“It’s time to steer your sales efforts to the direction where it doesn’t lead to your business’ demise. Evolve with the changing times and don’t get left behind.”

Change is inevitable.

Keep up, or get left behind.

Take it to the next level.

Okay.

Now that you’re all annoyed and worked up after hearing three of the worst coaching clichés of all time, let’s talk sales, and how you have to accept that change is inevitable, that you have to keep up with the times or get left behind by competition, and how you can take your sales to the next level. Ouch.

Don’t panic just yet. You don’t have to completely let go of the sales SOPs and methods you’ve worked so hard to master over the years. After all, man did not jump from large-headed Neanderthals to the smart phone using Homo sapiens who have way more clothing options now than when our species started. As with human evolution, changes in the word of selling does not come in one big go; it’s a series of adjustments, a little tweak here and there, and bits of revisions in the salesperson-client dynamics.

There’s no reason why you cannot use these changes to your business’ advantage—it’s just a matter of using what you know about your product and putting it in a different venue.

The Lessening Need For Salespersons

There are significant shifts in the sales environment, providing customers with convenient and fast-paced solutions and services over the internet. That being said, it’s safe to say that the old-school prospecting techniques aren’t going to cut it anymore. Product information, reviews, price comparisons—everything that a client needs to know prior to purchasing is just a few clicks away. And with such a vast number of options that are instantaneously available to consumers, traditional cold-calling and knocking on doors are becoming less and less welcome—and less and less effective.

According to Forbes, 78.6% of salespeople who use social media outsell their peers (Fidelman, 2013), and that social media users were 23% more successful than their non-social media peers (when it came to exceeding sales quota).

So instead of buying lead lists and limiting ourselves to places and potential clients within our gas money’s reach, we can now utilise professional online networks and target the primary decision-makers without going through the initial rejection of gatekeepers. Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, even Instagram—it’s a gold mine of prospects lying—and tweeting and posting—in wait for the right product to come gliding into their screens.

Being In-Your-Face But Not in Person

In an article in Business Insider, it was reported that Procter and Gamble CEO Robert McDonald was to get rid of 1,600 employees, “to ‘moderate’ his ad budget because Facebook and Google can be ‘more efficient’ than the traditional media that usually eats the lion’s share of P&G’s ad budget” (Edwards, 2012).

Given that the market is now all about being digital and mobile, there is, in fact, also a huge decrease in the need to perform the usual functions of the salesperson—but don’t lay off your people just yet! As mentioned, it’s just a matter of putting your product offerings in a different venue, and therefore, changing how you present your business and making sure it’s on top of people’s minds—you still need someone to do that, and who better to do it that the folks who know your services inside out?

One of the easiest ways to start is to go to the least expensive and most targeted social media platforms that already have a solid and steadily growing volume of users. Building a Facebook Page, for example, instantly gives you access to millions of the network’s users, which can be narrowed down to your target demographic.

Resisting change is one of your biggest problems here—you’ve got people who make a living out of talking with other people, and now you’ll need them to be digitally savvy and do most of their client interactions without the face-to-face meet-ups. But you know what, good sales folks are the most adaptable professionals; they determine and target what their clients need and provide them with customised solutions and services—it’s the same principle with switching the ‘conversations’ from the traditional meetings to, say, social media.

Switching from face-to-face sales pitching to the digital sales platform need not result in a colder client relationship—and that’s where your salespeople’s, well, people skills come in. There are still avenues to create personal, customised client experiences that can foster a culture of warmth in an otherwise impersonal setup. The tone of your content, the way you ‘talk’ in personalised customer emails, and addressing each prospect’s concern the way you would if you were in their home talking about how you can improve their lives by using your product—it can still happen, but this time, you get to have them ‘hear you out’ before they slam their doors on your face.

It Now Takes a Village to Raise Clientele

Cultivating a massive following is as important now as catching the proverbial big fish—and maybe even more. Social media has made it so easy to gain access to your target audience and educate them about your company in a cheaper, faster, and more digestible way. Oh, and did I mention cheaper and faster?

In an article published in Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, authors James Andzulis, Nikolaos Panagopoulos, and Adam Rapp, they stressed the importance of both sales and marketing,” In the same way that a company would not simply allow any employee to speak on behalf of the company, instead favouring a communications team, social media must be managed as a joint communication from both sales and marketing. Social media demands a strategy, and not simply an assortment of disjointed practitioner tactics.” (Andzulis, Panagopulos, Rapp 2012)

Instead of flooding them head-on with a tsunami of product information, you may now farm your prospects by catering to the ever-shortening client attention span with bits of relevant , needed, and wanted data—and in an environment where your team won’t have to suffer through doors being slammed on their faces.

Your team will now consist of members managing client accounts, creating an online relationship with customers, and building new solutions—and all this could be happening without anyone having to step out of the office.

And because maintaining a good client base—and therefore good sales—now depend on a group of people rather than individuals going out on their own trying to score a deal, commissions-based compensations shift to regular pay with team-based bonus rewards. This way, your people will have to work with each other and help each other out in order to attain the sales goals.

Clients Still Want Answers for Today’s Problems Yesterday

A lot of things may have changed in the game of sales, but you can always count on good old consumer urgency to always be a big factor.

Once you set up a system of rapid-fire response to your customer inquiries using the right social media and technological tools, you’ll outrun and outperform your competition while they’re still knocking on people’s front doors. Consumers are always looking for the best option with the fastest turnaround, and if you play your cards right and satisfy your audience’ Just-In-Time mentality, you’re on the right track.

The traditional sales funnel requires rigorous one-person work to get through the layers of awareness, interest, evaluation, commitment, and onto the much-coveted sale. And for sure, most salespeople would have had to go through tons of rejection along the way of the prospecting process and secure much fewer conversions.

With social selling, you can work on multiple leads and get more conversions when you find your target subscribers, likers, and followers, maintain social media engagement with relevant and up-to-date content, highlight your company’s involvement in advocacy (if any), and still maintain that personal touch by keeping your social media ‘conversations’ alive by giving them real-time answers to their concerns.

Don’t Just be Heard, Be Understood – All in 150 Characters or Less

It is becoming increasingly difficult to hold anyone’s attention for more than two seconds. And with your products and the products of your competitors lined up like ducks, ready to be ignored and scrolled up off the screen and into oblivion, you have to be the loudest—and most eloquent—quacker.

It’s not enough to be a great communicator; you have to be able to put your message across, and entice your audience for a longer look with fewer words and fanfare—better if you do it in fewer characters than what twitter allows.

You see, there was no mention in this post about changing your business principles or sacrificing all of your methods and sales techniques completely—there’s no call to pull a cold turkey on traditional selling. It’s just a matter of putting your brand not just the in the physical market, but also on the digital market—because that’s where everyone already is.
Don’t just go with the flow—you surf the damn waves.

SOURCES:
Andzulis, James, Panagopoulos, Nikolaos, Rapp, Adam (2012), “A Review of Social Media and Implications for the Sales Process,”Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, June 2012
Edwards, Jim (2012), “P&G to Lay Off 1,600 After Discovering It’s Free to Advertise on Facebook,” Business Insider, January 30 (available at http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-01-30/news/31004736_1_advertising-digitalmedia-procter-gamble/).
http://www.forbes.com/sites/markfidelman/2013/05/19/study-78-of-salespeople-using-social-media-outsell-their-peers/