ll be able to feed it back to the client.

Being a consultant VS being salesy 💼

Often, your reps can become so wrapped up in selling your solution that they miss the bigger picture of what the client needs.

Here’s where you need to really drill it down to them: there’s a fine line between being salesy and acting like more of a consultant.

It all comes back to Ben’s analogy of going to the doctor:

“If you go to the doctor for knee pain, they’re not just going to put a band-aid on your knee. They’ll dig deeper by assessing the problem, understanding the situation, and then recommend a treatment plan. Because they’ve followed this process, their recommendation is usually the right outcome.”

It’s the same in SaaS sales.

The first question is - what’s the best way for your reps to stop reaching for the band-aid, and instead start recommending treatment plans?

It’s simple - they should stop focusing on pushing your product and start taking a more holistic approach.

What does that mean in practice?

The way to do this is to take a step back and:

  1. Understand the problem - find the client’s pain points.
  2. Assess the situation - choose a solution, assess whether it’s right for the client, and then work backwards to see if it fits.
  3. Make recommendations - based on your findings, advise the client on how to proceed.

While this may seem like common knowledge to you as a leader, you’ve got to get your reps approaching discovery and demos in this way.

“Anyone can ask questions and listen, but you’ve got to add value along the way. And how you show value is by having expertise, it's by sharing stories about what your customers have gone through. You then need to understand your recommendations on what to do and bring that insight to your meetings. You’ve got to go in with the initial view of putting your customer first and then build up that perspective.” - Ben Riall

Once your reps have gotten into this mindset, they’ll need to continue working the lead.

But, they’ve got to think about whether they’re 👇

Waiting too long or acting too quickly? ⏲️

A million questions will come to mind here.

How quick is too quick?

How long is too long?

Are they risking overactivity on the lead?

Your reps know that they must never come out of a meeting without setting out the next steps with your client.

But following up on those can often go awry when your reps are hopping from one call to the next all day.

Ben’s recommendation?

Get your reps to block out time directly after their meetings. That time can be used to action next steps and follow-ups.

Ben told us:

“Whether it’s sending a confirmation email, collaborating with colleagues internally, kicking off actions, updating notes - whatever it is, they need to do this while it’s fresh in their mind.”

It’s only by sticking to this structure that your reps will show the client that they’re on top of things.

Think of it from the client’s perspective. If it takes too long for a follow-up email to be sent, then that just shows a lack of commitment on the rep’s side.

Your reps must remember that they’re in charge of making the client experience as pleasant as possible.

The best way to highlight this?

Ask your reps how they would feel if a client went on holiday for four days while the rep was expecting to hear from them. Well, the same goes for the client if the rep is too slow in responding!

And once they’ve taken all this into consideration, your reps should make sure they’ve hit everything on 👇

Your bare minimum checklist 📋

We know reps are incredibly busy and constantly have new information thrown their way.

So here’s a quick checklist to ensure they’re meeting your client’s expectations. Your reps must:

  • Qualify the lead early.
  • Qualify the pain point or challenge.
  • Add value for the client while qualifying the upside (this must be done as soon as they can).
  • If necessary, do a deeper discovery with other parties in their organisation - this will demonstrate specific use cases for the client.
  • Tell the client what the path to purchase is and keep them engaged/excited about the sales process.

🔥 Hot tip: Letting your clients know what they're buying into, and what they're doing early on changes the tone. It sets the momentum and reassures the client that they’re making the right decision. 🔥

If your reps are on top of things - research, meeting deadlines and more importantly, showing the client that all these things are happening, they’re much more likely to close deals.

And what sales leader wouldn’t want that?

Now, don’t just sit there - get this circulating around your team!

Cognism’s sales process handbook 🚀

You can never give your team enough information on optimising their sales process.

So why not check out some actionable tips with our data-backed sales process guide?

They’ll better understand how it works and what to do at each stage!

Download your free copy here 👇

B2B Sales Process Handbook

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