If you haven’t read Jonathan London’s book Using Technology to Sell: Tactics to Ratchet Up Your Sales (co-authored by Martin Lucas), do so. Technology has changed the dynamics between buyers and sellers. The fundamental steps of the sales process have not changed but the context of who does what and when has radically changed. Jonathan’s book offers practical tactics that you as a salesperson can implement immediately to differentiate yourself, and your offerings and win more deals.
Jonathan has analyzed the sales process and aligned tools you can use at every stage to significantly increase your sales results. He pointed out, however, that while the tools exist to make salespeople and organizations much more successful at little or no cost, he does not know of one sales organization that has really looked at its sales process to optimize technology for every step and gain a competitive edge (There is a chart in his book to help you do this). The good news is that he believes salespeople can do so much on their own and do not have to depend on their corporations.
You are likely using tools to prospect such as LinkedIn, InsideView, Martindale Hubble (for law firms), or Hoovers to query your ideal client profile. The same data bases usually give you the key contacts, roles, and titles, phone numbers, and email addresses to enable you to find the companies and contacts that have the best fit and the most to gain from what you are selling.
But from Jonathan’s extensive experience not enough salespeople are leveraging tools after this initial stage that can help them sell faster and better. Always a big challenge, but getting even bigger for salespeople (because customers are so bombarded with information and are doing their own research), is to get customer to agree to appointments. And while it takes good selling skills to gain agreement for a meeting, with today’s self educated customers it takes more than strong skills and a compelling product. Customers research products on their own and want relevant insights to add to what they already know. Technology can be a primary source for developing insights that you share with your clients to demonstrate that you understand their world and can add value.
To help you gain appointments Jonathan recommends that as a salesperson you set up groups for trigger events (notifications of changes in your target customers). For example, set up a LinkedIn Group for you target audience. If new VPs of Sales are you target audience, set up a group for them and whenever you get an alert from Google Alert or LinkedIn that updates you that someone has been promoted to a VP of Sales position you can invite the new VP to join your VP of Sales Group describing benefits to them and the kind of issues discussed. Not only will this help them but it benefits you by giving you a pool of people that are in your target market that you can interact with, a way to stay on top of up to the minute issues, form relationships, make connections, and brand yourself. The interaction will help you develop relevant insights to use when you reach out to prospects and customers in a more specific way so they see value in meeting with you. To Jonathan there is no such thing as a cold call because you will always be calling about something relevant.
Once you have gained the appointment use technology to differentiate your first and subsequent face-to-face or phone meetings. The objective of the prospecting call is the same but the medium and vehicle you use can make a difference. In working with even many of his high tech companies Jonathan is amazed how few salespeople take advantage of video for their phone meetings and he describes this as “insanity”.
For Jonathan the sales is made or lost at the first meeting stage of the sales process and therefore. it is essential to use tools such as Go To Meeting or Skype or Google to create visual interaction. vs. doing what almost every other salesperson is doing. If your clients don’t have or wish to use the technology, you will have a better meeting by letting them see you.
All the tools work together. To further enhance the phone meeting you can use all of your research to become a “subject matter expert” not just on your products but your niche and your key industries so that you can ask relevant questions and share relevant insights that communicate your value to the customer. Use technology such as the more sophisticated new Power Point for graphics, ClearSlide, Apple KeyNote, Bloomfire and Camtaisia (screen capture your desk top for sharing with clients unable to attend the presentation) throughout your sales process to deliver your ideas or solutions in a more compelling way.
To help you differentiate when you are in your final presentation stage when the presentation is face-to-face Jonathan recommends using the more sophisticated version of a PowerPoint, Apple Keynote, ClearSlide or any number of tools he describes in his book to bring your presentations to life with interesting slide transitions, graphics, and to fade information and images in and out. His key message is to integrate more elements other than just text.
To enhance your proposal document use tools such as Tinderbox to help you automate the presentation. Rather than cut and paste words, cut and paste video sections or PDFs. Tinderbox also lets you know when your customers open your proposal and what sections they focused on. For the finals presentations delivered .over the web, technology makes it possible to simulate face-to-face selling with few limitations to bridging the geographic and time gaps.
Jonathan knows and loves technology. He also knows that technology is only a tool.
His advice: Take control of your own development. Don’t rely entirely on your company to give you the tools you need. It is up to you to build your skills and put the right tools in your hands..