Buyers are getting smarter. Forrester research finds that 68 percent of buyers perform research on their own as opposed to speaking with a salesperson, which is up 15 percent from only two years ago. Salespeople used to dictate the sales cycle and control the process. However, buyers are more empowered than ever, which means salespeople must adjust. If they don’t, they risk missing out to competitors.

Ed Calnan, founder and president of Seismic, says the era of the educated buyer requires the era of the smarter seller. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we discuss the three characteristics that Calnan says sales leaders must instill among their sales reps in order to succeed.

Preparation, research and more preparation. Buyers have access to more information, but so do sales teams. Calnan says sales teams must know to make use of the abundance of publicly available data. Salespeople can research company quarterly earnings reports and mine LinkedIn to figure out the executive buyer and who is on his or her team. Company press releases and marketing materials can also alert sales reps to what’s working and what needs to be changed. Calnan urges sales reps to arrive at the first meeting with prospects knowing more about their company, team and challenges than they know themselves.

Learn to write with data in mind. It’s more important than ever to write a well-crafted message that’s designed specifically for each channel, whether it’s a text or a LinkedIn post. Each channel requires its own style of writing. Calnan encourages sales teams to share emails with each other and help each other with messaging. Examine the data and see what actually resulted in the buyer or prospect opening the email or engaging with the post. Don’t just go off a hunch – glean the data to see what works and how you can make adjustments.

Develop new sales skill sets: creativity and situational intelligence. Calnan says that strict sales playbooks are good for training and preparation, but they can also be restrictive. The consumer buying experience has become so highly personalized that people now expect similar levels of customization in their B2B buying experiences. Sellers, therefore, cannot make deals based on their ability to stringently adhere to a playbook, nor through their ability to simply push a deal through. Instead, the qualities of creativity and social intelligence have gone from being a nice-to-have among some salespeople on your team to a need-to-have for everyone.

When sales teams learn how to use the abundance of information available to them, it benefits them and their customers. Conversations become more personalized and productive. Sales reps can also build real, lasting relationships, which is probably one of the big reasons they got into sales. The future of sales looks bright for salespeople who can show that they’re the best fit for a buyer’s individual needs.

Source: Ed Calnan is the founder and president of Seismic. He has more than 25 years of experience in sales, sales management and field operations at early-stage, turnaround situations and mature software companies.