Buyers have so much information available to them today that they are well down the path to a buying decision before they even contact the sales person. Various sources place it anywhere from 50% – 90% into the buying cycle. (Forrester has a blog post on this topic.) Where does that leave you? Is the salesperson relevant? If you don’t embrace this new dynamic, you won’t be.

In order to add value to the customer’s buying decision, ask yourself what they still need to know in order to make a decision. What is going on in their head when you have finally engaged them? Selling Power editors say, when discussing this dynamic in what they call the Sales 3.0 era: “…a salesperson’s ability to sell value will likely be the defining factor of his or her success…” Here are some tips to Sharpen Your Edge.

1. Never has it been more important to NOT focus on features and capabilities. This is an old advice, but apparently sales people need even more reasons to change their behavior! This is a great one. The customers are better educated than ever about the capabilities; they need help understanding the best application of solutions that drive business outcomes.

2. Design a sales strategy that reveals the customer’s business drivers for their investment and position yourself as an authority on addressing them. Use high-leverage questions (such as  executive dialogue questions) that demonstrate your understanding of their business and reveal key business issues. You have more experience in applying your solutions than they do so be assertive about how to advance their business priorities. Make them WANT you involved in the buying process.

3. Competitively differentiate in a meaningful way. Executive buyers are frustrated with sellers that can’t help them make a decision. Absent other criteria to differentiate, they fall back on a lower price. Sharpen your differentiation message. Emphasize your attributes that are BOTH important to the customer AND create value. And be able to validate it. The list is probably shorter than you think. That’s ok, offer fewer differentiators that are more impactful.

4. As Forrester points out, with so much customer education happening before sales teams are involved, marketing is now responsible for a much greater piece of the lead-to-revenue cycle. Accordingly, marketing messaging must focus on business value creation and clear and relevant differentiation. Marketing and sales must be aligned on the critical messaging.

Speaking of differentiating, if you follow this advice, you will stand out from your competition and help the customer’s decision making. You’ll be the relevant one.

Don’t lose your Edge – Good luck and good selling!