Do we need sales departments anymore? Extinction of salespeople fits into the environment where we do more and more shopping online and research on our own. The pushy clerks will have to retire, but they will clear the space for a new kind of a salesperson: a consultant.
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Factors of change
The inevitable change is caused by two main factors.
Firstly, the web gave every consumer easy access to information 24/7. Thanks to her smartphone, the customer no longer depends on the information provided by salespeople, and knowledge used to guarantee their control over the buying process. Now when a consumer reaches out to a salesperson, she already knows a lot and needs answers to specific questions.
Secondly, consumers are tired of salespeople and sick of constant pushy selling. People perceive all reps like solicitors or teleshopping showmen who shove absurd, unnecessary products down audience’s throat. Such stereotypes don’t encourage trust in salespeople.
That’s why they have to change and abandon their traditional role. Here are seven main directions in which such transformation can head.
1. No sales
Can you imagine a company without sales department? There are increasing numbers of companies that do. They want to give consumers total freedom in deciding, and they don’t hire people to accelerate the process.
Think of Atlassian, a B2B company producing software for businesses (in SaaS model). In that branch companies devote 80 – 120% of the revenue to marketing and sales in the first three years. Atlassian went the other way. They rely on direct recommendations and word of mouth marketing, not on sales reps and quotas.
[Read more: Business Insider]
And if you think that you’re in a safe niche for sales reps, beware! There are no safe niches anymore. Let’s take car business. It was common knowledge that the internet won’t change much there. Of course, people might research on the web, but they won’t buy a car online, will they? Well, Tesla Motors sells cars online. Customers go to Design Studio where they complete and customize the car. The website calculates the cost and voila! And it happens in business well known for aggressive reps.
Visionary companies aren’t afraid of redefining sales process and role of salespeople.
2. Act fast
How fast you react when your customer shows interest? Your customers make decision basing on when you contact them. If someone is interested enough to fill in the form on the website, send an offer as soon as possible. It’s about real-time reaction.
How to implement it in practice?
3. Human – technology combination
Achieve that by combining Marketing Automation with a great team. That’s a recipe for success: increasing sales and seizing each opportunity without alienating your customers.
The system identifies user’s interest. For example, you can see that a contact visited your website and viewed a given material (let’s say, a price list). But such knowledge itself or alert sent to sales is not enough. You need a skilled professional who will do her homework before dialing lead’s number. She will research the person quickly; see contact card in the CRM and lead’s social media profiles.
That way a talented salesperson doesn’t call blindly to recite the script but to talk about lead’s problems and possible solutions, choosing the right time and preparing for a conversation.
It can sound like that: „Hello, Kate, it’s John from the X company. I saw you downloaded our ebook with free tools for your business. Thank you! I was just checking out your website and social media channels and have a couple more that will help your business. I’m sending these right now. If you had any questions, write or call anytime”.
Such personal contact with a customer is possible only if you implement marketing technology, but the software itself won’t to the trick.
4. On being agile
Maybe you believe that “agile” is just another buzzword. Maybe it is, but still it means something important: that buyer’s journey is no longer linear.
Salespeople often assume that all customers go the same way. Companies tend to imagine one fixed path: a user visits a website, downloads a free material, then after two weeks of nurturing is prepared for discussion, and after a month she either signs or resigns. But when you focus on one possible buyer’s journey, you aren’t prepared for other opportunities. What if a customer did a lot of research on her own and was ready to buy immediately after visiting the website? Or if a lead is interested but doesn’t have resources in the budget right now?
In the agile methodology, you will address a different communication to each of them. You sense a hot lead (or get some help from alerts), so you go straight to the point with her. You both want to close a deal, so no reason to defer. And with a contact with no resources at the moment, you don’t push (you cannot get water out of a stone). You mark her in the system and keep in touch, sending useful materials and links.
5. Sales-marketing alignment
The history of animosity between sales and marketing is old as business itself. Marketers complain that salespeople don’t appreciate their work and don’t use marketing materials. Salespeople on the other hand grumble that leads delivered by marketing are of poor quality and don’t translate into sales.
However, improving the cooperation between sales and marketing is possible thanks to Marketing Automation. Set a common definition of a lead and sales qualification. It will ensure a smooth buyer’s journey.
6. Inbound sales
By analogy to inbound marketing, the term “inbound sales” means a model based on a noninvasive relationship with customers, where you become their assistant. The point is to utilize context and to match the message to the situation. How? For example, check lead’s history before calling her or try to solve problems. Educate instead of selling.
7. Selling without selling
You can think about sales process itself in a different way. You can build relationship with customers and monetize it. Think of Amanda Palmers project. Amanda decided to publish her songs online and give audience free access to her work. But when giving freely, she also finds the courage to ask her audience for things: for money for recording a new album or for a stay overnight.
Palmer is not only about promoting crowd funding. Rather she speaks about how to think about your audience. Are they your customers or people you trust? Can you open up to them? Can you interact with them?
We don’t encourage you to follow Amanda’s footsteps but to get inspired. Maybe you can learn to give more (your knowledge and time) and ask for more (sharing news about your product or a review).
To sum up
Salespeople have to change and pay closer attention to:
• Time: quick reactions are vital
• Agility: forget one, linear buyer’s journey and open up to dozens of customers’ stories. Adapt to each one instead of sticking to the script
• Opening up: for marketers and customers. Talk. Interact. Ask.
• Technology: Marketing Automation solutions will help you execute the above.
Do you see such trends in your environment? Which ones seem the most important to you?