Nobody likes to be sold to, not even sales reps.
When you’re looking to make a purchase, who would you be more likely to buy from:
- The account rep who shows up out of nowhere in your inbox or voicemail and immediately tries to schedule a demo, or
- The person who’s taken the time to get to know you and your needs, and has built a level of trust?
In my experience, short of an extraordinary circumstance, trust wins every time. And I’ll bet it does with you, too. So, how do you go about gaining that trust with your B2B accounts?
Account-based marketing (ABM) enables you to do just that by focusing on, and getting to know, a few target accounts better than ever before. Think of it as a grand exercise in putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.
Yes, it’s an investment of time, but it provides an undeniable edge over a competitor who, frankly, doesn’t know your future customer as well as you do. By really understanding your target accounts, you’ll be able to build an authentic connection with them, which is how you build trust and eventually close more deals.
So, how do you do that?
Authenticity versus everything else
Let’s break this down by first comparing the two contrasting experiences mentioned above. The first account rep, knowing nothing about you aside from your email address, name and company name, sends you a cold email and maybe follows up with a call or two. They want a piece of your valuable time so they can talk about the benefits and features of their solution.
The other account rep did their homework. They know you are active on Twitter and LinkedIn, so they start by following you on those channels, liking, sharing and commenting on your content. They get to know what you care about and their first outreach is not to sell to you but to send you a few links to relevant articles or piece of high-value content they know you’d benefit from –– and this content may or may not be something their organization produced. Over time, they gain your trust and become more of a resource than a pain point to be avoided. Now, when you’re ready to make a purchase, who’s more likely to gain your business?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think it’s because of luck that all-star marketing and sales teams become successful by knowing all the bells and whistles of their product. I’m convinced they succeed because they are in complete synch with their customers’ needs. And if you meet their needs, you can meet your goals. Everyone wins.
This is one secret of ABM –– marketing and sales teams earn deals in a competitive market not because they’ve mastered their product but because they’ve put themselves in their customer’s shoes and are attuned to their wants and needs. Words can fall flat. Preparedness shows a future customer you’re invested in their personal experience, which makes them feel valued right out the gate.
Building trust is the foundation of your business relationship
Plain and simple, effort builds trust. Listening builds trust. And authenticity builds trust. ABM is the shift away from telling prospects about how terrific your solutions are and instead to engaging on their terms. It’s being of service by understanding their needs and developing an authentic relationship.
I recently did a webinar with Marketo’s Jill Rowley and LinkedIn’s Ty Heath about how to engage with prospects, and the consensus was… (drumroll)… be super helpful. Here are two ways to shift your approach:
Offer valuable feedback
First, think of your job as an advisor. Simply put, be a good listener. If your potential customer is active on social media, chances are you’ll see them share thoughts or questions about the business and perhaps their life in general.
These moments present a fantastic opportunity to share with them topic-related blogs or articles related to their issue, links that may not even be from your company. Remember, the goal is to empower them with useful information irrespective of its source. If appropriate, you might even send a white paper or case study of a customer that experienced a similar issue.
The point is, you build trust and create authentic conversations by showing you are paying attention and showing you care, even when there’s no immediate sales benefit for you.
Help them expand their network
Second, become a connector. In this business, we have the benefit of expansive networks. Leverage it. For instance, let’s say you discover a potential customer is expanding into a new vertical, and you have a few customers who made a similar transition in recent years, or a contact who is an expert in that industry. This is a prime opportunity to make that connection. Whether you suggest an email introduction or organize a happy hour, you’ve shown you care deeply about their success and your openness to help them reach their goals.
Tools to assist your relationship building efforts
You might be thinking, “Ok, this sounds great for a handful of accounts, but I’m managing upwards of 100.” And yes, this does take more time and effort than traditional ways of marketing and selling. But with the right tools, you’ll be able to be more productive in your research and stay at the top of your game. Here are a few tools to help:
- Set Google Alerts –– Want to keep on top of what your prospective customer is doing? Set alerts for the names of your target companies, as well as your future customer’s name and other key individuals on the buying committee. Set the notifications to alert you in real time so you have time to engage or make note of in your CRM for later outreach.
- Leverage social media –– Stay current on what your target accounts and other key decision makers within the company are posting on social media. Listen with intent. LinkedIn and Twitter are the best business-related channels for gaining insights into their interests, questions and concerns.
- Pay attention to the competition –– If you really want to impress, set Google Alerts and social media alerts for your prospective customer’s competition. As soon as something of interest happens, share the competitive information with your contact. Bonus points if you can go one step further and share something that can help them outmaneuver said competitors. Doing this helps you stay on top of industry happenings and demonstrates you understand their company and business beyond a superficial level.
Prioritize your future customer’s needs. Dig deep to learn what matters to them and what they need to solve the challenges they face. Shift your mindset from trying to score a deal and focus on building a relationship and becoming a trusted advisor for the long-term. When you make this effort, and show you care, your authenticity shines through. And authenticity, at the end of the day, is what helps you stand out from the crowd.