March 7 by Scott Kahan

sales advocate in sales funnel

The best B2B salespeople never have a single-threaded approach when trying to win an account. There’s always more than one person to talk to, whether that’s an influencer, champion or the right decision maker in a deal. Each of them will respond differently to your value proposition and will require a unique strategy.

What most sales reps don’t realize is that this multiple-contact approach should go both ways. Buyers no longer rely on the salesperson to be their only point of contact when learning about a new product.
The fact is, buyers don’t trust your marketing and sales team anymore. They have access to a much more diverse and genuine source of information: other customers.

According to Gartner, “60% of buyers stated that their #1 source for understanding the differentiation between technology providers was peers.”

This isn’t a bad thing. Smart sales reps can take advantage of this by incorporating their customers into the buying process as advocates. Advocates are your happiest and most successful customers who can act as a reference for your product and help answer questions and objections prospects have.

If advocates fulfill their purpose, buyers will become more trusting towards your brand and be more likely to buy. Here’s how you can incorporate advocates into each step of the sales funnel to improve (and speed up) the decision-making process.

1. Attracting interest via introducers

Traditionally, salespeople find prospects by hitting the phones and emailing as many people as possible. But they don’t have to do it alone.

Have your advocates take an active role in filling your pipeline. Ask them for referrals from within their own networks. I call these advocates introducers. You’ll be surprised at how effective they can be. At Influitive, 20% of our new customers came from referrals in 2015. (Here’s some advice on how to start a referral program.)

2. Engaging prospects with broadcasters

Your marketing messages will feel more authentic to prospects if they’re echoed by your advocates. Encourage your customers to talk about your brand in spaces you don’t own, like community forums, social media, LinkedIn groups and review websites. Advocates will be seen on these networks as unbiased sources of information (unlike your employees).

Find your broadcasters, and give them a shout out on social media any time they go to bat for you—they love to grow their following and be in the spotlight.

3. Nurturing potential buyers with proof points

If you’ve snagged a prospect’s interest, they’ll want to know how exactly your product will deliver value. This is where introducing a proof point (AKA a customer who has already been successful) can be beneficial.

To make your customers’ success stories more compelling, let them tell it in their own words. Humanize your customer by mentioning them by name and sharing pictures of them (if they’ll allow it). These personal touches will make your stories feel more authentic to prospects.

4. Sealing the deal with networkers

Traditionally, advocates have been used as references during the closing stages of the buyer’s journey. At this point, the prospect is usually convinced to make the purchase but needs to talk to “check a box” for the sake of their supervisor.

While this is still a widespread occurrence in B2B sales, there’s a much better way to do it. First, connect your advocate and the prospect earlier in the buying process and give them a chance to develop a relationship. Position your reference calls as a networking opportunity that benefits both the advocate and the prospect. These advocates—which I call networkers — will relish the chance to make new professional contacts.

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5. Delivering success through mentors

Your advocates’ involvement doesn’t have to stop when the contract is signed. Bring passionate evangelists in as mentors to your new customers. This helps set up new customers for success and gives your advocate the opportunity to show off their knowledge—and get recognition for going above and beyond.

By connecting your prospects with advocates at every stage in the buying process, you’ll close more deals and cement the loyalty of your brand champions.

If you want to learn how to find and mobilize your advocates, read this article.

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