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Selling Virtually

FROM BULLETPROOF SELLING:

While many salespeople were thrust into the world of virtual selling after COVID-19, there was an entire industry that was already adept at selling virtually – inside sales. One of the key elements of success for an inside salesperson isn’t just bringing novel solutions and more value to their decision makers. Instead, the most successful actually took on the role of educating buyers how to sort, select, and decide on which supplier they would use for the product or service the inside salsperson was offering. 
 
This is an old concept among high-performing teams. In the military, we called them field guides, and they can be leveraged in a virtual environment in both print and video formats to teach our buyers what they need to know to understand the options, price points and differentiation we offer.
 
From Chapter 14:
Training Prospects To Eliminate Competition
 
ONE OF THE most powerful things a company can do is set the standard for excellence in their industry. When we were still carrying MP3 players around, consumers measured all of them against the features and benefits of the iPod. It is possible to recreate that success even in a commodity market, and it happens through educating potential buyers about the things they should be asking as they make purchasing decisions. In the Bulletproof teams I studied, the educational material we used to guide our decisions were called Field Guides.
Field Guide System – Hard Copy Version
Trigger: When a salesperson discovers a qualified decision maker within an account, a hard-copy and digital/video field guide should be sent.
Bulletproof Impact: Train buyers how to vet, select, and source your product or service, and to do so using specific criteria that your company provides to them. Effectively establish your product or service as the choice no competitor will be able to match. Educate prospects on the options your company has available before your first sales meeting, increasing conversion.
The sole purpose of these field guides is to educate prospects on how to vet, negotiate, prioritize potential suppliers, save themselves money, and get the most value possible when purchasing[SR1]  a product or service. Of course, Bulletproof salespeople leveraging this powerful system have the opportunity to build their differentiators throughout their field guides. This positions their company as the only obvious choice to consider. Once you develop your own field guide it can be sent at the next prospect interaction across both new and legacy accounts.
These field guides – which can span written and video mediums – are so effective because very few companies take the time to develop them and fewer ensure they end up in the hands of decision makers.
Systemizing Success with Hard Copy Field Guides
First, let’s review the hard copy version of this tool. For paper or PDF field guides, I recommend these not take up more than one page per product or service for ease of use. Additionally, they should be available in a PDF version for ease of transmitting electronically. We want these field guides to actually be printed out and used by prospects instead of languishing in an email folder. If you use direct mail or handwritten snail mail as part of your outbound campaigns, these field guides can be printed and included in your next prospect mailing once a salesperson has set context for them with the prospect.
It’s critical that context be set for what a field guide is and how to use it before a prospect sees it for the first time. If these field guides show up in your prospect’s world with no context from your salespeople, they’ll lose their effectiveness and likely go unused. We find this conversation to be an easy one when prepping a prospect for a field guide:
“Now that we’ve got our next appointment set, I just remembered we developed something I can send over immediately that will save you time and money as you look at different suppliers for (product or service). We understand that while we’re in the business of delivering (product or service), most of our clients aren’t. Too many companies in our industry aren’t educating folks on the levels of quality and service available, so we developed a field guide for our clients to help them purchase a (product or service). It’s an easy one-page guide that will walk you through the questions you should be asking potential suppliers and even answers to listen for. Let me confirm your mailing/email address and I’ll send it today.”
Of course, sending anything to a prospect to review, especially a field guide, is a perfect reason to set another follow-up call to see if the field guide was useful or if the prospect has any questions prior to your next scheduled appointment.
Who should write and create your field guide? It’s always better if your field guide can be co-authored by you or your company and someone outside your company who is or has been responsible for purchasing your product or service. For instance, our ‘field guide for buying a keynote speech’ was authored by both myself and a certified meeting planner, one of the titles many of our buyers have.
What you want prospects to think after speaking with any other supplier or vendor of your product or service is, “Compared to the folks who sent me this field guide, others don’t measure up.” As you formulate the introduction and questions prospects should ask about your product or service, ensure that you phrase your questions and answers in a way that positions your company as the only one who can provide that level of service or particular differentiator.
Begin by outlining in one paragraph the importance of the decision in selecting the product or service, how it impacts brand perception, employee/customer retention, etc. Next, emphasize how this decision could impact the person’s reputation within the company and in their market. If a poor supplier is chosen, the repercussions go far beyond the lifespan of the product or service. Finally, share that if a supplier doesn’t meet at least the minimum requirements your field guide shares, they’re likely not the right vendor.
Now onto the questions and answers that make up the bulk of the one-page field guide. The ones listed below are generic and give direction for how to customize to your industry. Of course, feel free to add any questions that position you as the only obvious choice as a supplier of your product or service as long as they fit onto one page. In the examples below, you’ll see the questions in standard type and answers or insights in italics.
Keep in mind these questions are written from the perspective of the prospect, intended to be used as an interview guide for their conversations with other salespeople they talk to about your product or service:
·       When meeting with a potential supplier, are they familiar with our industry, employee, and client challenges?
(Your potential supplier should ask about what outcomes you’re looking for across each area the (product or service) impacts.)
·       Does the potential supplier inquire about our past experiences with the (product or service) early in the conversation?
(If they don’t, they may not be interested in surpassing your expectations with their product or service)
·       Does this potential supplier ask if the purchase of this product or service will be considered by anyone besides myself?
(The best suppliers are willing to provide specific information to all interested parties as they understand this decision impacts more than just one person in the company).
·       Does this potential supplier offer to provide more than just the (product or service) as part of their offering?
(If they’re not offering additional value for the price you pay, you may be getting shortchanged.)
Specific questions to ask:
[Note: these are industry and product or service specific, so customize these to what you’re educating prospects to buy as you are creating your field guide]
·       Does this potential supplier offer to customize the (product or service) to our company, employees, and audience?
(They should offer to interview at least 6 people within your organization as part of their post-sale delivery preparation to ensure the (product or service) meets your exact needs.)
·       Does this potential supplier offer to assist us in rolling out the (product or service) to our employees/clients?
(The best suppliers will offer to create – or help you create – a rollout campaign to ensure maximum use, efficiency, and implementation of the (product or service).
·       Does this potential supplier offer to assist us in implementing the (product or service), including producing training videos for us and our customers?
(Your supplier should offer to assist you with getting the (product or service) established in your company to ensure you get maximum ROI on your investment.)
·       Does this potential supplier mention the technical support that comes with (product or service) as part of their base package?
(Superior suppliers include personal support for (product or service) even with the basic package.)
·       In what ways is this potential supplier willing to customize the (product or service) to our company’s needs?
(If they aren’t willing to customize the branding, software, and training to your specific organization, you may be purchasing a generic solution rather than one built for your needs.)
·       How will this potential supplier ensure that every one of the individuals – staff OR customers – in my organization who utilizes (product or service) has the support they need to be successful?
(The best suppliers have tangible ways to ensure that everyone who uses (product or service) in your company has the support they need to be successful.)
·       Does this potential supplier offer follow-on courses or services to ensure our organization/customers continue to receive the benefits of (product or service) long after purchasing?
(If your potential supplier isn’t willing to include follow-on support after purchase, you may be dealing with a supplier more interested in the sale than in your success.)
After the overview and question/answer portion of the field guide, you can include a brief outline of your company and of course, contact information for your salesperson. If you make this concise enough to fit onto one page, you’ll have created a powerful tool for your prospects to use if they’re considering other suppliers. If you want to take this system a step further and really stand out from your competition, you can be the one educating your prospects with video field guides.
Field Guide System – Video Version
Trigger: When a hard-copy field guide is in place, video field guides should next be developed.
Bulletproof Impact: As with hard copy field guides, these video field guides train buyers how to vet, select, and source your product or service, and to do so using specific criteria that your company provides to them. Expanding on the effect of hard copy field guides, these video field guides educate prospects around the specific questions they should be asking of all potential suppliers.
Marcus Sheridan covered the topic of educational content marketing in his excellent revised edition of They Ask, You Answer: A Revolutionary Approach to Inbound Sales, Content Marketing, and Today’s Digital Consumer. A video-based field guide is similar to what Marcus calls the ‘80 percent video,’ a video that encompasses answers to 80% of the questions your salespeople get about your product or service.
These videos can be studio-produced with footage from your manufacturing facility, supply chain, customer installation sites, etc. or simply shot with one of your salespeople talking into the camera of their smartphone. As it applies to educational-based content, done is better than perfect, and your video can always be re-shot and improved down the road. Regardless of production quality, these videos should walk prospects through the questions your salespeople hear most often while also positioning your company as an educator, guide, and top-flight provider of your product or service. While it’s best to survey your salespeople for the questions they most commonly hear from prospects before filming your video field guide, here are some common categories that you can make specific to your product or service:
·       Product or service: Is the product or service even right for me and my company, given our goals?
·       Alternatives: What are alternatives to the product or service, and what are the pros and cons of each?
·       Price: Why does the product or service have different price points?
·       Differentiator: How should a prospect select a company to do business with? What should they look at and ask for in the areas of experience, customization, customer support, warranties, and follow-up?
Systemizing Video Field Guides
The length of a video-based field guide is based on the complexity of your product or service and the attention span of your average prospect, but we’ve found that 3 minutes tends to be a good target point. However, these guides can be as long as 15 minutes if your product or service is complex and highly customizable.
These field guides can live individually on your company’s website as ‘parentless’ pages your salespeople can direct prospects to when a question arises about price, installation, warranty, etc. They can also be combined into a series of videos posted on a single page as a resource page or FAQ page. If a salesperson hears a question from a prospect that is answered in a field guide, sending a link to the field guide is a great response, while also setting a follow-up call to discuss, of course.
Field guides ensure you are always in the running as a potential supplier, not because your company is always the cheapest option or even the most well-known. Rather, they work so well because so few salespeople systemize helping prospects make great buying decisions. Unfortunately, most companies simply aren’t willing to build additional service offerings to support what they sell or don’t realize that many value-added services could be the difference between making the sale or losing it[SR2] .
Of course, you may have read the questions and response prompts we went over and thought, “We don’t have anything like that in the way of customization, support, or service for what we sell.” That may be true as of today, but it also gives you a clear checklist of things your sales, customer service, and support teams should get busy building. Creating any of those value-added items can be done on a shoestring budget and with little to no capital investment (and we cover ideas for those items in-depth in our upcoming chapter on the Bulletproof Offer System). I know because we’ve built those value-added offerings in my company and in client companies. To deliver on all the items you’re telling prospects to vet other suppliers against, your entire organization will have to hold itself to a high standard and continually be on the lookout for ways to ensure you go above and beyond what anyone else in your industry is doing.

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