How has selling changed?
I think, by now, that we are all aware how the selling profession has evolved whether you sell to consumers, small business owners or conglomerates. How has it changed? If we think of a perfect storm that has come to your shores, one that will only ever appear every hundred years or so. A storm so perfect it has colossal winds, considerable rain ready to soak you, a tidal swell and a full moon.
This would certainly make a huge difference to your coastline.
Likewise the world of selling has had a perfect storm comprising of globalisation of markets giving us enormous choices and possibilities, an economic recovery following the worst consumer recession in generations, the web coming of age and the ubiquitous use of mobile browsing capabilities. By 2018 it’s estimated that the world will have 5 billion smartphones. Everyone can now access the web.
The modern consumer has lapped this all up. They relish the choices available to them, they now want deals and low cost having been weaned on this during the recession. They adore researching for solutions on the web actually enjoying the learning and digestion of information. They worship being in control and have grown an unhealthy aversion to salespeople and selling.
In a word, they don’t need salespeople anymore.
Or they think they don’t. With a carefully crafted selling process that respects they buying pattern they follow, we can evolve ourselves to “help” people buy rather than “sell” to them.
This is the simple message in this book. Help them to buy don’t sell anymore. Seismic change.
Help them to buy by flooding the web with answers and solutions to their needs and wants, engage with them on social media, ( if they want to engage with you), give them multi-sensory information and data to research and decide who to approach, then make the run-way seamless and painless as possible appealing to their preferred way of physically buying. The just might need a little help here to make their final decision. Then care for them intimately for ever exceeding their expectations at every opportunity.
There’s plenty of scope for us salespeople to engage with the customer on a face to face basis, on the phone, via video link or web chat. We have to make this encounter really consultative and problem solving, like a doctor. We’re on their side to help them make a buying decision in their time on their agenda.
In a moment I’m going to describe each element of the modern consumer’s buying cycle and then attach our new “customer buying friendly” sales cycle to it. Before I go there let’s agree the context for this article. The sales industry is huge so I’m going to contextualise this around the business to consumer or small business market place and leave selling to conglomerates to other authors. So if you’re B2C or B2SME, enjoy the ride, I’m certainly going to.
Let me work with you on this. Think back to a time when you bought something very recently of some significance. Where did it all start, what did you then do? What did you do after that and so on. You’ll probably end up with this:
1. Time is passing by
2. I’m developing a need for something, I feel some pain
3. This pain is getting worse, I need to fix it.
4. Let’s go online tonight to try and find a solution
5. Let’s ask my online network if they know any company that can help
6. I’ve got lots of information here, I need to whittle down all these choices
7. Can I fix it myself or do I need to buy a solution
8. Let me check these people out, their reviews are good.
9. That’s the one I’m going to buy, how can I do this online?
10. Not online, so how can I contact them to put my order in, I hope they’re not a pushy salesman
11. Ahh, now my pain is fixed.
Perhaps a little derogatory, I hope not, maybe thought that was the thinking process you went through. Or perhaps you were having to buy a product where you needed advice or help that wasn’t available online, so in that circumstance you would have made contact to your chosen company much earlier.
But I bet you were fairly aligned to it.
So to summarise the buying process and you’ll notice I use itches and scratches. Naturally this is a metaphor for problems they are facing and the solution or products that might help them solve their problem.
The Buyer’s Process
The new selling cycle
Next I’m going to talk a little more about what you should be doing in each stage to ensure you maximise your sales or purchases, whichever way you look at it.
Producing web content
Marketers may claim to this part of the sales process and indeed, they do contribute hugely to its success. But salespeople really do need to get engaged in creating content, after all, they know their customer; their customer’s itches and they’re normally fully trained on the product or services.
So write, compose, blog, record video, do white papers, SlideShare, YouTube. Flood the web with content that would appeal to your customers and will help them to scratch their itches, hopefully with your scratch post.
Put out your bait, it’s the content that they’ll find when they go searching looking for solutions. Or they might be an existing customer that likes to consume your content.
Good content reveals you to be an expert, maybe a consultant, at the very least a helpful person or company. Niche your market if you need to and get to know your sector intimately so you can write all about the problems your customer’s face and the solutions.
Give your information freely without reservation and give it all, don’t hold some back hoping they’ll contact you by phone. This won’t work here. By all means harvest email addresses and put them into your incubator. More on this later.
Don’t advertise or self-promote your business, remember we’re helping them to buy not sell to them at this early stage.
Engage with Social Media
Or as it’s called nowadays, Social Sell. Use whatever social media that your customers use to engage with them where you can. Communicate to them, chat with them, participate with them. Again do not sell; this is a sin on social media.
Incubate your potential customers, use an opt in database that can keep them regularly posted with new content and information. Make this useful not full of sales pitches.
Encourage your customer’s to RSS your blogs, websites, if they choose to take this route. The trick is to harvest emails and contacts just to stay in touch with relevant and useful information.
We want them to dig deeper into your company or you when they ready to start looking at solutions for their itches.
Help the customer research options
You may well be lucky and achieve a face to face or phone/video conversation with your customer as they probably want some additional help that the internet can’t provide. Or maybe the customer just likes the personal touch. Here you’ll want to do get really consultative to find their needs and see if your solution is the answer.
However, more and more customers particularly the younger generations don’t want this human touch, yet. They prefer to research the options themselves or ask someone in their network, if a recommendation can be made. The recommendation might result in your website being trawled or an email or phone contact to you.
Many customers thoroughly enjoy the research phase and will often want to devise their own solution, Can they scratch their itch themselves? Can they watch a YouTube video showing how to fix the leaking toilet rather than employ a plumber. Ironically this video would be made by a plumber themselves.
Help them to decide if you’re the right fit by providing reviews and testimonials to satisfy their natural risk lens.
Provide multisensory online information to help them narrow down their search or if you’re face to face or on the phone/video, consult their needs to help them narrow down their search.
Help the customer to choose the right option
Unless they can buy the solution online without human contact, and your product or service may fit this business-model, give the capability making contact with you to wrap everything up. Email, phone, twitter, video link, web chat…the list keeps growing of the various ways they may wish to contact you.
Then consult with them, find out where they are in their own buying cycle, and then help them to make a decision. Don’t sell, help them to arrive at the right decision. Nothing wrong with a little persuasion, subtle influencing. This is still where closing occurs and occasionally, the customer needs a little helping hand.
Wow them, exceed their expectations. Be there for them; react well to any contact they make. Look after them, care for the aftersales, incubate them for the future and stay in touch. Because they’ll soon be in the market for up-sales or cross-sales and don’t assume the loyalty is going to be there. You have to earn it.
Taken from my new book – to be published in June 2015 – Everyday Selling