Imagine yourself in your living room – watching an action movie or listening to one of your favorite songs with a surround sound system. The sound is all around you, coming at you from every direction. You’re fully immersed in the experience.
About 15 years ago, when I started finding more success in my sales efforts, I realized that I had a similar immersive approach with customers. I surrounded them with our brand via different communication channels, made our recommendations easy to understand, and helped them navigate internal politics. Customers would often say, “Everywhere I turn, I hear about your company,” and, “I feel like you really understand me, and your recommendations are easy to grasp.” This wasn’t happenstance; it was by plan.
A lot has changed in the buyer-seller relationship since then, and the pandemic accelerated even more change in an incredibly compressed amount of time. We saw 10 or 15 years of change compressed into two. And coming out of the pandemic, 70–80% of B2B decision makers say they prefer digital sales interactions, and salespeople now get only 5–6% of buyers’ time. Customers are simply demanding easier, more progressive experiences, but, in a 2020 survey, only 23% of CSOs had plans to permanently shift field sales to virtual.
The harsh reality is that customer expectations of the buying process are changing much faster than most sales teams are adapting. This concept of “surrounding” customers still works but has evolved and is more important than ever. At its core, the Surround Sound approach to selling is about leading customers through decisions so they can make decisions with confidence – and make more of them in your favor.
The following are the three main elements of what it means to be a Surround Sound seller in today’s business world:
Research suggests that, two days after you have a conversation with someone, they’ll remember only 10% of what you said. Thirty days later, they’ll remember only 4%. Imagine a customer who, on top of this normal reality of memory and comprehension, has a firehose of information coming at them from dozens of companies and salespeople. In this world of information overload, our attention spans continue to shrink – making it more important than ever to communicate with clarity and confidence that we truly believe we can help our clients find more success.
What and how you communicate also needs to adapt to a variety of channels. Ten years ago, someone could be a successful salesperson because “they could command a room.” But today, it’s hard to even get in that room! A modern seller needs to know how to communicate effectively via phone, video conference, email, text, social media, and in person. Each of these channels brings a unique way to communicate and, as a high-performance seller, you need to master all of them. And the more channels you can communicate with, the more accessible you become and the deeper your cognitive and emotional connection with customers.
The average American looks at their phone 344 times a day. We’re constantly distracted, and part of our role as sellers is to keep clients engaged. When meeting with a customer, you need to fully focus on them and make them feel like the most important person in the world at that moment. This means truly listening and asking relevant questions to make sure you deeply understand what they’re thinking and feeling and uncover things they might have never even thought about. In doing so, you show the customer that you genuinely care – and they’ll leave feeling like you understand them better than your competitors do.
In psychology, therapists talk about the importance of meeting clients where they are and then helping them progress from there. Make sure you truly understand where a customer stands in the buying journey, so you can adapt how you communicate with that person accordingly. For example, if a customer is early in the process of considering a solution you offer, that’s the time to share thought leadership content and customer success stories and ask high-level questions. This is where being an expert in your industry is so vital – so you can lead your customer with insights. As the customer progresses further in the buying process, you might start leveraging third-party reviews, buying guides on how to evaluate their decision, and customer introductions.
Advising and educating at all steps of the buying journey will help customers make small decisions that will lead to big decisions in your favor.
Your confidence helps customers feel more confident in their decisions. Our role as sellers is to help lead and guide customers through decisions. When we do this well, we arm the customer with information and insights that increase their confidence.
When evaluating why sales opportunities don’t close, the number one reason has always been the same: no decision. As many as 60% of sales opportunities are lost for this reason alone. The surprising truth is that people are afraid to make decisions because they don’t want to make the wrong ones or aren’t crystal clear about how the process will work. They’re missing the confidence to move forward, which causes delays. Eventually, the opportunity just slips away. With this insight in mind, help customers make confident decisions by consolidating information down to the key points they need to consider and delivering options that also include thoughtful recommendations.
This is a great time to be in sales if you’re ready and willing to change and adapt to new buyer expectations. The reality is that most people don’t change – or don’t change fast enough. This means that those who do, by practicing Surround Sound selling, can win a disproportionate share of the opportunities they pursue.
Bob Marsh is a keynote speaker on sales and leadership and chief revenue officer of Bluewater, a design-forward technology company that helps craft moments that connect and inspire.
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