A good base for Sales in 2019
Whatever you want to call it, metamodernism, pseudo-modernism or the post post-modern age, the age we find ourselves in is vastly different from any other in history.
With the advent of the internet some 40 years ago, SEO, social selling and now amazingly useful AI; there are many things that have changed for the humble sales role.
Many of the traditional laws and frameworks that once governed sales (with an iron fist) are now archaic and make little sense in today’s interactive, participative and connected world.
While the above is all true, there are still the simple rules and frameworks which are valid and work across every industry and business. Now I shall try and simply explain ‘sales today’ as it makes sense to me; one of the many sales people/ now sales leader who find themselves helping companies find their way through the maze and haze of the information overload that is the world today!
To sum up, “good customer service” is the key.
To start…refocus with the following points:
1. Simplify and focus on essentials (customers needs being very important)
2. Broaden your horizons and diversify (meet more of the customers needs more often)
3. Management must own and drive the strategy and process (customer service focused)
4. Automate and Systematise (spend less time doing GCS. Also helps in not losing track of things)
I come from a “simplify” is best mindset, which may bore some people; however this way of thinking has been very effective in my career thus far.
The aim of this article is to try and highlight some fundamentals of the sales world that still exist, for those that are confused about how to setup or restructure a sales team, vision and business’s sales operations. This advice should give sales managers and small business owners enough to build a fairly solid basis for great sales.
Most businesses which have been around for a long time and continue to experience growth will attribute customer service as being one of the key differentiators for them. Some may call it good “customer experience”, however every good customer experience is born from great customer service.
Customer service is the key; which is somewhat of a paradox (seemingly) as to have great customer service one needs to know their wants and needs intimately. In such a disconnected world of connectivity (that’s the paradox), it seems physically connecting with people is actually the hardest thing to do. Another problem these days is that there is so much information out there….how does anyone really know which product is really the best? All of the aspects that I will now discuss are greatly influential in making a great customer experience, born out of great customer service.
The value proposition
Every customer wants the best value for money, period. This does not mean the lowest price, it simply means the customer will purchase the product/service/benefit that they deem the best value for them. For some customers this may be the warm and fuzzy feeling they get from the interaction they have with your product delivery team, internal sales people or the physical “sales call” that your account manager makes every Thursday at 10am for a coffee.
This simple but valuable thought needs to be actioned as a “must do” for every business that wants to continue in business for the long term. If you don’t already know the companies Value Prop or USPs (unique selling points), you need to make finding out what they are # 1 priority immediately! Brainstorming and discussing with the people in your business and also customers will quickly identify why customers buy from you.
The sales person
Relationships are the key, don’t try and close on the first visit
Personally, I believe great salesmanship always starts with the right attitude, being present, having a good listening ear and having a good sales process to follow. If these things are in place, all one needs is time in order to have the correct relationship with the customer. The correct relationship, allows the salesperson to guide the customer to make the correct decision to satisfy their needs and desires (obviously, only after you have highlighted that the customer needs what you sell, and likes your value prop).
The sales process
Many businesses today have completely forgotten about the process of sales, which is very important to establish correctly. It not only sets the mood and tempo of the sales team, but also the rules and guidelines; which all sales people in the business follow. The culture a good sales process builds is what you want the customers to admire and long for in their customer-vendor interactions. If a stable sales process and culture is in place staff can come and go, without totally disrupting a great customer experience model.
For me, simple is more often the best mindset to have with setting up a sales cycle process. Many inexperienced sales managers over complicate things and distract their people from getting the job done. I’m not suggesting it is easy to setup a great sales cycle process, however starting with a simple process and building on it slowly, is normally the best way to achieve great results. Plan, execute, measure, review, and then start the process again.
Systematisation and automation
I have specifically separated this section from the process and strategy as it is so important in it’s own right; and should also be seamlessly intertwined with almost every aspect of a successful business these days. Adopting this mindset into the business management and leadership is to drive better value for the customer resulting in more customers and profit. A great knock-on effect is the savings you should make from spending less on labour to achieve more with less effort (and most likely more accuracy), as it is now automated! While wages continue to go up, there is almost nothing other than straight profit that impacts the bottom line like systematisation and automation. There is so much great software and methodology available these days, there is almost no sensible excuse not to get some more automation and systematisation in every business.
Use all the available tools – Maximise success!
A solid sales strategy is just as important as the process, with which a company undertakes the strategy rollout. All good sales leaders and influencers agree that the world and successful methods of sales have radically changed in the last decade or two. I will not go into a deep look at this point, as I think a more simple approach is best to start off with. Simply, every good sales process and strategy within successful companies have a well rounded and multi-faceted arsenal of tools to achieve the desired result. There is so much information out there about different tools like social selling platforms, lead generation tools, marketing, process management and customer experience software etc. All have their value separately, however are all needed in a well rounded process and strategic plan of action.
A look from the top
In order to have a very successful sales team, you need a very successful customer service team, which is backed up by a supportive and inspiring leader of the company. They understand that aligning every department in a company with the sales goals of the company (sales first mindset), translates into “everyone is working toward the same goals”. The best and most successful long-term companies have always been very well aligned from the top down.
Why is customer service so important these days?
If you are asking this question sales and management of any kind are probably not going to be your thing in life!
This brings me to my final point. We live in the age of “Customer Pull” which is vastly different from the age of yester year – the age of “Vendor push”. I grew up in sales, while “Vendor push” was all the rage. I was taught that “you just need to keep closing them”, and eventually, with more experience you’ll “gettem”! I am truly grateful that that era is gone, albeit for a number of antiquated businesses and sales people who are still on their way out.
Customers are becoming increasingly aware of how to get knowledge, check facts, compare the competition and have many more avenues of cross checking; even of the customer experience ratings after the purchase. The reason, simply because we live in a very connected and participative society and age where information is abundant and easily accessible. If you make a mistake and don’t do your utmost to rectify the situation, everyone who cares enough to do a little digging is going to find out about the skeletons in your closet!
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About the Author
Matthew Benn is the founding partner of Alongside Business Consulting. He has been a senior BD and sales leader for 12 years, as well as being a small business owner for more than 8 years; recently starting Alongside Business Consulting (his fourth business). He really enjoys the challenges and successes that come with developing people and growing businesses, hence has taken these passions and started the management consulting firm with a twist. The plan is to help business owners take control of their destinies and build their businesses simply…Business Growth Simplified.