Your Expertise Is Your Sales Advantage

Posted on June 21st, 2024 to Uncategorized

Many subject-matter experts stress about selling their B2B services, but there are three good reasons why your expertise is your sales advantage.

My clients — smart, savvy founders with a high level of expertise in their fields — report lacking confidence when it comes to selling. 

While they can easily diagnose their clients’ needs and propose solutions, they freeze up when it comes to talking about budget, pushing for a larger scope or confirming concrete next steps. 

When I catch them beating themselves up for not being “good salespeople” and lamenting their lack of sales experience, it’s my pleasure to remind them of this one fact: 

You’re the best salesperson for the job specifically because of your expertise

In this post, I’ll highlight three ways your subject-matter expertise is actually better than possessing traditional sales skills, as well as the essential skills you’ll need to acquire as your business grows. 

Let’s begin.

Your Advantages as an SME

Let’s be real: Confidently leading discovery calls and navigating sales conversations requires a certain level of experience. Luckily, as a subject-matter expert, you’ve got firm ground to stand on. 

In this section, we’ll cover the three natural edges to lean on in the sales process. 

Advantage #1: Network

If you’re like many of my clients, you have experience in corporate or non-profit sectors, where you’ve enjoyed productive working relationships with many colleagues, stakeholders, partners and vendors. 

As a result, you’ve got a network that grows your business organically for the first few years (and to the tune of multiple six figures — maybe even seven figures). 

What’s more, many past contacts leave companies for new ones, which opens up an opportunity for work with their new employers.

This built-in network is familiar with your work and understands your level of expertise — making them much more likely to respond, engage and hire you than a colder lead. 

Advantage #2. Trusted Advisor

This is the hill I will die on: You must show up as a trusted advisor — not a vendor— if you want to consult with large companies with sophisticated buyers.

Let’s break it down.

Today’s buyers are more educated than ever. By the time they reach out, they’ve researched their challenge and possible solutions, as well as your company, your services and your work history on LinkedIn. 

That means that they’re counting on you to add to the conversation, bringing greater clarity to what they already know — and as a subject-matter expert, you’ve got the goods to deliver! 

You bring to the table things a run-of-the-mill salesperson cannot: Deep knowledge, vast experience and the chops to challenge their current approach so that they may usher in a better way forward. 

In 2023, LinkedIn reported that 89% of customers appreciate when they’re challenged during the sales process, because it adds value to the conversation.

And, remember the Inc. article that went viral about how subject-matter experts are the new rainmakers? Check it out here.

Advantage #3. Long View

When I was in corporate media sales, I stood out from others on the team because I focused on the long-term gains for my clients, not my commission payout.  

Now I’m not saying that all other salespeople don’t take the long view on client results (I know some of my past colleagues read this blog — not you, okay?!) — but the reality is that the average salesperson is not compensated for the impact they provide. 

As a business owner, the long-term results you deliver for clients determine your long-term success. 

As a subject-matter expert, you’re inherently more interested in the long-term gains for your clients because you deeply understand the pain points, problems and the solutions they require. This is your passion!

And just a note here: Taking the long view often results in more repeat business (renewals, extensions, cross-sells, etc.) — and this results in a stronger, more sustainable business over time. 

(Top sales professionals reported that 72% of their revenue came from existing clients, according to HubSpot’s 2024 Sales Trend Report!)

In other words, your experience and understanding of what matters most to them allows you to build more fruitful, long-lasting relationships with your clients. 

Your Advantages Will Only Get You So Far

Many of the subject-matter experts I work with find success in the first three to five years of their businesses by leveraging the three advantages outlined above (sometimes for even longer periods of time). 

But these advantages will only get you so far. 

At some point in your business journey, you’ll hit the uncomfortable part of the rollercoaster ride where unpredictable revenue and a lean pipeline knock you for a loop. 

In the next section, I’ll detail the skills, strategies and systems I recommend so you can achieve predictable revenue in your business, allowing you to confidently make essential investments in your growth. 

While being a subject-matter expert will always provide the advantages described above, you’ll hit a phase where you need to uplevel your sales skills to keep up the momentum.

Your Gaps as an SME 

I recommend a few foundational pieces to the founders I advise when it’s time to improve their sales skills, strategies and systems.

Here are a few key considerations you can apply to your business:

Gap #1: Get Really Good at Leading the Sales Process

As a subject-matter expert, you’re probably already very good at leading a sales conversation with a qualified buyer who’s ready to buy. 

In fact, throughout my years advising founders, the most common thing I hear is, “Just get me in a room with a buyer and I’ll do well.”

But what happens when you’re faced with a colder lead or under-educated buyer? 

  • If they’re not in a position of readiness to buy yet, how good are you at warming them up? 
  • What happens when you encounter a skeptical buyer who challenges whether your solution is the right one for their problem? 
  • What if you’re speaking with a Champion, not the overall Decision Maker?
  • What happens when you encounter a buyer who is struggling with overall prioritization and isn’t sure the timing is right for your solution?
  • What if they think your pricing is too high?

While my clients are quite good with buyers who are keen, we spend a great deal of time building their confidence to handle these tricky, more nuanced situations — which often has much more to do with the sales process you craft than how good you are talking about what you do.

Gap #2: Proactive Lead Generation

As a well-connected SME, most of your leads have come via referral and word-of-mouth — which is awesome, until it’s not enough.

Relying on this reactive approach to business development causes panic during dry spells — and puts your business at risk — because you have no control over the quantity or quality of leads coming in.

Here’s the problem: When founders realize they need to get proactive about lead generation, they often invest time and money into the wrong tactics for B2B firms selling premium services. 

Instead of making the right moves, they waste time and money on high-volume, low-touch activities like cold calling, content strategies, LinkedIn Sales Navigator and other tactics that simply don’t work to put your next big customer into the pipeline.  

Gap #3: Tracking Metrics That Matter

Is doing the back-end work of your business sexy? No! 

Are solid systems, procedures and tracking necessary? Absolutely.

As your business matures and grows, it’s essential that you pay attention to key data points, metrics and information — and as an SME, not a salesperson, this can often be one of the more confounding areas to master. 

When I work with my clients, they gain confidence in setting up the systems and tools they need to track what matters. Things like: 

  • Sales pipeline management & forecasting
  • Close & conversion rates
  • Sales cycle length

…just to name a few.

Like sales, these might not be skills that come naturally to you, but getting a handle on the back end of your sales function is vital to running a sustainable business.

Wrap Up: Your Expertise is Your Sales Advantage

It’s natural to feel uncomfortable selling your B2B services.

If you’re like my passionate and impact-driven clients, you’d rather focus on the work and the people you serve.

But being a small business owner requires you to sell to keep doing the impactful work you want to do. 

When you can marry your expertise with sales and business development skills, you’ll be in a strong position to have a steady pipeline of exciting opportunities for the long haul.

If you’ve reached a plateau in your business, or you’d like to ditch the pipeline rollercoaster, check out the Sales Playbook here.

This high-touch engagement is for subject-matter experts who need a step-by-step plan to generate exciting B2B leads, pitch bigger deals and sign more contracts.

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