The sales process has changed in a fundamental way. And those who fail to notice will be left behind. We have to realize that today’s buyer no longer relies on salespeople when making a purchasing decision. They want to do their own research and consult credible sources in the process. In a B2B setting, most clients would prefer to discuss their needs with a subject matter expert. As a result, SMEs are emerging as an important factor in the buyer’s decision process.
What is a subject matter expert?
In today’s competitive market, knowledge is instrumental for buyers and sellers alike. Modern-day sellers focus on addressing people’s concerns and answering all of their pertinent questions.
SMEs are persons with in-depth expertise in specific areas such as IT, engineering, HR, or finance. They possess extensive knowledge of business processes, products, applications, and all of their intricacies.
SMEs are a valuable sales and marketing resource, highly coveted in today’s B2B world. And for a good reason. Buyers perceive SMEs as a trustworthy source of knowledge. They would rather talk to a subject matter expert than a salesperson. Doing business with an expert in the field reassures clients they are making the right choice.
Of course, you have to select the right subject matter expert for the job. Choose an SME with excellent expertise, years of experience, outstanding qualifications, and a great performance record.
How SMEs enrich the sales process
The buyer’s journey has changed a lot over the years. Nowadays, the sales cycle unfolds quite differently for the seller and the buyer.
For the seller, the process is pretty much linear. You start by gathering quality leads and making the initial contact. Next, you arrange a meeting to see if there’s a good fit, followed by a proposal. You negotiate the terms with your prospect and if all goes well, you finalize the sale.
In contrast, the prospect’s approach to sales is much more dispersed. Prospects will meet with your sales reps, but they’ll also consult other sources to help them decide. They’ll check your brand reputation and customer support quality. They’ll also visit forums to see what others think of your offers.
This is where a skilled subject matter expert can speed things up. The right info at the right stage of the sales cycle can steer your prospect in the right direction. Clients want to talk to a trustworthy person who understands their industry and business as well as their pain points.
SMEs are familiar with the business trends and industry landscape. So, they are uniquely positioned to offer the perfect solution tailored to the particular needs of each individual client.
The job of an SME is to demonstrate subject matter expertise in their interaction with prospects. That’s a given.
The difference between a good and a great SME is that the latter can help you make more sales
This is especially true for high-ticket sales. The rationale is quite simple. High-level executives demand a high-quality treatment. They prefer doing business with an authority in the field, not an “ordinary salesperson”; Especially if the SME shows integrity, honesty and the ability to help them solve their particular issues.
Besides, the quality of your product isn’t always the deciding factor in sales. Neither is the price. It’s the bond of trust that you create with your prospects. This is especially true in B2B and with high-ticket items.
How subject matter experts can increase the effectiveness of your sales efforts
A subject matter expert can take the burden off your sales reps. Having an SME on board cuts down the time you might spend looking for answers to specific prospect questions. You can put this time to better use, like nurturing relationships with prospects and clients.
SMEs can also satisfy the prospect’s need for information about your products and their benefits. They can help the prospect better understand the value of your product, so that your sales teams can seal the deal faster.
Your subject matter expert can also support your marketing efforts. In this day and age, the markets, the industry landscape, and customer needs are changing faster than ever. This means your information has to be current, attractive, and above all, relevant to their needs.
This is where your SME and his or her knowledge becomes especially relevant and useful. They can even help you create some amazing content to use in your email marketing and social media efforts. Producing valuable and useful content is a great way to educate your audience and improve the overall user experience.
You can even create premium content featuring expert insights on the latest products or new problem-solving strategies. This can take the form of a webinar, whitepaper, eBook, or eGuide.
Overall, quality content marketing is a great way for your brand to gain reputation and trust in the B2B world. It’s up to you to decide how much content marketing you want to utilize. However, an SME will always help you produce better and more useful content. This is true whether you decide to just produce a couple of blog posts a month or want to become the leader in producing premium whitepapers in your industry.
How to properly utilize the skill set of your SME
Keep this in mind: subject matter experts are not sales experts. They are there to provide answers to prospect questions and facilitate conversion. Unless you develop a proper strategy on integrating SMEs, their input can prove counter-productive.
You have to provide support and guidance for your SME throughout the sales process. Don’t think that their expertise will just magically seal the deal.
As skilled as they may be in their domain, they do need to be prepped for a meeting. They need to know their role and purpose so they can contribute to the sales process, not sabotage it.
Remember that your salespeople and your SME need to have a great working relationship. They have to be well-prepared so that they work in sync. It needs to be a symbiotic relationship that ultimately leads to more sales.
Your sales team can learn a lot from the subject matter expert and vice versa. The SME can teach your sales reps about product specifics and details. Salespeople can give the SME pointers on the best ways to interact with prospects.
Make sure your SME has all available info about the sales project. Explain how their presence will help the client. Provide them with key info on the client and their business, names, and the titles of stakeholders. Outline the purpose of the meeting, your client’s needs, and how you plan to meet them.
Most of all, subject matter experts need a good helping of high level qualified leads
When utilized properly, SMEs can help your conversion efforts and give you that extra boost you need to close a sale. However, note that you will get the most benefit out of SMEs when you connect them with highly-qualified, high-level leads. They are not a magic addition to your business that compensates for a lack of good leads.
If you’re still not at the level where you have а steady income of quality leads, it might be too early to think about adding subject matter experts to your sales process. You will need to handle the basics first.
And if you need help with this, feel free to reach out. DemandZEN can help you create large volumes of high-quality leads in no time. Our experts use a mix of inbound and outbound strategies to facilitate client discovery. We eliminate poor leads early in the game so you’ll only talk to prospects that are really interested.
Get in touch with us today to see how DemandZEN can help you boost your growth and maximize conversions.