Tactics to Help B-to-B Sales Reps Shine
Undoubtedly, the end of the recession plus the beginning of the new year creates times of change. Many fear change due to the fear of the unknown and an alteration from their comfort zone. But change really should be embraced.
The most adverse changes are now being conducted in business. Processes and procedures must all change in order to be more productive and profitable. Moreover, with organizations’ desire to remain lean, additional production will probably be requested from surviving employees. This will influence all aspects of business, particularly in the sales area.
Selling will be one of those areas of change. The sales department has been slow to alter for a number of reasons:
- Personnel: The good times prior to the recession focused less on people and more on process.
- Leadership: There are numerous theories on selling, many don't know whom to follow or trust.
- Training: Many believe that training is the best strategy to alter selling patterns, but have found little in the way of return on investment.
- Customers: Many selling professionals and managers believe that customers buying patterns haven't changed.
With over 28 years in the field, I find there are tremendous modifications in consumer buying patterns, customer behaviors and selling processes. Years ago, selling required on-site demonstrations and live presentations. Today, customer conversations are conducted over the internet and demonstrations are arranged with apps and cloud computing. In fact, a large segment of prospects have full access to vendor information and products. They self-educate due to lack of time and budgets.
Customers don't want or need to be sold. In many cases, they know more about your business, industry and company then ever before. If they want to, they'll connect with you. Customers are smarter and more connected than ever. That said, the key differentiator is the service, support and systems you provide to engage clients. Here are some things to consider:
1. Cold calling. Dump it. It's extremely discouraging to see how many people believe this methodology still works. Cold calling is a disruption. It wastes time, and people are too busy. Very few are successful at it, and very little product is sold. Financial resources are better spent increasing visibility and investing in customer-centric relationships.
2. Customer response. Return calls when promised. Customers don't appreciate being placed on indefinite hold. They desire immediate conversations with those that can offer assistance. Not returning calls or hiding behind voice mail is an excuse for a customer to discover your competitor.
3. Customer care. Research illustrates that over 50 percent of customer interaction is service related. Treat your customers correctly by becoming engaged. Be in the moment; become genuinely interested in their concerns; have representatives smile and be interested in engaging with customers. Certainly sales people have bad days too, but the client doesn't need to know and doesn't care. Service must be paramount. Selling departments must build a service-oriented culture.
4. Selling vs. building relationships. Social networking groups are besieged with conversations about selling to the C-suite. Not only is it interesting to discover so many self-proclaimed experts, but more ironic to view the opinions on how to sell to senior executives. Herein is the best advice: Senior executives don't want to be sold anything. They desire healthy conversations that build relationships with trusted peers.
Senior officers know what they need and when they need it. Representatives must be keener to the issues of decision makers so that their conversations and questions allow them to be a peer of the buyer. Vendor thinking must end so that representatives focus on objectives, measurements of success and value returned to the organization.
5. C-to-C. With today's high level of connectivity, customers are more interested in talking with other customers than talking to sales reps. People buy from those they know and trust. Individuals desire customer-centered relationships. Build your community with case studies, testimonials, and audio or video snippets that illustrate results from other customers. Ensure that your customers become selling avatars.
6. Customer communication. Technology isn't the answer to everything. Your brand must constantly be top of mind. Avoid activities that diminish relationships. Stop using email to communicate with clients; pick up the phone or send a simple handwritten gratuity card. Illustrate your value, not the need to make a commission.
7. Customer discretion. Buyers aren't in a hurry. Credit concerns, economic volatility and shareholder return are more important than ever. In addition, the internet provides consumers the necessary time to conduct the proper research prior to making decisions. If you're patient, they should come.