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Basho Technologies of Cambridge, MA used to offer a 7-part training series that outlined the skills that set sales professionals apart from their peers when it comes to closing deals. Top-performing sales reps:

  • Understand prospects’ needs and objectives
  • Make the most of sales tools
  • Quantify each sales activity and interaction
  • Negotiate at every turn

number_oneBy studying these best practices, marketers can improve their own processes for connecting with prospects and guiding them down the path to purchase.

Understand prospects’ needs and objectives

The best sales reps don’t begin an interaction with a prospect by talking about their own company and its offerings. Instead, they do a lot of listening to understand what the prospect is up against or is trying to accomplish. Only then can they determine whether or not their products or services will fit the bill.

Likewise, the best marketers develop buyer personas to gain a deep understanding of their ideal prospects. Doing so enables them to align their content with the prospects’ concerns and needs.

If you’re a technology marketer, you may be interested in advice from Adelle Revella, who has been using buyer personas to market technology products for more than 20 years. She recommends thinking of your buyer personas in three categories:

  • Economic buyers – Those concerned about the cost of the solution.
  • Technology buyers – Those responsible for integrating or managing the solution.
  • User buyers – Those who will use the solution on a day-to-day basis (or are responsible for the satisfaction of those using the solution).

The key to an effective buyer persona is to capture as much detail as possible about the target person’s background, daily habits, activities, challenges, and problem-solving approaches. Seethis post by Michele Linn for a comprehensive list.

Make the most of sales tools

Successful reps will create a list of everything they can offer a prospect, such as white papers, tradeshow passes, and demos. They then list everything they want from the prospect, including budget confirmation and access to decision makers. This list serves as a basis for bargaining throughout the buying cycle. It also provides a template the sales rep can continually refer to rather than having to start from scratch with each deal.

Marketers should conduct a similar exercise by creating a content matrix – in fact, unless they do, their sales reps will struggle to bargain effectively with prospects. The matrix should lay out all the content assets available to prospects, along with how they align to the buying cycle. By viewing content assets in this way, you can determine if you have enough content to guide a prospect through a long buying cycle. You can also get the most from your content assets without having to recreate the wheel for each new initiative or campaign.

Quantify each sales activity and interaction

Salespeople are continually gauging a prospect’s level of commitment. Since commitments are critical to a successful negotiation, getting repeated buy-in from the prospect is indicative of a healthy opportunity. Similarly, marketers need to continually review a prospect’s interaction with the company and its content assets to figure out the level of interest and the next logical step. Marketing automation tools such as those from Eloqua,, and Marketo can provide this insight and deliver the right content to a prospect.

Negotiate at every turn

Successful salespeople make use of the law of reciprocity (as laid out by Robert B. Cialdini inInfluence: The Psychology of Persuasion) to ask prospects for reciprocal exchanges throughout the sales cycle. For example, the sales rep may ask for the prospect’s mobile phone number after providing a datasheet or brochure. Further along in the engagement, the sales rep might request access to key decision makers after handing over a rate card.

Similarly, marketers need to request something of appropriate value from prospects with each interaction. While it’s fair to request registration in exchange for something of unique value, such as a research report or how-to guide, I think it’s out of line to request registration for a brochure or case study.

I’m a proponent of collecting incremental information during each successive interaction with a prospect. Think of your relationship with the prospect like a dating scenario. On the first date, you wouldn’t expect the other person to tell you everything about his or her self. Instead, you’d expect to learn more and more over time. That’s the same mindset you should have with your prospects. The key is to ask for small amounts of information with each interaction so you can build it up over time. That way you take the burden off the prospect while gathering the information you need.