By Ian Levine (Article posted in Sales Initiative)
March 6, 2017 – “We need to increase sales.”
Sounds simple, right? But what is the best way to reach B2B buyers, with perspective and insight that will stimulate those important sales, especially in a business landscape that’s more competitive and complex than ever? The answer is actually quite simple: peer-to-peer selling.
Buyers are turning to their peers for opinions… peers they trust. Peers who have experienced a buying solution and can give clear advice and direction on what to do next. In fact, this behavioral trend has been documented in recent purchase studies by SiriusDecisions, IDC and Hubspot.
And, it’s the buyers’ peers, the ultimate trusted advisors – who also just so happen to be your happy customers – are the ones bringing perspective to the sales process. These happy customers (a.k.a., peers) are enabling peer-to-peer selling as an industry game-changer and key differentiator. And, more importantly, they are bringing their perspective to other B2B customers through this peer-to-peer approach.
So how does peer-to-peer selling bring perspective to sales success?
When peers bring perspective, they transform the complexities and challenges of selling into growth opportunities. And, the right technology exists to make that happen. Enabling referrals, reviews, references and perspective is the new peer-to-peer marketing phenomenon for winning sales. In fact, according to the Wharton School of Business, the lifetime value of a referred customer is 25% higher than that of other customers.
Sales and marketing are now customer-centric, where referrals, peer influence and customer references are king. Software, sales and marketing leaders need to start thinking differently for greater sales enablement and revenue generation.
Peer-to-peer selling is all about fully enabling a B2B peer network of ‘happy customers’ to assist with referrals, social selling and references. It brings perspective through the following strategies:
- Insight. Peers telling their stories, business outcomes and customer experience, create quality content that beats ‘arm race’ content. Buyers want to hear from companies and peers that have solved similar business problems; so the voice of the happy customer helps cut through the ‘content clutter.’ This insight is a key differentiator.
- Trust building. Today, before buying anything, consumers check online reviews. They crave community consensus and validation. Early in the buyer’s journey, companies look at AppExchange Reviews as well as sites like Crowdreviews.com and Capterra to make sure they put the peer-trusted vendors in their pool of potential solution providers.
- Empowerment. Enabling perspective also means empowering customers to learn from their peers. And the more they learn through group consensus, the more they buy.
- Alignment. For faster revenue growth, sales and marketing leaders need to align on strategy and tactics, more than ever. According to Gartner’s research, which appeared in Harvard Business Review, references are more important than content or sales presentations for influencing customers’ preferences to make a purchase. Rather than asking reps to email other salespeople for customer-specific references, companies need to systematise the process through a centralised database and serve up tailored peer information and access inside the CRM system.
- Efficacy. Budget cuts force spend-effectiveness like never before. Most companies are trying to better understand content efficacy, but very few focus on the efficacy of the ‘customer’s voice’ through referral and reference programs. The reality is that referral and reference programs are critical selling activities that deserve optimisation. Customer advocates deserve corporate ownership, enablement and focus to drive impact as they are arguably a growing company’s most valued resource.
- Enablement. Peer-to-peer marketing helps salespeople sell more, as opposed to just relying on leads. By centralising customer advocacy data and linking it back to sales opportunities, all of a sudden marketers meet sales inside the sales funnel. Many companies are creating umbrella account-based marketing programs, but few properly enable this peer-to-peer selling influence.
Top-performing companies are providing their sales leaders with software tools, knowledge and perspective for successful peer-to-peer selling. And, simply put, ‘peer-to-peer selling’ is the answer for ‘how to increase sales.’
By Ian Levine, Chief Sales Officer, Board member, RO Innovation. RO Innovation, is a SaaS content solution that activates the Voice of the Customer for sales. Ian is a well-known sales and marketing executive with more than 30 years of industry experience. He brings an unusually broad perspective to go-to-market strategy, having held roles in sales, marketing, product development and sales operations.