The where, what and why people buy has changed over the years and will be forever changing. In order to meet the needs and wants of our customers we must change the way we sell.
I’m going to give you an example of the evolution of sales, the new challenges that we face, industry insights and solutions on how to improve your sales today.
My First Experience of Sales
One of the most enjoyable jobs that I ever experienced was my first Saturday job at 13 years old. I was asked to work on a shoe stall at an outdoor market. I can hear you saying “enjoyable how?” I understand that its hard to believe, getting up at 4am to meet the chap with the van, drive x2 hrs to Western Supermare, doesn’t sound like everyones cup of tea. To have to attach rusting poles to an awning in freezing, wet, windy weather and then lug heavy boxes of shoes from the van to display onto a splintered, wooden stall and make it look appealing. To stand all day and be expected to look cheerful about it and then receive a mere £20 at the end of a long, tiring day…but it was the best, most enjoyable job ever!
There was the greatest feeling of camaraderie, I loved the joking around and feeling of achievement at the end of the day when stocks were low and my cash pouch was bursting at the seams. The guy on the stall next door would share his wife's delicious, homemade bagis (that I am yet to taste any quite as good). The funny, old ladies walking round the stalls in their slippers and haggling the grocer down on the price of his spuds. The families that would greet me to buy their kids wellies. The constant laughing and the bacon butties for lunch…oh the bacon butties!
Those cynics amongst you will say that we all remember things better than they were but I genuinely loved that job and will always have those happy memories.
I learned so much about sales on that job and many things I have utilised in my future career. It’s the simple things that make such a difference like listening to your regular customers, going that extra mile and selling people what they actually need.
Confidence is Vital
You must have confidence in your product/service. If you don't believe in your product/service then you certainly won't be able to sell it and your customers just won't buy. Confidence is another asset I learned on that first Saturday job, dealing with people who complain and demand; your challenge is to ensure every customer leaves happy (yes even those difficult ones) Once you’ve shouted to the crowds a few times and answered the odd heckle then nothing will phase you.
The most important factor that I remember is that when we were enjoying ourselves and working as a team, people would be attracted to our stall and then sales were easy after that.
How Sales Have Evolved - 4 Key Takeaways
Selling online is a far cry from those days at the market. There’s no eye to eye contact, no friendly “how’s the weather?” in fact we often don’t even know the buyer's gender! On the surface it appears that you’re selling blind, but much of what I learned does translate online, you just need to approach it in a different way.
1. Successful Online Sales are Intelligence Driven
To be a successful salesperson you need to know your buyer and respond to their buying behaviour. This is where analytics are so crucial to your sales routine online (for further info' on analytics see our blog "6 most successful marketing practices you should follow and download our free checklist). In analysing where people go on your site, when and where they click, you can see what you must do next to move them along their buying journey.
2. Conversation is Still Important
While we can’t have the face to face banter that the market trader enjoyed, the opportunities to engage with potential customers are still there, we just need to find them. The best way to do this is to really get to know your buyers persona (learn more about ‘buyer personas’ by reading this blog "Customer insights for marketing managers"). This will reveal where they go for information, the social channels they use, which magazines they read and the language they use. Another method of how to improve sales is to engaging with your audience and answering their questions and comments in the places they look for answers is how successful online sales teams prospect for business.
3. Helping is the New Selling
In those days on the market stall the reason why it was so easy to sell was because all I was doing was listening to the people; what they needed/wanted (even if a friendly ear was all they did need). Just because we have the amazing technology and resources at our finger-tips doesn’t mean that the way we sell needs to change. We still need to listen to and help our customers and treat them as individuals. Once your customers leave happy then they will come back. When they do you will have listened and remembered what they need/want and will have brought more of what they want and you can even speak to them using their name - helping is selling.
4. Industry Insights
HubSpot (the largest provider of inbound automated software) have carried out a survey of over 4,000 B2B marketers/sales professionals across 150 countries. The result is their 2015 State of Inbound report which has some enlightening statistics and insights for businesses selling online today.
Salespeople were asked what most challenges them during the sales process and these are their most difficult areas:
- Prospecting (42%)
- Closing (36%)
- Qualifying (22%)
“Prospecting is the most difficult part of the sales process.”
These challenges could be explained by the following factors:
- ‘Perfect fit’ prospects are hard to find.
- Buyer’s attention spans are over-loaded by priorities, tasks, deliverables and projects.
- Messages need to be personally customized in order to attract you’re buyer’s attention.
- The less information salespeople have about their prospects, the less likely they will be able to sell to them.
“Sales people are not being provided with adequate lead information.”
Put quite simply; both the sales and marketing teams must communicate and collaborate in order to gain leads and covert them into sales.
The main technological sales challenges involve:
- Manual data entry (23%)
- Lack of integration with other tools (22%)
What is your biggest CRM challenge?
See the full report on The State of Inbound 2015 below for more detailed graphs of CRM challenges by company level, job role etc.
Sales teams could adopt a CRM with more streamlined and automated data entry OR simplify the data input process in their existing system.
Don’t forget the basics of traditional selling; help don’t sell. Statistically prospecting is the most difficult part of the sales process and sales people are not being provided with adequate lead information therefore sales and marketing teams must communicate more, sales teams need to treat customers as individuals and start helping them.
We are an Inbound marketing agency in Stratford Upon Avon who specialise in HubSpot website design and build, branding and all things digital. We love to help our customers with a no jargon, 'no questions too small' approach.