On previous posts we discussed how the landscape changed with the consolidation of the web-centric buyer. The ubiquity of the internet has yielded a consumer that is well informed, and the purchasing cycle has moved away from the control of the seller. Smartphones and tablets have sped-up the sales cycle: a study by Eloqua showed that while 70% of desktop searches led to an action within one month, 70% of mobile searches resulted in an action within one hour.
All those changes force the seller to adapt. With consumers discovering and researching your products online, asking friends and colleagues their opinions on social media and peer-to-peer websites, and easily comparing your product to your competitors’, the modern salesperson has to become an intelligent agent rather than the traditional hunter.
Such an approach may be a dramatic change for sales traditionalists, who may not be used to watching leads but rather chasing them. However, those old-fashioned methods are rapidly becoming outdated in favor of a more effective sales process, which is built on the most underrated and underused tool – listening.
Here are some the most important things to remember when contacting actual customers or leads:
1. Ask open-ended questions: this is the oldest but least practiced sales technique.
2. Be patient and get them to talk: encourage them to speak.
3. Take notes: pay attention to details, and when it is your turn to talk, mention them keywords they have used, so the customer knows that you are really LISTENING.
4. Meet their needs, not your desires: since sales is generally about hitting numbers, we usually forget that we are offering to solve a problem or fulfill a need. It should be all about the customer, not about what I need or want to sell to accomplish company goals.
5. Segment them into lists: Not all prospects are equal. Some will justify more time and monitoring than others due to value, so ensure you segment prospects into appropriate lists to manage resources in the most productive way. If you are able to set up automations in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, you will be able to easily define alerts based on prospects’ potential value.
Here are some additional tips to optimize your sales efforts:
• Each prospect is different – some may be skeptical of directly talking to salespeople, and therefore may take longer to start disclosing information openly – so it should be left to the salesperson’s judgment when to stop probing in such situations.
• Ensure any information gained is not used in an overly commercial way. Marketing communications can make great use of the information salespeople pick up during initial contact, but make sure it is used in a sensitive way, so that is does not affect the relationship you have with the prospect.
• Instead of segmenting prospects by value, you may want to segment your list by propensity to buy – this can then be used to prioritize your activities.
• Start with broad comparisons between successfully and unsuccessfully converted prospect lists, and then refine your comparisons with increasing detail.
• Save the searches in your CRM to keep lists current, but with minimal work.
• Use filterable history feeds in your CRM to view a prospect’s communications with your company at a glance.
• Based on prospect actions taken, use both smaller scores, which may accumulate to a prospect turning into a lead overtime, and larger scores to quickly convert prospects into leads.
• Setup multiple scoring systems, which cater for both customers and new prospects.
• Tailor your communications via splitting prospects into life stages, allowing you to effectively target those who have nearly converted and take a more relaxed, listening-based approach to those with a lower score.