Sales has changed, and now you need to adapt

All articles | Sales
Published Jun 15, 2017 | Written by Jeremy Knight

Everyone loves to hate Salespeople. Recent research showed that Salespeople rank lower on the scale of trustworthiness than politicians - yes, less than Donald Trump.

Ask anyone what they think about Salespeople, and they will probably think used car salespeople ala Mr Wormwood. But as the power has shifted to the buyer the criteria for being a sales person has also changed.

Regardless of what business or industry you are in, the last thing your customers want is to be sold to. Instead, they want to be advised, counselled and coached through their buyer journey. It is salespeople that have the ability to establish rapport with their customers and create an atmosphere of trust that will succeed. Sales have changed, and you need to adapt.

The Accidental Sales Person

Very few people chose a career in Sales, me included. People are often surprised when I say work in Sales. As a self-confessed introvert, I don’t fit their preconception. But, as the sales landscape changes introverts are emerging as the real champions of Sales "The era of the intimidating, fear-inducing "always be closing" salesperson is officially over -- and that’s a very good thing." (Dan Tyre)

HubSpot research found that only 39% of respondents said they intentionally got into sales as a career. Because no one intends to be a sales person, there are very few formal sales training curriculums offered in higher education – despite millions of people worldwide having sales as their job. So, how do your salespeople learn and develop?

These ‘unintentional’ sales people are much less likely to be interested in pursuing training outside of the workplace, favouring company sponsored training and 1:1 coaching. Sales managers especially need to have resources and training materials to help their team grow their skillset. Understanding what kind of personality your sales people have is a good first step in assessing what Sales training they will respond to best. If you do not have the experience in-house, hire the skills of an agency to help you with inbound sales training.

Removing the stigma

OK, no one wants to be a Salesperson and no one wants to talk to a sales person. In Dan Pink’s book “To Sell is Human” Dan argues the case that everyone is a sales person, even if they don't realise it: “Parents sell their kids on going to bed. Spouses sell their partners on mowing the lawn or putting the cat out .... And in astonishing numbers we go online to sell ourselves on Facebook, Twitter, and in profiles.”

However, because of the stigma that surrounds Sales many organisations seem to go to great lengths to disguise their sales people by giving them misleading job titles. Call a spade a spade; they are not an advisor or a consultant or even an ‘Account Achievement Visionary’ (say what now!) – they are your Sales people. You have employed them to generate sales and grow your business; you need to empower and support them to succeed. Your prospects are also not that easily fooled and have given your business permission to contact them. They have researched your company online and want to find out more; they are expecting to speak to a salesperson.

Invest in the tools of the trade

Just as search engines and social have transformed the way people buy, messaging apps and live chat are now transforming the way people buy today. 66% of consumers prefer to reach brands or be reached by brands via messaging over any other means.

Drift conducted some research using a mystery shopper to find out how businesses were responding to leads. Here are the highlights:

  • Only 7% of the 433 companies responded within the first five minutes.
  • More than half (55%) of the companies did not even respond over the course of five business days.
  • Of the companies with the 10 fastest response times, all of them used live chat on their websites.
  • Overall, just 14% of the 433 companies surveyed were using live chat.

Enabling your Sales team to react within the buyer’s timeframe in a way that is suitable to them could make the difference, not only to getting the sale but preserving your reputation online – ‘bad news travels fast’ has never been more real.

In this new era of Sales picking up the phone has gone out of fashion in favour of email, social and messaging. But, what if picking up the phone is the new differentiator. In the research conducted by Drift and in this article by Jeff Hoffman it was the salesperson who picked up the phone that got the deal: 'You see, even on my busiest day I rarely get more than 10 voicemails. I could, however, easily get a few hundred emails. It seems to me that emails have become a victim of their own success". 

Sales Enablement

Modern Sales is tough. To excel you need to be able to juggle multiple activities at once. Sales need to conduct research online to understand the prospect's business, nurture the relationship on social and always be helping until the buyer is ready to talk. Each call then needs to be meticulously researched. Some salespeople get frustrated by the number of administrative tasks that get in their way of focusing on sales. 

However, many of these tasks can be automated. An alignment between sales and marketing is needed to ensure marketing provide relevant content and enable Sales to focus on the prospects in their pipeline that will close. 

Platforms such as HubSpot enable Sales to use event-triggered technology to spot the signs that someone is ready to buy and spend time with the right prospects.

Marketing teams can provide email templates for salespeople to use, and tools such as sequencing can automate follow up emails, so sales people no longer need to keep track of follow-up with prospects.

Most modern CRM systems can record email correspondence and calls and log activity reducing the need for manual data entry.

To close the loop between marketing and sales you need to get behind your sales team, invest in their personal and professional development and provide the tools they need to meet prospects expectations both online and offline. 

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Published by Jeremy Knight June 15, 2017
Jeremy Knight