The days of the door-to-door salesperson are a thing of the past. Prospects no longer expect salespeople to show up at their home and sell them a vacuum. Nor do they call companies and ask them to send out a salesperson to explain what they have to offer.
And why would they? That’s what the Internet’s for. The tremendous growth of and focus on Internet marketing should send a powerful message to every organization that the sales world has changed.
Customers today want to take their time shopping around online, and eventually make their own decision. They don’t want to feel pushed or cajoled into making a purchase. In short, while they’re motivated to buy, they don’t want to be sold!
Today, every sales cycle begins with a click. Prospects seldom pick up the phone looking to salespeople for information. They hop online and draw their own conclusions based on what they find. They start with product websites, but their search soon extends to reports, customer feedback and competitive analysis.
Customers also enter the buying process knowing the price they are willing to pay. Today’s customers are better informed than ones from yesteryear. They know what you’re offering, and they know what everyone else is offering. That means they know what they’re willing to fork over and why.
That doesn’t mean the sales era as we know it is extinct. It simply means salespeople who can adjust to the market shift will prosper. Those who don’t will be left selling vacuums door to door.
Selling in the tech age
So selling now becomes, in large measure, all about the relationship. Ironically, the salesperson is more valuable than ever before as far as cultivating and maintaining a relationship with the prospect. Buyers have become skeptics, and as such, their outlook is often uncertain and noncommittal.
There are ways to overcome that outlook. For example:
- Sell the difference. Everyone talks about customer needs. It’s a phrase that’s thrown around as often as “selling value.” It’s thrown around so much, in fact, that many salespeople have become numb to it. They still spend the bulk of their presentations talking about their companies, their products and reasons why deals must get done sooner rather than later. Customers are left scratching their heads wondering what any of that has to do with them.
- Remember, it’s not a one-person show. You hear people say it all the time: “He’s a born salesman.” They generally say that about people who’ve been blessed (or cursed) with the gift of gab. Nothing could be further from the truth. The best salespeople are superb listeners. Salespeople aren’t effective because they can talk someone’s ear off. They’re effective because they can uncover needs and provide solutions. Prospects are people, too. They have needs and interests, and they want you to know what those needs and interests are. And you should want to know what they are. The bulk of your participation should be asking questions and taking notes while they do the talking.
- Make a connection. Prospects do business with people they feel comfortable with. The most effective way to connect is by asking questions that demonstrate the depth of your product knowledge while uncovering customer needs. Ask how they plan to use your product, and then follow up by quoting some specifics about their businesses that you discovered via your own research. Customers want to learn from you. Once you know their needs, educate them about the advantages of using your products and services. That’s what spurs a prospect to buy.
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