You've likely heard the dire predictions about the future of B2B sales. Buyers are more informed than ever, so the buying process is nearly complete before prospects ever talk to sales reps. Between that and automation, 1 million salespeople will need a new line of work by 2020, according to Forrester. Thankfully, you won't be one of them — not if you're selling technology like UCaaS applications.
From Salesperson to Adviser
Communications technology evolves quickly, and buyers need expert insights. They don't need a salesperson to tell them what the technology does — they have Google for that. Instead, they need help determining which solution will best meet their needs, deliver the results they want, and play nice with their other technology. If you can help with that, you're not just a salesperson. You're a trusted adviser.
Ian Kieninger, CEO of Avant Communications, a Vonage channel partner, explains that simply enabling product procurement doesn't add as much customer value as it once did: "It's becoming less about the bits and bytes of one technology versus another, which I refer to as the what. Salespeople now need to be thinking about the why and the how. They need to be the ones leading the conversation about how the products address business challenges."
So, how does a trusted adviser have a business conversation about understanding UCaaS applications? Kieninger suggests the following strategies.
Trusted advisers don't just take orders. They help prospects understand the market, offer solutions that deliver the outcomes they want, and finish the conversation with assurance that the relationship will continue well beyond deployment, with ongoing consultative services.
Educate Buyers on the Market, Not Just the Product
Unified communications is a complex and crowded industry. As a trusted adviser, you help prospects understand the market, its players, and its many acronyms.
"The comfortable old trusted brands aren't bringing the next generation of cloud-based technologies to market fast enough," says Kieninger. "There's an entirely new ecosystem of vendors that buyers need to understand, and they don't. Along with that, IT departments are driving less of the decisions than ever, so we need to help them understand these new technologies so they can stay relevant within their organizations."
To help sub agents find these technologies, Avant arms its team with information and tools that buyers can't find online. The company recently launched its own analytics division and hired a data scientist who uses business and third-party data to provide a holistic understanding of UCaaS for channel partners. With data that enables them to forecast the next six to 12 months, Kieninger says, "partners have some qualitative and quantitative data to go in front of the CIO and say, 'Here's where things are going. Do you want to be prepared for this? How does this fit into your strategy? What kind of outcome could using UCaaS have on your business?'"
Explain How UCaaS Applications Address Pain Points
Kieninger says the relationship between buyer and seller used to be a conversation around procurement, price, features, and in many cases, the delivery of a product. Now, buyers want to discuss outcomes — their unique problems, your unique solutions, and the specific results they can expect.
The conversation, Kieninger claims, needs to shift from discussing the details of a particular product to discussing how that product can solve the company's biggest problems. "It's a different approach that leads to a deeper, longer-term relationship," he says. "And ultimately, it tends to be more profitable for channel partners."
Data also helps with this part of the sales conversation. Avant partners can arm companies with the information they need to understand the ROI or TCO of the product, and they can give the company detailed data about their peer groups, too. When Kieninger's team is able to present the company with all of its options, the company is better equipped to select the right product for them, based on the outcomes they want and the technology requirements they have. This can be a huge differentiator for channel partners, says Kieninger. "When you break through all the things that the company can simply Google, and start to get to the meat of why the customer needs the product, you set yourself apart from everyone else."
Be Prepared for a Conversation About Security
To be a trusted adviser, be prepared to explain why the technology you're selling can be trusted. The average enterprise security breach costs $3.92 million, according to IBM. Faced with numbers like that, most buyers want to have an informed conversation about protection and compliance.
Buyers are becoming increasingly sensitive to the vulnerabilities of technologies. "Being able to layer in this conversation, no matter what technology is being sold, is important," says Kieninger. "The final capping piece to all these technology decisions is: can it be secured, and how can you secure it? It's a different perspective that the seller needs to understand as these buyers evolve."
Trusted advisers don't just take orders. They help prospects understand the market, offer solutions that deliver the outcomes they want, and finish the conversation with assurance that enterprise data will remain safe and that the relationship will continue well beyond deployment, with ongoing consultative services to ensure the customer's success. If you can do that, you're not only a trusted adviser — you're a rainmaker and a great channel partner.