In the first of a new series of articles, Mohan G Joshi, international business coach and speaker on sales and leadership, elaborates on how the new age buyer has redefined the sales business cycle. He also speaks on the strategies to win over the new-age buyer
Selling has changed so completely that the definition of selling, marketing and that of the salesperson too needs to undergo an official makeover. While the same two people are at the two ends of the bridge – the seller and the buyer; they are now completely different creatures who need a closer study.
If the seller needs to win over the new-age buyer, then a deeper study of buyer behavior, his choosing and buying process, new-age selling tools and tactics need to top the to-do list of the salesperson. The salesperson of today needs to be more of a trusted advisor, a coach, a friend and an impartial well-wisher and less of a ‘salesperson with just one goal – that of pushy-selling’.
The buyer too has also undergone a complete change and expects more than just information from the salesperson. The alignment between buyer expectations from the salesperson and the delivery by the salesperson dictates the future of the ‘good old order’.
What’s the new age sales cycle like?
What happens when you have to wait for the buyer to decide when s(he) wants to interact with you as a salesperson? You know that the sales cycle has changed forever. The buyer of today has more control over your sales cycle as it is s(he) who decides when you and s(he) should connect on the first sales call.
Conventional sales cycles had the salesperson in control of the cycle. But, the modern sales cycle has the buyer decide on important things. In the older version, the salesperson used to make a call, fix an appointment, meet, hand over sales literature, explain things, follow up, repeat and go laughing all the way to the bank, having closed the sale.
The modern version has the buyer first do the groundwork (mostly on and through the Internet) on the product. S(he) uses Google, the company website, the other product review sites, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and what-have-you to do preliminary research on the company, product, and the reviews. Through the same channels, s(he) studies your competition, checks out product feedback, seeks more information and then after all this is done, ‘reaches out’ to you – the salesperson. The new-age sales cycle is thus sleek, multi-geared, and designed for the new-age buyer, In fact, half the sale is done BEFORE the salesperson gets to connect with the buyer!
When is the best time to sell to a new age buyer?
Simply put, the best time to sell is whenever your buyer is ready.
When the meeting does take place, the buyer demands more information to corroborate the information he has gathered, his findings and analysis. It would not be incorrect to say that the buyer has made up his mind (almost!) before he meets with you, the salesperson. If you are lucky, s(he) is inclined towards your product; and if you are out of luck, s(he) has made up her mind against buying your product. Either way, there are sales tactics to nudge the buyer towards your product.
In the first instance, you need to be a supporter and take the ‘about-to-happen-sale’ in the right direction by providing reasons that will give the buyer a feeling that he has made the right decision. More facts, statistics, case studies – where you help in furthering the buyer’s positive views, intentions, opinions and emotions, will go a long way.
If you are out of luck, and the buyer has decided against you, then you need to use the information you have about the buyer, his details, his buying history, his preferences and leverage this information to nudge him slowly and steadily to move in favour of your product.
Feel lucky, dear salesperson that you are talking to a warm prospect and not to a stranger you met on a cold calling spree. The new-age selling (or buying process) does all the preliminary checking beforehand and whoever gets in touch with you from the pipeline are largely warm prospects. By using data, companies today are ensuring that they spend their monies on reaching the right audience, then filtering out cold prospects using data analysis and mining, to finally focus on the warm and hot prospects. This is a more efficient selling process, as companies reduce the cost of customer acquisition by making it a digitally-enriched and labour-non-intensive process. The salesforce can thus focus on the warm prospects, saving on steep cold-calling costs and making sure there is no opportunity cost to be borne.
Are the days of the pushy salesman over?
Pushy salespersons are history or may soon become part of it. Today’s mantra is: push and you will get pushed out of the playing field. Pushing a sale is an old-school tactic, the new boys and girls in sales are adopting a challenger stance. They know that yes men or naysayers do not win, but a challenger stance does. An intelligent salesperson will recognise this and educate the customer with new information on not just his own product but on the best ways of doing business or by offering him new insights into his customers and markets.
What’s the best way to win over the new age buyer?
Reviews. Views. Points of views. These are the new pulse points of the new age buyer.
The buyer is going to rely on what is being said in the world wide web about your product. S(he) is going to read a lot of reviews or talk to his/her tribe (family, friends, digital friends) about your product and analyse the sentiment towards your product before s(he) weighs its advantages or gives it a thumbs-down. His/her point of view is largely dependent on reviews and views offered by users of the product and influencers in the industry. Your buyer is going to rely more and more on word-of-mouth, which to him/her is the most credible form of ‘marketing’ and the most reliable way of arriving at a decision.
It is up to you to create effective content that will be useful to attract influencers; and to balance the use between owned, paid and earned media. Owned media – is the media that you own such as your website, your social media channel etc. Paid media is the media that you buy to showcase or advertise your product such as relevant and effective platforms, social media and sites. Earned media is a PR term, where you get ‘covered’ or ‘featured’; this is pull PR and not paid media. Today, customers treat all these three as one; and make their buying considerations based on the messages that they see on all the three.
The most credible source is earned media of course and if your company is doing a good job and a good job with its content and distribution, then earned media is a strong possibility. Word of mouth is the best way to gain buyers favouring you. Creating effective content, how and where you distribute it, with what frequency and how well you create the ‘opportunity to see’ is going to help your buyer see your product in a positive light. This will ultimately decide if you are going to ‘win’ the ‘sale’.
Remember, your buyer will meet your product first and you, later. What you do to ensure s(he) smiles when s(he) meets your product is what matters in selling!
What should be the new equation between selling and marketing teams?
If you understand how a buyer ‘buys’ in the new-age you will make peace with your marketing team as a salesperson and vice versa. In the new-age, selling and marketing are no more silos (they never were; but were seen so); but more like friends who have to be BFFs (best friends forever), if you use the new-generation slang.
Marketing dresses up your product so that when it meets with the buyer on any online platform, the buyer likes what s(he) sees; marketing continues to ensure your buyer bumps into your product in more places and often, but at the right time. The buyer is enamoured and that’s when your ‘selling’ takes over. Again, the data that has been collected and collated by marketing is what you need to study and use while ‘doing the sale’; eventually leading to ‘the closing of the sale’.
You will see that sales has undergone a complete makeover and is still changing. Whatever the industry, the sale process has changed. Be it an IT company, a pharma company, or an FMCG company, selling has donned a new avatar. As a salesperson, it is imperative for you to understand this new avatar of selling; to understand how buyers will behave in a constantly changing and upgraded market scenario. It is important for you to know and adapt to the changing scenario, learn new tactics, get new tools on your side and practice the art of new age selling.