The winds of change are impacting the sales profession. These changes are being brought about, for the most part, by the changes that are occurring in the buying arena. Unlike selling which is a full-contact sport, buying has moved to being a non-contact sport for many things.
The web and other media have replaced the salesperson for many products. We’ve had TV shopping channels for a few years now and today buyers can sit in front of their iPads and make purchases without ever coming in contact with a salesperson. Just look at the impact of e-Bay on people’s shopping habits.
Any day now you’ll simply push a few buttons on your remote control and a signal will be sent from the TV to the remote site and the order will be placed, your credit card debited, and, in some cases, the product may even be delivered before you turn off your TV for the day. Sound far-fetched? It’s already a reality for pay TV, so why not with simple commodities?
Going to the Store
So what if you’re not a couch potato or your remote control is broken and you want to shop (buy). It’s entirely possible to go to a store and purchase hundreds of dollars of “stuff” without coming in contact with a salesperson (check-out clerks don’t count). In fact, in some cases you don’t want to come in contact with a salesperson because he or she only slows down, or screws up your buying process with poor directions, lack of product knowledge, misinformation, or a combination of all three.
Another phenomenon that’s occurring in the world of buying is the advent of the big-box store where we have more product and less salespeople per square foot. We also have everyday low prices where it becomes the consumer’s responsibility to judge the quality or value of the product, something many of us are poor at doing. People are still enticed by a low price if they don’t understand or can’t see the added value of the higher-priced item. It’s human nature.
Impact on Selling
So where does this leave selling? Well, if you’re selling commodities of any type (clothes, computers, cars, etc.), then expect intense price competition unless you can differentiate yourself or the product from your competition. If you can’t make your commodity item stand out over your competition or you can’t add some kind of value to the sale, then the customer will buy for the best price. That’s today’s reality. Your job as a salesperson is to add value to the transaction. No added value, no sale!
Take automobile sales for example. I’m not picking on the automotive industry by the way. I’m just using it as an example. Apart from the ability to test-drive a vehicle, what added value do most car salespeople bring to the transaction? I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years time, we’ll be able to go to an auto mall to test drive various models and makes, or select a car from an on-line catalogue, place an order over the net, arrange for payment with the bank, and then pick up the vehicle at the dealer location of our choice.
Old Rules Still Apply
If you’re selling non-commodity items (and even some commodity ones), the old rules of selling still apply with the added factor that your prospects are generally quite knowledgeable and very price conscious. So what are some of the old rules?
Rule 1: People buy from people they know, people they like, and people they trust. The more you show a sincere interest in your prospect, his needs and wants, the stronger your rapport will become. The more you get to know your prospect, the more your prospect feels he knows you and the more he likes and trusts you. If you’re a hit-and-run salesperson whose philosophy is to grab the money and run, expect to be in a new career in the near future or sitting on the corner selling pencils from a cup.
Rule 2: The person who wants to do business with you can justify anything. There’s an old saying that says, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Take the time—whether it is 10 minutes, 10 hours, or 10 days—to show your prospects that you care. This will go a long way towards building the kind of relationship that only face-to-face selling can do. When prospects feel you have their best interests in mind, it’s very difficult for a competitor to unseat you, even with a lower price.
Rule 3: If a prospect doesn’t perceive you as being better or unique, then the only difference you have to work with is price. It’s interesting to note that you don’t have to be better than your competition, just different. If you’re different enough and you bring enough added value to the table, rules one and two kick in and the prospect will pay your price. If price were the only criteria people had for buying a car, we’d all be driving pre-owned (used) cars!
Touch Your Prospects
What do these three rules have in common? Just this: You can’t put them to use unless you’re in contact with your prospects, either face-to-face or mouth-to-ear (telephone).
You have to be in their face, figuratively speaking, time and time again, with something of value to them. This allows you to build the type of rapport that assures you long-term selling opportunities. You can’t do this type of selling by sitting at your desk. You have to be in contact with your prospects.
Don’t let yourself become a desk potato sitting around waiting for sales to drop in your lap. Get off your you-know-what and make things happen!
Remember, despite the changes, professional selling is still a full-contact sport.
SalesForce Training & Consulting is a professional coaching and training firm that specializes in helping companies navigate their way in a Salesforce.com environment. SalesForce Training is based in Toronto, with trainers in Boston and Chicago, providing sales coaching, sales management consulting, Salesforce.com training and Salesforce.com Admin support, sales training and sales personnel assessments.