As the recession drags on, I hear more sales leaders complaining about their inability to increase sales by relying on tried-and-true strategies for creating value for their customers. What they overlook is that selling has fundamentally changed, and pursuing the old tried-and-true tactics results in more of the same: higher stress and lower sales.
The recession is a powerful teacher who raps the knuckles of those who have not learned that selling has changed forever. The keys to sales success can be found by observing the new cognitive and collaborative platform that has been created by the Internet. Here are the major trends that scream, “The time to adapt is NOW!”
The Internet is the conversation medium
We’ve entered a “conversation economy.” Conversations drive commerce. The Internet is the conversation platform. Prospects talk to each other on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter; they read company blogs; and they join online communities.
Action idea: Join the conversation – move online now
Transactional selling is moving online. In the next three years, more than 3 million transactional salespeople will lose their jobs. Just this week, a CEO told me about his decision to purchase a $400,000 single-engine plane. He moved his buying process online and found every detail he needed to know without speaking to a salesperson.
Action idea: Add a shopping cart to your Website, even if you sell big-ticket items.
Sell the way your prospects want to buy online and offline
The definition of selling has changed. We can no longer dictate how prospects buy, and we can no longer act as if we know what’s best for the customer. Such terms as “solution selling,” “value selling,” and “consultative selling” sound good, but they no longer matter. What matters is what the customer wants. If customers want a transaction, build a transaction model online. If customers want a relationship, then offer a relationship.
Action idea: Match your sales process to your customer’s buying process.
One more time: Ditch your pitch!
The world is moving toward a process of collaboration and cocreation. Wikipedia is a shining example of how millions of people speaking in more than 250 languages share their collective knowledge. This model applies directly to the most effective sales process available today.
Action item: Start co-creating
Get on the conversation trail
In the past, authorities aggregated and dispensed knowledge. The communication flowed from company silos to the customer through the salesperson. Today, when prospects want to get information on a product, they don’t talk to a salesperson first; they talk to other buyers online. www.vark.com submits questions to your peers.
In the past companies conducted focus groups and customer surveys which shaped their new product ideas. Today companies engage their customers in real-time conversations. Notable examples: www.ideastorm.com, www.mystarbucksidea.com and http://ideas.salesforce.com.
Lesson learned: In the past companies created customers. In the future customers create the company.
Renovate your sales technology; renovate your sales process, so you can accelerate your sales. Join the conversation economy. If you don’t like that change, get ready to be irrelevant.
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