sales experience

There’s no denying that there’s been a huge shift in the sales experience in recent years. Many sales leaders—and salespeople themselves—tend to overlook the fact that it takes a sizable mental shift in sellers to stay in the game, especially when the game keeps changing.

One of the big evolutions we’ve seen is the pivot away from organization-to-organization selling to a more personalized, human-centered sales experience. Today’s buyers are more individually motivated, and that means salespeople have to understand where their prospects are coming from and how to connect with them in a way that resonates and delivers value that matters to them.

This is also requiring that salespeople embrace the artistry and humanity of social selling. For a recent episode of our Mental Selling podcast, I spoke with Ryan O’Hara, VP of Growth and Marketing at LeadIQ, about how salespeople can engage in more creative prospecting and social selling, as well as what leaders can do to help their teams humanize the sales experience and prospect with personality. Here are some key takeaways from that conversation.

The shift to individualistic selling and buying

O’Hara points out that people are driven by personable connections and unique identities, and they look for those aspects in the brands they support. That’s why the transition from one-size-fits-all to a personalized sales experience is essential for sales success going forward.

As this emphasis on personalization takes over, the old buying and selling models are quickly becoming irrelevant. It’s no longer about passing people off down a funnel or strategic hand-offs. Today’s sales reps have to be savvy at building relationships and following through on brand promises.

Here’s how Ryan describes the mental process a salesperson might go through to get there: “I want to figure out a way to attack it in as creative a way as possible. And make it so that not only do they feel loved, and that I care about them, but they feel like I’m an interesting person that they want to do business with on an individual level.”

A scripted approach isn’t going to do that. Salespeople have to get more comfortable opening up this human side of the sales conversation. But it takes some practice, insight and self-awareness to do this effectively and appropriately.

Strategies for injecting humor and personality into the sales experience

O’Hara emphasizes that the most leverage you have comes from what is only yours. It’s not the metrics that differentiate you; it’s the social signals built around who you are.

“The biggest differentiator you have when you prospect is you,” he says. “You are the only thing no one can replicate. The things you have, the experiences, the people you know, what value you can bring to the person, your knowledge, your personality.”

So, how do you apply your unique personality to selling? What does it look like to connect personally with prospects? Ryan offered up a few social selling tips to help salespeople engage authentically and individually.

Think like a marketer

There’s more to sales than pushing buttons and re-sending the same templates endlessly on a loop. “If you can approach your sales prospecting like a marketer, you can have way more fun,” O’Hara says.

That might require a mindset shift for your salespeople, not just in terms of how they think about their role but also in how they view the challenges in front of them. It’s only natural to feel apprehensive or even stressed out about having to change the playbook you’ve gotten comfortable with. But if you view it as an opportunity to get creative and approach old tasks in new ways, it will become less draining and more energizing (and yes, even more fun).

Don’t be afraid to try something different

With the sheer volume of sales pitches and emails we all receive these days, if you don’t stand out, you’re going to get drowned out by the noise. But here’s where getting creative can really pay off.

Ryan shared an example that his own team tried at the end of last year. They spent a day putting together 39 Christmas-themed videos and sent them out to qualified prospects. From that one day of work, they were ultimately able to book 15-20 meetings with prospects—and they made a memorable first impression by doing something different.

Compare that to the results of grinding out cold calls and sending 100+ emails every day, and you’ll see a clear distinction. In fact, sometimes salespeople will spend an inordinate amount of time on low-value activity as an avoidance mechanism. By understanding what inner obstacles they’re facing—whether it’s self-confidence, values misalignment or something else—their sales managers can help them move past these barriers and redirect their energies into new, more productive strategies.

Refresh your perspective

If you’re having trouble breaking out of a rut or feel frustrated with the results you’re getting, try thinking outside yourself. Ryan told a story about when he would get stuck as a salesperson, he used to imagine that he was a fictional character as he wrote his prospecting emails. He stayed true to himself, but he found that if he wrote the messages using the language and ‘voice’ that fictional character might use, it would give him a new perspective on the same old thing.

“My response rates would go up because I’d feel fresh and different. And then after a week or two of doing that, I would go back to doing what I was doing before, but I’d mix in things that I learned,” he explains.

The key, of course, is to make sure it’s still you at the core. But remember that it’s the little things we have in common—a popular TV series, a favorite hobby—that can create connections at a deeper level. After all, the biggest advantage you have over technology is that you’re not a robot.

The takeaway here is that you can show personality and still do business with high-profile brands. “You don’t have to be silly if that’s not you,” O’Hara adds. “You just have to be yourself.”

How sales leaders can enable sellers to prospect with individuality and personality

Like any new direction in a team, humanizing the sales experience starts with leadership. And just as your salespeople need to know their customers, you need to know your salespeople on a human level.

How well do you know your team members? Beyond quotas and activities, how do they view their role? What barriers (self-imposed or otherwise) might be holding them back? Do they believe they have what it takes to succeed in this rapidly changing environment? And what about you? What do you believe they can achieve?

“The worst thing you could do to a person is make them feel like they’re not appreciated, and not let them be themselves,” O’Hara said, on what causes burnout in sales reps. He believes the best way to avoid burnout is by building an environment where people can embrace being themselves and being creative.

As a sales leader, this might mean getting into the trenches yourself: “Roll up your sleeves and do some prospecting. Put yourself in their shoes, get some empathy, and let them be themselves.”

For more of Ryan’s tips, tune in to our discussion on Episode 26 of Mental Selling.

Raise your Mental Selling acumen with us at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, on our website, or anywhere you get podcasts. Please rate our show — it really helps us!

About the Author
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Will Milano

Chief Marketing Officer

Will has driven brand and content marketing strategies for leading professional services companies for two decades including 16 years’ experience...
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