If you have ever received a sales call during dinner, it’s probably safe to assume you’ve had a bad experience with selling. Unfortunately, the same negative reaction you experienced while eating green beans with your family is now commonplace — at all times of day — in the current selling environment.
In most business models, the sales department is fixated on selling. The problem with this approach is that people no longer want to be sold. They want to be educated on how a product or service will benefit them. It’s not that there isn’t a place for sales anymore, it’s just that consumer needs have shifted.
Purchasers today value education on the products and services they’re looking at over a traditional sales pitch.
Currently, the job of selling is stuck between marketing and customer service. With this in mind, what is the best strategy to establish a better sales cycle that will engender customer loyalty and significantly affect a company’s revenue?
▶ People want to buy, so remove the sales wall — especially any forms or language soliciting the consumer to “contact me to request quote.” This is especially important for smaller businesses making smaller sales deals.
When it comes to your offering, work with the customer to make sure they understand the value your product or service provides. You don’t want people to buy your product who don’t really need it and won’t benefit from it. Negative reviews can kill existing deals and adversely affect your ability to sell to prospective clients. Deals in the hundreds of thousands still require substantial hand-holding and face-to-face meetings, but smaller deals are closed by answering questions and providing solid, timely customer service.
▶ Today’s buyers know a lot more about the market than they did 10 years ago. They come in with their own well-defined perceptions and knowledge about what they need. As a result, the chances of “selling” them on something are virtually nonexistent. Be frank with your customers and acknowledge that they are coming in with their own predetermined ideas of your products and services. Work with them to enhance their understanding of the value of your offering, rather than attempting to influence them to make a purchase. Challenge your sales team to handle incoming inquiries with this approach. You will see an automatic uptick in sales, and your bottom line will thank you.
▶ Mind the increasing overlap between customer support and sales. Now more than ever, understanding the right time to bring in a dedicated salesperson is an art. There used to be a more defined handoff between the two but now both customer support and sales need to be aligned on where the consumer is at in the sales cycle at all times in order to provide the best possible service. Focus on educating and providing support all the way through the selling process until the very end when they are ready to buy. That is when the salesperson should enter. Even then, their role isn’t to make the sale but rather to guide the buyer through the purchasing process.
We need to fundamentally change the way we look at “selling.” In 2015, this term has developed a borderline negative connotation when used in the context of convincing someone to make a purchase. Because buyers are now so well-informed when making purchase decisions, they no longer have use for being sold to in the traditional sense. Organizations will accomplish more by allowing customers the space to make their own assessments and providing the resources — primarily customer support and product information — they need to make an educated decision they can feel comfortable with.
Entrepreneur and angel investor Hampus Jakobsson is CEO of the Swedish company Brisk. He sold his first software licensing company to RIM/Blackberry after building it to 180 employees with customers that included Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Nokia, Google, and Disney,