Traditional sales models take the rep through a series of steps culminating in the customer signing a contract. In these sales-driven models, the close is positioned as a discrete action where the rep pushes the customer to make a commitment. This is very old school and no longer fits into 21st century customer engagement models.
Customers don’t want to be tricked, coerced, guilted or otherwise pushed to act against their own better judgment. We have all been in these situations as customers ourselves, and we don’t remember those incidents fondly. When a rep forces the close before the customer is ready to commit, the relationship rarely ends well. In the best case, the client regards the rep as pushy and overbearing, and meetings with the rep as something to be endured. Worst case, the deal gets cancelled “with prejudice” and the rep (and sometimes their company) is banished and blackballed. The company gains a reputation as a hard-sell service provider with reps that are to be avoided at all costs.
In the consultative solution sale, the rep invests time in discovering a client’s needs by taking a deep dive into really understanding their business. Every step in the sales process includes soliciting feedback from the customer to secure buy-in to the direction of the solution to be proposed. Every customer interaction includes qualifying for buying intent, decision authority, need and timing. The rep takes the client through the proposal step by step to secure agreement that the solution on the table will meet their needs and goals for the project. When the rep says “can we go ahead and get the process started?” the customer’s signature becomes the natural result of the engagement.
Customers don’t want to be pushed or tricked into signing, they want to be educated, informed and above all, listened to. Take this approach and you will be very successful at sales for years to come.
I work in the media industry. Many media companies are finding it difficult to transition to digital marketing solutions while at the same time maintaining the revenue stream from their print, TV, radio and other traditional media products. I’m fortunate that I chose well and work for a company that is executing this strategy successfully, while many competitors and other old media companies struggle.
One of the challenges all media companies face is the propensity of sales management and sales reps to stick to old ways of interacting with clients. Back in the day, media sales was a traditional “feet on the street” sales model, where the player with the biggest sales force wins. This model was often based on a minimalist approach to client contact, where reps met with clients once a year to review ad programs and sign renewals. Reps understanding of clients’ business operations was limited to what they could learn in a one hour annual sales call. As a result, few sales reps developed expertise in marketing strategy, business models, margin targets, budget planning and other basic business skills. They sold based on the “shine on their shoes and the knot in their tie”, the 20th century sales model. Slowly but surely (in some cases not so slowly) these old school reps are finding that the old ways don’t work so well anymore.
Social media, search engines and the rest of the internet have forever changed sales and marketing. Customers are smarter and better informed. They expect a sales rep to bring real value to the customer relationship. They want to spend their limited time working with reps that can make a real, significant and measurable improvement in their business. They expect the sales consultant to have business management, advertising strategy and media planning skills that old school reps typically lack. They want a long term relationship only with reps willing to meet with them several times a year to review and fine tune advertising programs, and add real, tangible value to that relationship.
The “one call close” doesn’t make that happen.
Our website development team recently learned in a meeting with Google that by year-end 2013 Google will give higher Page Rank to sites that use Responsive Design. It will no longer be sufficient to have a conventionally designed mobile version of your site, it must use Responsive Design techniques. Tough for recently launched mobile sites not using RD. Over the next couple years, expect millions of commercial sites to be redesigned to incorporate RD. Creates full employment for RD web developers and a positive move to improve the mobile experience on those sites.
Welcome to my new blog, Digital ROI. I plan to share insights from the front lines of digital marketing. We will cover new websites, social platforms and policies, product features and real world customer experiences.