Technology helps salespeople do many things more efficiently, but to seal the deal, we must put away our toys and have a grown-up conversation.
The digital world opens up many new opportunities for salespeople, but it also threatens personal connections. Even with whisper-light computing power and immediate, 140-character Twitter posts, people still buy from people – not from technology.
Email, CRM, social networking, marketing automation, and other technological developments certainly have their place in business today. But technology will never replace the power of an in-person connection. The most valuable tool in your sales toolbox is still you!
Experts have been quick to tell us that technology changes everything — that Sales 2.0 is an entirely new way of working. And I was one of the first to scream: “No, no, no!”
Technology has certainly changed how we gather information about prospects. It’s also changed how they gather information about our companies and what they expect from salespeople. And let’s face it: If you’re not active on social media, you’re about five steps behind. However, our smartest, tried-and-true business-development, lead-generation, deal-closing tool is, and has always been, ourselves. And that’s not going to change anytime soon—if ever.
So what does it take for salespeople to succeed in today’s technology-driven world?
- Know What Buyer 2.0 Needs From You
In the days before the Internet and social media, we were our client’s only resource for information about our companies, products, and services. Not anymore! Buyer 2.0 is very good at homework. Before making contact with us, our customers have usually checked us out, compared pricing, read a white paper or two, listened to a webinar, and/or viewed a demo. They’ve also researched what people are saying about us and our competition.
Technology has certainly changed the dynamic of our client relationships. But information isn’t knowledge. Knowledge comes with wisdom, experience, and a clear vision of the big picture—which is exactly what great salespeople have to offer.
Our prospects come to us with problems. But they’re often unclear about exactly what’s causing their pain or how to alleviate it. That’s why they need us. We know our industries, our products, and most importantly, our clients. By asking the right questions and applying our vast experience, we can show them exactly where it hurts—and help them find the right solutions.
- Put the “Social” Back in Social Media
It often seems that social media has changed everything about our society. But has it changed the way we sell? Yes and no.
Social selling enables us to more effectively gather information, conduct research, and identify connections. And it definitely impacts the early stages of our sales processes, enabling us to quickly assess a buyer’s qualifications and spend less time on unproductive prospecting.
However, it has not changed the way we talk to prospects, how buyers relate to us, or why they choose us over our competition. Top salespeople understand that selling requires building strong relationships with clients—relationships based on mutual respect and trust. And with few exceptions, this cannot be done online.
Social media is an invaluable sales tool, as long as we understand the parameters. It serves these purposes only:
- Researching new or potential clients
- Learning more about the networks of those in your social networks
- Identifying the strongest connections to your hot prospects
- Building a community of loyal customers
- Positioning yourself as an expert
- Search engine optimization
Then it’s time to log off the computer and pick up the phone. At the end of the day, it’s not social intelligence we need. Relationship intelligence seals the deal.
- Never Underestimate the Value of Relationships
While globalization and rapid developments in technology make the world seem larger and more impersonal than ever, people crave connections with one another. Most buyers start out by conducting online research, but after they’ve done their homework, where do they turn for help narrowing down the options? They ask people they trust, who they trust.
What’s the best way to reach, communicate with, develop, and sell to your key audience? If you think back over your most successful business deals, I bet face-to-face, person-to-person, high-touch communication—a phone call, a video conference, or (best of all) an in-person meeting—has accelerated your sales process time and time again.
In a CSO Insights Sales Performance Optimization (SPO) study, almost half of sales execs said that enhancing lead generation is their top initiative. Of course it is. But focusing simply on “lead generation” can take you down a rabbit hole of unproductive, inefficient prospecting strategies.
The key is generating more qualified leads, and technology won’t help you do that, nor will your marketing department or LinkedIn account. But referrals will.
It’s time to make referral selling your business-development priority—to establish metrics, integrate asking for referrals into your sales process, and build the skills to confidently ask for introductions to your ideal clients.
Yes, it’s important to have an online presence. You definitely want to leverage social media and explore the plethora of technology tools available to make your sales process more efficient. But don’t fool yourself into thinking these give you a predictable, guaranteed edge, because your competitors are using the same tools.
What will give you an edge is a well-connected, well-nurtured network of people who are ready and willing to refer you. It’s our job to make connections that matter. And those connections are cemented with phone calls or in-person meetings, not with status updates. That’s right—it’s still people, not technology, that seal the deal!