The digital era has transformed the way that companies in both the B2B and B2C spheres approach the business of selling.
The days when prospects turned to sales reps as their main source of information are long gone. Now it’s the prospects who are firmly in control, taking matters into their own hands when it comes to researching potential suppliers – and relying on online sources such as peer review sites, blogs and social media networks.
To be successful today, it’s vital that sales professionals demonstrate understanding of their audience’s new behaviours and habits.
Here are 5 ways that you can ensure your sales techniques meet the standards required for today’s digitally-minded audience.
Pushy sales people are so last decade (if not last century). There’s a growing distaste for the hard sell, which means that traditional, outbound methods such as cold calling are not only less effective but potentially alienating your target audience.
The name of the game today is dealing with prospects on their terms, gently encouraging them along their journey to purchase. Inbound sales techniques that foster engagement rather than overt promotion are more aligned with customer expectations. What does this mean in practice? You need to be viewed as more of an adviser or trusted consultant than a sales rep, for instance by pointing your prospects to information, content or third-party endorsements that are of real use in their decision-making. Starting relationships on this basis should make it easier to convert leads into long-term customers.
We are all aware that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has recently come into force. You now have a legal responsibility to justify why contacts are in your database. It may be that you can cite one of five lawful bases including ‘legitimate interests’ or ‘contract’ as your grounds for processing data, but if not, you will need to rely on the sixth lawful basis – consent – which must be freely and explicitly given. Whichever legal basis you are using, your decision-making must be clearly documented.
In short, this means that my first point – about getting smart with engagement – rises further up the agenda. You can no longer fall back on pre-ticked opt-in boxes to keep people on your email lists (which, let’s face it, was neither ethical nor effective anyway). The most GDPR-friendly way of capturing data is to attract prospects to you so that they willingly divulge their personal data in exchange for content that they perceive as genuinely valuable.
The personal touch
It’s hard to engage properly with customers and prospects if you don’t have adequate knowledge of their preferences and interests. The old adage ‘know your customer’ has never been more apt, and today it requires a detailed level of insight so that you can make your interactions personalised, relevant and timely.
Customer profiling is an essential strand of this. For instance, sales teams can work to create fictional profiles of the company’s most desirable (profitable) customers, based on age, gender, location, interests and even values. A second layer of insight should be added to this based on their typical journey to purchase – mapping the ‘route’ they take, which communication channels they prefer, how long it takes and what triggers their final decision. All this information helps you to deliver the right interaction, on the right topic and at the right time to optimise your chances of conversion.
The team mentality
It’s well-recognised that sales professionals tend to be somewhat territorial – it’s an inherent part of the way we are wired, and frequently what drives us to be successful. But individual success means nothing if the whole team (and company) isn’t performing. If someone is operating as a ‘lone wolf’ they are also likely to be neglecting their admin and avoiding knowledge-sharing, and this sabotages wider sales and marketing initiatives that rely on that data – such as customer profling and insight. In essence, if you don’t share data on what’s led to your success, then the company can’t learn from it and that is not in anybody’s interests.
Playing your cards too close to your chest could also see customer and prospect data slipping through the net, which is bad news from a GDPR perspective. It’s imperative that sales data is logged centrally so that it can be indexed, tracked and continually analysed against compliance critieria.
Ramp up tech
The best way to successfully implement the four points above is to adopt a latest-generation technology solution that can be used by all members of the team (and ideally by all customer-facing company functions) to standardise processes, deliver visibility into your sales cycle and customer journey, and enforce rigorous data governance.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is one such option. The right solution should be intuitive and user-friendly so that the sales team can rely on it throughout the day. It will enable you to manage contact records, keeping all information in one place so that you can index, search, organise and analyse data with ease. Ultimately this provides a more structured and data-driven approach to sales – particularly when it comes to pipeline management – that delivers results quickly.
These are just some tips to help you keep your sales talent in line with the demands of modern prospects and pave the way for stronger, more personalised and longer-term customer relationships.