In my last column, I discussed “Transmedia Storytelling” as the new hot topic when it comes to marketing yourself to prospects and customers. But like any hot topic there is some cold-sauce to be poured. The other critical part of engaging with your target audience is that old fashioned, much-maligned approach of actually engaging in human contact.
While in many facets of life today text, Twitter, Facebook, Skype and email have replaced the personal phone call or face-to-face approach, we still like to know who we are buying from. While all the tools we have at our fingertips make it easier to reach people, in reality they have dehumanised the sales process and created a one-size-fits-all selling mentality.
Maybe this could be classed as sales efficiency. However, the passion and emotion is removed, and potentially the loyalty to the brand. This is great news for lazy sales people who sit at their keyboard all day banging out emails and claiming how many prospects they’re getting to. It is a cop out, in every respect.
To engage with a prospect you have to understand their issues and challenges and ascertain if whatever you’re offering addresses their needs or solves a problem they have. You can’t do this from behind your desk. In the past ‘call reluctance’ was easy to spot – if a salesperson didn’t pick up the phone very often they weren’t making much customer contact. These days, it can go unnoticed as those same people are banging away on the keyboard all day.
Sales is actually a straight forward process; It begins with the identification of prospective buyers that have a need or desire. The role of the salesperson is to help those people make a decision that culminates in an order. As this is essentially a two-way process, I don’t believe you can do this without some form of personal engagement in the business-to-business space.
Among impulse buyers, the process is initiated through targeted marketing and little sales effort. However, in the market in which we all operate, life is a little different. Impulse buying is replaced by considered purchasing. In many cases, the purchase is so considered that there is ample opportunity for your customer to be distracted by a competitor that has come in with the right offer at the right time, because they have made the effort to understand and answer the needs of the prospect. It is hard to stave off a competitor’s approach if you are taking a commoditised approach to your own sales effort.
This is compounded if your sales offering is not particularly unique, as is often the case. What creates your point of difference then, is your ability to understand the needs and issues of your prospects and customers.
You need to build a relationship to gain trust in order to get insight into your customers’ business. No matter how good you are at engaging over the internet, few prospects will tell it how it really is in an email. In more than two decades in this industry I have never yet come across a situation where a relationship with a client is worse after you have met with them – in fact it can be a revelation as to how many misconceptions have been generated between the lines of an email.
It is also about creating a point of difference and getting some cut through. The sales person that takes the time to give me a call is going to get a lot further than one that just flings an occasional email in my direction. We operate in a world where it becomes easier to operate purely from your desk; but remember that people still buy from people. That means getting your sales team out meeting prospects, before they forget how to make a call. Front up!
Bob Pinchin is the director of Sway.tech, a specialist communications house for technology companies. Email firstname.lastname@example.org