Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, you can’t have missed the much-talked about lack of trust in today’s media. Some of it is earned. Much of it is learned. That is, once we’ve fallen for a bit of “click bait” where the headline is misleading or doesn’t match the facts of the story (earned mistrust), we’re less likely to trust similar sources the next time (learned mistrust).
Otherwise reputable news sources are suffering. In a 2016 Gallup poll, only 32% of Americans said they had a “great deal” or a “fair amount of” trust in the media. That’s the lowest level ever, and arguably, not ALL of that mistrust is earned.
Of course, earned/learned mistrust is nothing new to sales. Reputable sales professionals have long-suffered from the lack of trust that their less-honorable colleagues have instilled in buyers. Marketing teams don’t help when they put out hyperbole-laced sales content that promises the moon. In a recent Hubspot survey, only 3% of respondents said they thought sales and marketing people were trustworthy.
So what’s a reputable sales professional to do?
The answer lies in who your customers DO trust: their peers. According to a global IDC study, three out of four B2B buyers and eight out of ten executive buyers use social media when making purchasing decisions. In addition, the B2B buyers who used social media the most were more senior, had 84% bigger budgets, made 61% more purchase decisions, and had influence over a greater span of purchase decisions than those buyers who did not use social media to support their purchasing process.
It’s not the platforms themselves that are so powerful, it’s what these platforms allow the buyer to do—connect with peers who have made similar decisions in the past. Face it, a buyer is going to trust someone they’ve never met who lives on the other side of the globe before he or she is going to trust the salesperson sitting across the table from them. Social media allows them to connect with these peers like never before.
Peer-to-Peer Selling connects buyers to buyers
RO Innovation works with its customers to help them bring real customer stories into the sales process. We’ve formalized this approach into a concept called Peer-to-Peer Selling that you’ll be hearing a lot about over the coming months. Even if you aren’t an RO Innovation customer, we think you’ll get value from the discussion.
For now, let me set the stage by sharing a definition of Peer-to-Peer Selling and calling out a couple of important elements.
Peer-to-Peer Selling is a sales methodology that facilitates the connections between existing customer advocates and potential buyers at every stage of the sales funnel.
There are two essential elements that are required for any sales methodology to be considered Peer-to-Peer Selling.
Peer-to-Peer Selling leverages the genuine voice of the customer
It’s not enough to say “3 out of 4 Fortune 1000 customers use our product” or to tout your Net Promoter Scores (NPS). Neither of these are bad; they just aren’t sufficient. Remember, even if your company has a stellar reputation, as a sales or marketing person, you’ve got a barrier of mistrust you need to overcome, and that’s going to take more effort.
Peer-to-Peer Selling leverages the genuine voice of the customer, either in written, recorded, or face-to-face form. It’s buyers hearing their peers telling their story in their own words that gives them the confidence to move forward.
Peer-to-Peer Selling covers the entire buying cycle
In our definition of Peer-to-Peer Selling, we use the term “sales funnel,” but make no mistake, it is the customer’s journey that drives an opportunity through that funnel. It doesn’t matter if the opportunity is in the early stages of gathering information or the buying team is making a final purchasing decision. No amount of task execution on your end moves a buyer to the next stage until the buyer decides it’s time to move to the next stage. Peer-to-Peer Selling looks for ways to bring satisfied customers into the conversation at every stage.
In my next post, I will answer two of the most common questions we get from customers: How is Peer-to-Peer Selling different from our current methodologies and does it replace them? In the meantime, feel free to reach out to me either directly firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments below.