Vertical IQ’s latest eBook, entitled “Unlock Sales Readiness: Advice from the Experts,” is available now! Along with it comes valuable insights from Sales Readiness experts, and in this blog series, we will bring you some of the highlights from our conversations with each of them.

Throughout our “Advice from the Experts” blog series, we have talked extensively about the importance of industry research, relationship-building, and becoming a trusted advisor to your clients. While all of these aspects are pillars of the Sales Readiness equation, it is crucial to avoid overlooking the methodology and tools that sales professionals can use to become sales-ready.

Our new eBook, Unlock Sales Readiness: Advice from the Experts, dives into the various aspects of Sales Readiness and how different tools and best practices can be applied to help sales professionals succeed. In this edition of “Advice from the Experts,” we had a conversation with Viveka von Rosen, co-founder and Chief Visibility Officer of Vengreso.

Viveka has spent more than two decades as a sales professional, and in 2017, co-founded Vengreso, a top sales training and productivity management software company that has helped more than 3,000 companies grow sales and revenue. She also has authored two best-selling books: LinkedIn Marketing: An Hour a Day and LinkedIn: 101 Ways to Rock Your Personal Brand!

Q: Can you tell me more about who you are, what your role is, and your experience as it relates to sales?

Viveka: I’m the Chief Visibility Officer and co-founder at Vengreso. We created Vengreso as a digital sales transformation company teaching sales teams and sales leaders how to create more and better conversations using tools like LinkedIn, Sales Navigator, and Social Video. In 2022, we pivoted to develop our software, FlyMSG, an auto text expander and virtual writing assistant that can help not only sales people, but the one billion knowledge workers work faster, not harder.

While currently not in a sales role, I am the master trainer for Vengreso’s sales training division. Over the past 20 years, I have had both sales roles and sales training roles, involved in selling everything from medical equipment to cars to mid six-figure SaaS deals. My interest in sales is what really got me into this world of LinkedIn and social selling.

When I was in a sales role, like many others, I hated cold-calling. So when I was introduced to LinkedIn in 2006, I said, “Okay, this is it. I never have to cold call again,” which is actually somewhat true. LinkedIn is a great way to build a sense of awareness – that top-of-mind awareness – to increase credibility and create almost a sense of familiarity between me and my prospects.  Even if that sense of familiarity is false, it still creates a feeling of knowing (part of the KLT – Know, Like, and Trust factor) that is necessary for effective selling. Connecting and engaging with my prospects over social media made me more comfortable reaching out to those who might have been a cold lead.  Because I had done my research on LinkedIn and I knew who they were, I felt ready and prepared.

Q: It seems that you work with a lot of sales professionals but, as you mentioned, are not in a direct sales role yourself. “Sales Readiness” means different things to different people. What does it mean to you?

Viveka: For me, Sales Readiness is exactly what it means: to be prepared for a sale, and that could be buyer research or making sure you have the information you need above and beyond title and role. And it could also be as generalized as prospecting. So really – I guess it depends on context – it could be everything starting from “Am I ready to find, connect, and reach out to these folks?” And once you’ve reached out to them, it’s about how much you have prepared your buyer and how much you know about them.

When determining if you are sales-ready, ask yourself if you have a clear understanding of your buyer’s pains, challenges, and needs. If not, you haven’t really earned the right to engage with them. You should go into that first communication with exploration and engagement in mind.

Q: When you think about Sales Readiness and preparation, what skills, tools, and information come to mind? What tools do you think someone might need to feel more “sales-ready?”

Viveka: Obviously, we rely on LinkedIn Sales Navigator aligned with LinkedIn, and a lot of times, that gives us the information needed. If you deep-dive on a LinkedIn profile or through Sales Navigator review content that your buyer is sharing, you’ll have a really, really good idea about who the buyer is. We call it “the big fish on the wall”.  When you walk into an office, you’re gonna notice that fish on the wall, and it will always give you something to talk about. So with LinkedIn and Sales Navigator, it’s about going through their profiles and pulling out that “thing” you can always talk about.

There are also great tools out there that will research people’s social feeds, and even be able to sort through them, to bring that “fish on the wall” conversation to you. Seeing this allows you to figure out the best way to reach out to them. Maybe you sent an email or left a voicemail, and you didn’t get a response. Well, you might find that you should reach out to them on Twitter or through LinkedIn, or maybe that you should get their phone number to text them. It gives you the ability to reach out on an omnichannel so you can make sure you get that person where they want to be.

Products like that – ones that give you the right contact information and method – are really powerful.

Q: You’ve talked about being a sales trainer. If you were advising someone to prepare for a call, what would you recommend they lead with during their first conversation with a prospect?

Viveka: First, I want to elaborate on something: What do sales professionals do wrong? I think what happens is that salespeople connect with their buyer – and they’re so excited that they finally got someone to respond to them – that they often launch right into their sales pitch. This comes off as really obvious, especially on LinkedIn. I mean, if we went into our inboxes right now, it would be full of sales pitches.  In both cases, with that first sales outreach or within your LinkedIn inbox, those salespeople have not earned the right to a conversation with you. So what drives people to let you “buy them a drink”, i.e., have that first sales conversation? Again, what a seller needs to do is have a really clear understanding of a customer’s pain points, what their challenges are, and what their needs are so they can go into that first conversation in an exploratory way. And you also need to understand your “solution” to that.

But before ever reaching out for a meeting or to sell something, you need to offer value. We call it PVC: personalize, add value and CTA (call to action). Always personalize your messaging, always add value such as industry research or relevant information about your solution, and make sure the CTA, your call to action, (especially the first time you reach out) is about engagement!  Not scheduling a meeting, (unless they reached out to you first or you’re just following up) The point is: You really want to position yourself as a trusted advisor.

So when you get that first meeting, you’ve already built that positive sentiment. They may or may not have already reviewed some of the materials you sent them ahead of time, but there will be that positive sentiment that you can use to ask a question and listen, then ask another question and listen. We need to listen, and that will give you whatever information you were not able to gather before the call. And it starts with establishing that positive sentiment.

Q: You mentioned the phrase “trusted advisor.” Can you elaborate on that a little more? How may that phrase be different from what people perceive as a “salesperson,” or is there a difference?

Viveka: Pre-1950s, the salesperson was the trusted advisor: They were the person you went to in a company to learn more about their product, understand how it works, and explain how it might help you solve a problem or challenge. Then, around the 1950s, marketing and advertising got involved, and we had the Mad Men of Madison Avenue. And that pushy, used car salesperson persona was created. And after that, we had the internet salespeople lounging against their Lamborghinis – the coercing sales guy in the president’s club for 25 years – those kinds of salespeople.

All of this gave sellers such a bad rap: When picturing a “salesperson,” almost every single one of us pictures that used car sales guy with the plaid jacket. I think we all visualize almost that exact person. And any one of us who has bought a car or has been in that high-intensity sales situation knows it’s an achy, horrible feeling.

So the “trusted advisor” is bringing us back to the old sales way of being a source of information, of being an educator. And I think that’s what’s been missing for a while. The problem is – especially in high-intensity sales – that can be mixed with desperation. So that desperate feeling that the sales professional sometimes has, if they have to meet quota or something similar, can come across 100 percent, and you’re never going to be a trusted advisor while you feel that desperation.

That’s why preparation is so important. If you’re going in cold, and you have to make the sale because if you don’t make quota, you won’t get paid, and you’re going to lose your house, and your children are going to starve – and so many sales professionals have that mentality  – if you can be fully prepared, and if you can move into that conversation, that will align you and bring you back onto that trusted advisor ship.

Q: You’ve talked about how you’re really using LinkedIn to better understand prospects as individuals. How important is it to understand their industry? If you go a layer behind them as an individual, or even their business, how many layers back? Do you have to go deep enough to truly understand them and create that type of engagement with them?

Viveka: In the B2C world, buyers say, “I need a car,” and if you sell cars, you say, “Great, let me tell you about our cars.” But in the B2B world, you need to make a deep dive, and LinkedIn profiles and company pages will help you do that.

As I mentioned, there are a lot of tools that can help you get the kind of numbers, statistics, and information you need about the industries themselves. But I get so many automated messages on LinkedIn, and of course, it’s likely that person hasn’t viewed my profile or looked at my company page, and it’s really, really obvious. So you’ve got to take the time to actually research the company, research the industry, and utilize all of the great online sources and tools out there to get whatever information you can.

Maybe the company you’re targeting just had a really bad year. Maybe the CEO just got thrown under the bus. You have to know the latest and greatest information and how to access your buyer through that information. Maybe the CEO likes parasailing. Great, bring that up. That deep research into the company, the industry, and the executive you plan to meet with is crucial to becoming a trusted advisor in the B2B sales world.

>> Learn more about how Vertical IQ’s Industry Profiles can help you get to know your buyer’s industry and become “sales-ready!”

Q: You’ve covered a lot of great information, and you may have already offered some of your best advice for sales professionals. Is there any other advice you’d like to share with someone who is trying to evolve as a sales professional, relationship manager, or trusted advisor?

Viveka: As far as engagement, try to find out what your buyers are doing online. Are they sharing content? If so, awesome; start engaging with their actual content. Get in the comments section, respond to them, ask a question, engage with the profile and the person behind the profile. That way, when you do reach out to connect, they’re much more likely to say “yes.” Then follow that up with that PVC methodology to truly provide value, not a sales pitch. That helps to move the needle.

Also, if you are trying to engage with someone, chances are they will eventually look at your LinkedIn profile. At a minimum, make sure your information is accurate and up to date. And beyond that, make sure your personal LinkedIn profile is buyer-centric. Like you, it should be a resource for them. It should be focused on them and their needs, their wants and desires, their passions, and their challenges – not on you, the salesperson, but on them, the buyer.

You’re building that positive sentiment. So work on your personal brand, and be sure to think about your personal brand beyond LinkedIn too. Think about what else they might find if they Google you and the impression that will create: The first glimpse, the first impression, should be a good one. And having a built-out LinkedIn profile might help push some of that other stuff down in the search results.

>> You can read more of Viveka’s insights in our new eBook by clicking here. Stay tuned to our blog for future installments of our “Advice from the Experts” Blog Series

Image credit: Vertical IQ

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