Many business owners and entrepreneurs are bruised and confused about what it really takes these days to achieve sales breakthroughs. In fact, the art of selling may be changing faster now that at any point in the last half century. For one thing, the skyrocketing importance of social media has transformed the selling landscape forever.
Take it from one of today's smartest minds in selling, Josiane Feigon, CEO of TeleSmart Communications, in San Francisco. "The next generation of sales has arrived," she says. Sales professionals and small business owners are fighting to be heard by busy and distracted prospects, and salespeople are dialing more but connecting less. In order to survive, Feigon says you need to overhaul your sales skills and adapt your methods to meet the changing trends. Here's how you can respond to six trends that are transforming the small business sales landscape:
1. Become a Research Racehorse: Given the glut of web-based information available, salespeople must come to the table equipped with a depth of information and knowledge about their target customers that proves the salesperson's interest and attracts the prospect's attention.
2. Know what Customers (Really) Care About: First, know what they don't care about, like how "great" your service is; how "low" your prices are, and whether they might have been your customer in the past. Loyalty runs thin these days, and old sales platitudes fall flat. What customers do care about is how smart you are about their business; how you can lower their risk; and how strong of a reputation you've built with people they might know.
3. Create Contagious Content: Increase your credibility and build awareness of your products or services by publishing content relevant to your customers. This is easier than ever to do online. Start a blog, or contribute to others in your field. Regularly post comments and participate in web communities and forums where your customers also participate. Create and distribute trend reports, webinars, articles and similar content and make it available for free and easy download from your website. Business.com, for example, has gained valuable exposure and armed its sales force with key information by publishing a variety of white papers and research reports on business-to-business (B2B) selling and the growth of selling via social media.
4. Sync up your Email and Voicemail Messages: Email and voicemail messages must work in tandem. In fact, prospects expect it. If a prospect doesn't take your call, they will expect a follow-up email with details. Try this: First, Leave short voice messages that will pique curiosity. Then quickly follow with an email.
5. Find the Real Buyers: Especially in the B2B world, more people today are involved in the decision-making process -- but fewer of those individuals actually have the power to make a purchase decision. Learn to recognize the decision makers and bypass others without making them mad. One trick is to avoid leaving "tracks" such as emails and voice messages that can be forwarded back to the non-decision makers. "You must build out the organization chart to understand the hierarchy," says Feigon. Once you contact a decision maker, always mention the name of the non-decision maker and compliment their efforts, but say why you are working around them.
6. Become an Expert at Online Presentations: Web conferencing tools have replaced in-person meetings, but holding audiences captive through a Death-by-PowerPoint presentation almost guarantees a lost sale. Taking the time to organize, design and build strong online presentations will quickly convert prospects into buyers.