Prologue Part 1: You’re Not In Sales – And You Don’t Like People Who Are…
Let’s face facts: salespeople are not popular (and haven’t been for some time, if truth be known)… But sales is still an essential skill. In an era when people like to buy but hate being sold to, salespeople have to evolve.
Sales has a PR problem. For too long now salespeople have been a cliché...
They spam you with unwanted emails (even after GDPR legislation). They annoy you with cold calls. They treat you like a sales target instead of a human being.
Their methods epitomise prehistoric ‘interruption marketing’ at its worst: they’re so 20th century.
Little wonder then that smart 21st century consumers like you use ad blocking and call blocking technology to stem the onslaught of marketing messages that assail you. Old school sales methods won’t reach smart buyers like you because you’ve had enough.
And if any crass pitches or fake discounts do make it past your spam filters, you’ll despatch them with a clinical click of your ‘delete’ button.
Furthermore, you despise 20th century methods because you know that buyers like you have all the power now. Knowledge is power and available 24/7/365 simply by reaching for your mobile. With a few clicks on your handset you can access the sum total of human knowledge on the internet.
So what can you learn from 20th century sales techniques? Not much…other than how to defend yourself against them (know your enemy).
But the modern, 21st century sales professional has plenty to offer you. And first there’s something else you need to know…
Prologue Part 2: Actually, You’re In Sales Too…No, Really You Are…
Yes, it’s true. I’m afraid you’re in sales and marketing. You. Me. We all are – because at some point we all will need to persuade another human to take a desired action.
- Example 1. Asking for a raise? You’re in sales – because you’re asking your boss to invest more money in an asset called ‘you’.
- Example 2. At work you may not have a sales target on your head. But it’s still your problem - along with everyone else’s if your company doesn’t sell enough. It's your future that's at stake.
Everyone has their part to play. Everyone (whether they realise it or not) knows someone in their network who could become a happy customer. Everyone can use social media to share helpful information (not sales pitches) that attract and engage potential customers and build trust.
And there are countless other examples. People may not be investing money; they may be investing something more precious – time. When push comes to shove, you’re still selling them an idea, a suggestion, an opinion.
You’re in sales.
And now on to those five things we promised you. Five things we like about the way modern sales professionals behave…
1. They Treat You Like A Person
Modern salespeople always treat people like people – not targets. They are human, helpful and holistic in their approach. Instead of pitching on autopilot, they seek to inform, educate and solve problems.
The perfect salesperson has the world’s most hyper-tuned ears and a genuinely compassionate heart. Great salespeople listen. They empathise. They seek to understand before attempting to make themselves understood.
They know that long before the buyer makes a decision, they will have gone through two other distinct phases along the way – awareness and consideration:
- Awareness – the buyer has only just become problem-aware. They have yet to quantify the full extent of the challenge facing them.
- Consideration – they are weighing up different possible solutions to their problem.
- Decision – they have identified the ideal solution to their problem…and are now deciding on the provider.
2. They Understand WHY People Need Things (And WHY and WHEN They Don’t…)
Sooner or later, we all need stuff. And not just material things. We may need just help, support, a favour, a bit of advice.
So we suggest something, and we need someone to take a desired action. For brevity’s sake, we’ll call it ‘buying’. We need that someone to buy.
But actually that’s the wrong way round – because it’s not about us. It’s all about them. It’s all about what they need and, more importantly, why they need it.
That means being smart and strategic enough to drill down into a person’s immediate or top-level needs to discover the real cause of their issue. Don’t just cure the symptom, cure the problem.
Good 21st century salespeople are also big and decent enough to know when to say that they’re not able to help. Even when it means missing their sales target.
They would much rather create something infinitely more valuable – a long term relationship built on solid and unshakeable trust.
3. They Don’t Cold Call, They Warm Call
You may not be in sales per se. But at some point you will need to forge a partnership with someone on a project.
And just as smart buyers use social media to gain knowledge, so do smart sellers. LinkedIn is a perfect example.
Cast your mind back to the old 20th century way of cold calling – a salesperson would phone a complete a stranger (a random name on an out-of-date purchased list) and ask them to buy their widget. It seldom ended well – which is why it was a numbers game at best.
Now fast forward to the 21st century and the gloriousness that is LinkedIn:
- You identify a potential customer with a need by engaging in conversations in LinkedIn Groups.
- You look at that’s person’s LinkedIn profile to find out more about them and whether you may be able to help them.
- You see how you’re connected to them. Do you have a mutual connection who may be able to facilitate an introduction?
Suddenly it’s not a cold call anymore. Suddenly it’s a much warmer affair.
We were able to help someone out with some LinkedIn training recently. Significantly, the whole pre-sales process leading up to the training day was conducted using LinkedIn messaging.
It’s also worth noting at this point that four out of six major website projects we undertook recently came as a result of LinkedIn. And the LinkedIn connections that sparked those projects were not senior decision-makers. They were junior executives who learned about Intergage on LinkedIn and recommended us to their bosses.
So work on your LinkedIn – and it will work hard for you.
Just a few words of warning about using social media to make warm approaches:
- Don’t be that guy/gal who suddenly becomes someone’s best friend about three seconds after they connect. We’ve all fallen victim to it – “Okay, I’ll just connect with this person and…ouch! They’re hitting me with a crass sales pitch that’s drenched in cloying and insidious over-familiarity!”
- Don’t be too stalky either – nobody likes to feel as though their whole life is suddenly under the microscope. Especially when that microscope is being operated by someone who – but for a tenuous LinkedIn connection – is in reality still a complete stranger.
- Please don’t use the phrasal verb ‘to reach out’. Just don’t. Please. Enough.
4. They Educate, Inform And Support
Sounds obvious doesn’t it? Be successful by being nice. Hardly rocket science. But there’s a bit more to it than that.
There are four distinct phases:
Identify Phase – this boils down to gathering as much information as you can about the person you’re seeking to help (including using social media, as outlined above).
That way, you’ll be properly informed when you contact them for the first time. (Contrast that with the old 20th century method of ‘casting a hasty glance at the name on the purchased cold call list’).
When it comes time to call them, you will be helping them to progress a buying journey that they have already begun – not forcing them on to a new journey that starts with a phone call and ends with a hasty ‘ker-ching’ towards a sales target.
You’re in this to be a thought-leader – not a pitcher.
Connect Phase – this is the moment that you introduce yourself. And the experience that you provide here should make it clear that you understand the context of their need: their industry, their role, their interests, common connections and so on. Remember, this is all about them – not you.
Explore Phase – use your expertise as a thought-leader to probe deeper into the person’s specific goals and challenges. Use a consultative approach to assess whether you can help them better than they could cope on their own without you.
Advise Phase – confirm that the person wants and needs your help and is prioritising the goals that you are uniquely positioned to help them with. Think about their Return On Investment. Is your proposition good value?
5. A Finely-Honed Strategic Approach
Strategy is everything. If you don’t have a strategy, what do you have?
A mess. A failure waiting to happen. It’s only a matter of time. Sure, you might get lucky at first…but no strategy usually means no future.
So smart inbound salespeople adopt a very cool way of putting together a strategy.
It’s a beautiful and elegant tool that will serve you well in any problem-solving scenario and it goes by the catchy abbreviation of…
This technique is all about getting from where you are now…to where you want to be…and how you’re going to get there. Here’s what it all stands for and how it works:
- Challenges – what are the issues facing you? The bad stuff.
- Goals – what are the potential rewards that await you? The good stuff.
- Plans – what possible solutions have you already considered? What is in progress already?
- Timescales – how soon do you need to overcome the challenges and achieve the goals? Backtrack from these deadlines to determine how soon you need to put measures in place.
- Consequences – what will happen to your organisation, your colleagues and you personally if the bad stuff comes to pass?
- Implications – how much better will your lives be if all the good stuff comes to pass?
- Authority – who has the power to green-light the project needed to stop the bad stuff in its tracks and make the good stuff happen?
- Budget – does your organisation have sufficient resources for the project?
Epilogue: Just Be Nice
Remember the watchwords we highlighted earlier. They are crucial and so bear repeating: be human, be helpful, be holistic.
It’s often said that sales and educating are two sides of the same coin. And for educating, read helping, informing and entertaining.
Today that’s the only side of the coin that people want to see. They want to buy (enjoyably). They don’t want to be to be sold to.