According to Sam Sebastian, Managing Director at Google Canada, 71% of consumers consulted the internet before making a definitive purchasing decision. Now factor in the exponential growth, development and sophistication that has taken place online over the last 4 years, and you start to see its importance.
This all maybe well and good you ask, but what does this have to with salespeople?
People are taking on the research element themselves. Gone are the days of picking up the phone and calling a trusted vendor. The wealth of resources now available online in the form of customer reviews, blog posts, social media and even your company’s very own marketing materials provide them with enough of an overview, rightly or wrongly, of what your product can offer. Ratings on reviews sites such as G2 Crowd, FitSmallBusiness and Software Advice also play a vital role in persuading customers whittling down their shortlist of potential suitors to putting your business near the top.
This inherently transforms the relationship between salesperson and consumer from one of “provider” to “educator”. It is now up to you to guide them, educate and inform them of the real value your product has relative to their specific situation, not just slap them with an age-old PowerPoint presentation.
Where do I start?
A good place would be right alongside your potential customers, online. As a salesperson, what’s your online presence? Do you have a personal profile on the company website? Is it linked to your social media accounts? What do you truly know about your product’s presence on the internet? Establishing a transparent line of communication with your marketing team here is key; you need to be aware of what content is out there. The questions consumers are asking and the perceptions built surrounding your product originate here. By updating yourself with what’s going on online, you’ll be better prepared for the potential obstacles in the meeting room.
Build good relationships. This point seems so obvious that I almost left it out, but you must now more than ever take care of your existing customers and their entire experience through the sales cycle. Why? Because more and more prospective clients are engaging through their own social networks, chat rooms and review sites. The people who write these reviews, are as you’ve probably guessed, those customers we’ve just mentioned. There is still no better referral than word of mouth, so ensure those words are positive.
Time is of the essence. According to a study by Harvard Research, lead conversion is 7x higher if contact is made within the hour. This means an effective system for monitoring your CRM is needed to filter out those that come under this magic timeframe. If they’ve downloaded an eBook, filled out a price quota, signed up to a contact form or submitted an information request, then their interest has been piqued. By not acting during this critical phase you’re shooting yourself in the foot, losing out on a large chunk of potential revenue.
Challenge the prospect. Remember, if they’ve chosen to meet you, they already know a fair deal about your product and importantly, the value it adds their company. What you need to do is now challenge them, offer solutions to unforeseen pitfalls that are lurking around the corner. Through their research they’ll be aware to some extent of the issues they could currently face, but it’s your job to walk them around the pot holes.