The Evolution of Sales and How to Keep Up With It

The Evolution of Sales and How to Keep Up With It

To lots of salespeople, the value of learning new-tech platforms and assimilating new digital tools into their approaches is evident. But for others, this kind of work just seems like a hassle.

When you talk to a wide sampling of salespeople, it seems like the push to add new media strategy isn’t quite a done deal, and there’s still room for a good amount of conversation about why people do it. Why is it important to update your sales approach for the 21st century? Does it really lead to better sales?

In our experience, although there’s still room for conversation, the reality on digitally assisted, social-media-driven and CRM-supported sales is clear. There are multiple reasons why it pays to add specific software architectures to the sales toolkit, not only for better conversion rates, but for other reasons that address core aspects of how people do sales.

Saving You From Cold Calls

In general, there’s the idea that utilizing new digital tools is going replace the old cold calling method for sales. That alone is enough to drive a lot of sales people to adopt new tools, because there’s something in a lot of us that dreads cold calling. But then there’s still that old vanguard that considers cold calling a ‘necessary evil’ for one reason or another.

So why is it important to replace cold calling?

In the vast majority of marketing cases, cold calling is something that has simply become obsolete. The popularity of the Do Not Call list should tell you all you need to know about this. There’s just not much room anymore for trying to engage people over the telephone with no prior warning. In B2C, it’s borderline illegal and many people consider it harassment. And it’s not much better with B2B (think about calling an operating business, such as a restaurant, during working hours to sell equipment.)

Most cold calling respondents are just not going to the interested in what you have to sell. They’re going to yell or scream, or hang up the phone, or try to engage you in some kind of cynical theater just to amuse themselves.

That’s why although some sales managers back in the dark ages still insist on cold calling, there are better ways to do sales in today’s environment.

The Numbers Are In – Social-Media-Assisted Sales Works

In addition to the cold calling issue, new studies have actually come out with quantifiable results that show how salespeople investing in new technology skills are dominating their fields.

As just one example, this in-depth Forbes article by Mark Fidelman addresses the result of ‘social selling,’ where salespeople use social media, instead of just trying to call people up on the telephone.

Upfront in the article, Fidelman cites a project report showing that about 70% of salespeople with social media outperformed others in 2012. Fidelman points out the majority of respondents connected social media use to at least one particular deal closing, and shows how social media sales people in general are 23% more successful than those without social selling strategies.

What these numbers have to say is that building Facebook or Twitter pages, enlisting brand-new CRM dashboards, and getting mobile apps to support your sales strategy are actually things that work for your bottom line, rather than fancy elective activities for the millennial generation.

Tools for Hunters

To put this whole thing another way, take a simple analogy.

Some of the best guidebooks in the sales world talk about the real life of the salesperson, and how it has to do with certain essential principles. One commonly used metaphor is to think of the salesperson as a hunter. They’re out there in the world, looking for deals, looking for potential customers — the way a predator looks for prey…

Okay, this metaphor doesn’t completely apply. Customers aren’t prey. However, if you think of opportunity as something that’s elusive, the way that prey is elusive, you start to see why salespeople need the best tools. You wouldn’t go bear hunting with a slingshot. And, although some hunting aficionados are still into the crossbow, you’ll generally want the best weapons that can kill the prey effectively, and deliver it directly to you — especially when you’re hunting for meat instead of for sport.

Salespeople are hunting for meat. They’re doing their jobs to feed their families. They want opportunity to land in their lap. They’re not looking to create challenges for themselves. And they can really benefit from using the best new technologies that will help them make a clean deal, instead of one that is made up of many points of contact, takes a long time, and is generally messy.

The Experiential Aspect of Sales

In looking at why it really works to use CRM, social media and other tech tools, some people involved in the world of sales take a harder look at the philosophy of sales, at the underlying ideas that make us do what we do.

For example, this blog post by Albert Hopper on Pipeliner embraces what the writer refers to as the ‘experiential’ aspect of the new sales model.

Hopper lays out the essential structure underneath the sale — selling something for money. He then builds on top of this with the idea of how to engage people. There’s the phrase “create need” and a look at how that has been done in the past. And then there’s a look at the social media world, where the interactions that go on are a lot more complex.

Essentially, Hopper is telling us what a lot of sales people already know about social media — that it creates a fuller context for long-term conversations. It’s like that old saying “you don’t just sell a customer one car: you sell a customer four or five cars over a lifetime…” – customer retention and customer loyalty are just some aspects of sales that are based on bringing somebody in for a long game, getting actual relationships built rather than just manning a popsicle stand.

How is this done? It’s done in all sorts of ways. Some of these, like sending customers ‘thank you’ notes or soliciting opinions on current events, are mentioned in the blog. Others, like using CRM platforms to track purchasing histories, are not.

But all of them revolve around a similar scheme — there’s an interaction going on that is a two way street. It’s not just somebody talking at somebody; it’s like a CB radio setup. You could call it the “over to you” principle. Salespeople are relying on customers to take their messaging out into the world and helping to spread it, naturally, by virtue of the fact that they’ve created the conversations and relationships, not just because ‘x’ product is so great.

In short, we’ve come a long way from the days of Mad Men, where advertising was something dreamed up in an elaborate Madison Avenue kitchen and re-heated for customers on TV. We’re at the point where the human dimension of sales complements a digital dimension, where everyone is a broadcaster and everyone is as subscriber – and that’s making a big difference across the entire business world.

Getting CRM Involved

With all of these things in mind, one great way to get a shot in the arm with new technology is to learn a sophisticated customer relationship management dashboard that truly serves your business.

At Stride, we’ve designed our platform with just this in mind: we know what sales takes, and we want to facilitate that. We went salespeople to have the data that they need to really feel empowered to reach out to customers on a regular basis. We want you to be able to take the dashboard, combine it with social media selling strategies, and pack the one-two punch that will give you the competitive edge you need, when everybody around you is becoming early adopters of specially designed sales platforms.

Take a look and see how your business can thrive, not just survive, in 2014 and the years beyond.

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