People make business decisions for personal reasons and until AI selling tools can empathize and personalize, great salespeople are your bread and butter.
In a January 2017 article titled Are Salespeople Still Relevant? Part One from #nzentrepreneuer, the author states that marketing “now” performs much of what great salespeople did back “then” largely referring to sales before digital and social media.
They show a funnel diagram, by Kevin Krason, with the different sales actions at each stage. They end the article saying that while the sales job has changed, great salespeople are still needed since people still want personal connection, especially when making large purchase decisions. I agree and there’s more.
In big dollar, enterprise selling, seasoned sellers often say that the internal sale is the bigger challenge. Navigating your company’s political and process hurdles, is often harder than steering through customer influencers and decision makers.
All technology companies are dealing with IP piracy, with Microsoft incurring significant hits to revenue due to illegal software usage. In 2003 this was a top issue in China. Dell and other PC manufacturers were starting to ship PCs without Microsoft software at the request of Chinese retailers. I explained the issue to our product executives and to Steve Ballmer. The product teams said I was going native. Steve didn’t think Chinese citizens would refuse to pay.
We had a follow-up meeting with Bill Gates and some product executives, which included Jim Totton, then VP of Software, at Dell Computers. Jim explained Dell’s challenges including demand and financial risks from distributing products that Chinese retailers wouldn’t sell. He said cost of software was irrelevant because no price was better than free. He showed how easy it was to get free software in China, and elsewhere.
Bill started off angry, but he listened. At the end of the meeting, he walked around the table to shake Jim’s hand saying, “Thank you. You taught me something today.” Bill then turned to me and said he’d talk to the product teams.
Do something long enough and humans lose sight of other means to get the job done. Decision-makers find themselves in this quandary and they value education or advise on new ways to solve problems. You, one of the great salespeople, are an educator and advisor. Even with the speed of digital information, knowledgeable salespeople make it easier for the customer to expand their thinking.
In the “now” environment, yes, the customer does their own research. It’s up to the salesperson to help them look in all the right places. In the “then” period, the salesperson was often the main source of new information. “Now” rather than pitching features and benefits, the great salesperson applies knowledge and experience to guide the customer to the right information.
There’s no less requirement to be knowledgeable and experienced—just more emphasis on guidance and advice versus pitching.
Shepherding a Fix
Close cousin to internal selling. Repeat business is at the heart of any successful business and post-sale support from the person who made the initial sale, goes a long way. It helps to prove that you and your company are capable and reliable—two of the traits that buyers look for in people from whom they buy.
Today there are many one-touch sales models. What used to be a relational sale has become more of a transactional sale with the use of technology and automated selling. It’s all valid and the world continues advancing.
What hasn’t changed is that people still make business decisions for personal reasons. Whether you’re helping them save time or helping them be a hero, there’s a personal reason behind their decision to choose you. Don’t make them wrong. Don’t be the stereotype, focused only on the commission check. While technology has given us tools that make sales more impersonal, it’s also given us norms that allow us to be personable in more efficient ways.
Emailing personalized updates on enhancements that affect the customer. Texting a quick “How are we doing? Can I personally do anything to help you?” A LinkedIn message that doesn’t ask for anything but instead just says, “Hi Jane, the team seems happy with the progress. Checking to make sure you’re happy as well. Thanks again for choosing us. Call if I can help.” These are meaningful because they’re unusual. Be unusual to enhance your CAPABILITY and RELIABILITY. These are traits of the great salespeople.
These are things that great salespeople still must do to earn trust and loyalty. I’d love to hear your examples of how you’ve built trust and loyalty with your customers.
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©2019 Rick Wong, The Five Abilities® LLC