Selling is possibly one of the primal instincts that human beings have. We try to influence the other right from the time we are born. It could be crying to get mother’s attention or throwing a feat of anger to touch someone’s feelings or a compelling address that a leader makes or a heart-wrenching moment that a movie creates to stir up its audience. Each one of these is an instance of sale. Given the changes in our social order and advances in the technologies that we use each day, what’s the impact?
A few things have not changed!
The basics of influencing have remained the same… one needs to work on the unconscious, provide information, understand the needs, follow-up with information that seem to address the needs, build rapport, use emotions etc. All the styles do not work in all situations and the person or the group to be influenced plays an important role in deciding what style of influencing will work the best. A great salesperson adapts very well to the situation and plays the right role at the right time.
Sales Process has changed!
With the advent of social media, potential customers are well-informed of the product or service that could meet their needs. They know a lot about the market and various alternatives available to them. Also, they know what other users have said about the product or the service. By the time, they are speaking to the salesperson, they are already somewhere in the middle of the sales cycle.
Add value. If you can’t, be efficient!
The product literature is no more interesting for them. They are expecting the salesperson to know their challenges and give solutions that are relevant to their world rather than describing scores of use cases. They expect her to match their speed and style. Only if she can deliver further insights and new perspectives, they could evaluate the offer differently.
Back to Basics and Join up!
Apart from doing the basics of Sales right, the salesperson (let me say, ‘she’) has to do a lot of groundwork to know the customer, the context and the class or sector that the customer can be tagged with. Again, the technology can be a boon here – the blogs, white papers, slideshares and many other resources on the internet come handy. And the traditional ways of immersing oneself at the client site are not irrelevant yet. I notice many talented people getting lazy and ignoring the need to carry out this piece of work.
Secondly, given the fact that she has to match the speed of the customer, it is important that she has a holistic view of the end to end process in which the customer receives the product and the service; and finally use it. So, she has to work in various departments in her company and the upstream as well as downstream supply chain to get a first-hand feel of all the steps involved in delivering what the customer pays for.
Last but not the least, the devil is in the details. She has to play a vital role in understanding the finer aspects of customer experience and the possibilities in the market. She has to carry this learning into the organization and influence the way a product is designed, produced and delivered. This is nothing but evangelisation of the customer inside the company.
The leadership needs to appreciate this and drive this change in the organization. They have to drive the sales teams to focus on the details and encourage conversations which are deep and specific. Secondly, they have to create forums in the organization where the back-office listens to the front-office and makes suitable changes. And similarly, the customer-facing roles have to appreciate the goodness of the back-office. This is easier said than done – only the great leaders can achieve this!