As I draft this article, we have just entered 2022 with the hope and joy that a new year brings. There is, however, the ever-niggling blot on the horizon that still challenges the business owner, i.e. COVID. Before you roll your eyes and groan, let me assure you that I’m not writing this article to create doom and gloom. I believe this virus is here to stay and that we all need to learn to live with it. That also means that having a business that can flex around the challenges this brings is key. I’ve had numerous conversations with business owners who are working to achieve this. From multi-skilling staff to reviewing internal processes, they’ve not left any stone unturned, but what does this mean for sales?
Adaptability is the key word for successful selling in this new era and it applies to large and small businesses alike. There are 4 key areas that a business can review to support their sales success.
Ease of sale
How easily can a customer buy from you? It may sound a strange question to ask, but I’ve worked with many businesses that have made their sales process so complex it makes it exceedingly difficult and challenging for their customers to buy their product. In today’s world and in the future, buyers will want to make a purchase with minimum effort. If they can’t, they’ll move on to somewhere else. Reviewing and streamlining your processes will make it easy for a buyer to spend money with you.
When the pandemic started businesses had to adapt by embracing new technologies to keep moving forward. VoIP systems to enable staff to work at home became commonplace, the world turned to online methods to buy and sell their products and Zoom and Teams became the ideal platform to use to stay connected with team members and customers.
Zoom and Teams will be technologies that will continue to feature heavily within the sales cycle. Face-to-face interaction with a prospective or current customer is the best way to build and strengthen your relationships with them. You can’t beat sitting across a desk, sharing a coffee and discussing business. However, some businesses are still not allowing outside visitors on-site or don’t feel that they have the time and therefore this is a great option.
During this time LinkedIn and other social media platforms saw a massive increase of use. Salespeople were using them to identify and reach out to prospective customers. I’ve had many conversations with my clients during this time, about how to use LinkedIn to continue their business development activities. The fact of the matter is buyers are now using social media to make their purchasing decisions and search for prospective suppliers. If you’re not on a platform where your target market is active, then you are going to miss out.
It’s not just social media, it’s also about your online presence. Buyers that check out your social media platforms will undoubtedly check out your website, is that easy to navigate? Does the content reflect your current services?
In my previous point I discussed making it easy for your buyer to buy from you, technology will help. From CRMs to project management systems, there are a plethora of tools available.
Embracing technology can be hard; I am a self-confessed technophobe and was absolutely adamant that training could NEVER be done online. During the pandemic 100% of the training I delivered was online, and offering online solutions will continue to feature within my services. Have you embraced technology within your business? If not, there is still time, but don’t leave it too long otherwise your competition will beat you to it.
I’ve always advocated collecting and displaying reviews and testimonials. In my previous point I’ve explained how buyers are now using social media and other digital forms to look for potential suppliers. They will gain confidence from reading these and will use them to influence their buying decisions. Now is the time not to be shy, display them with pride and blow your own trumpet!
Budgets and lead times
We’ve been through a couple of challenging years for businesses. I’ve had many conversations with salespeople during this time who assumed that buyers’ budgets have shrunk. This has resulted in the sales pitch being very money-focused and around saving money. Not all businesses had a tough time. There are some that have had their best trading years on record and as a result, have more money to spend on products or services to help support their business.
As budgets have changed, so have lead times. Customers who have previously had lengthy lead times, have changed their processes and are now able to buy new products and services much quicker than they were previously able to, and vice versa.
It is still important to sell on value and not on price. We need to listen to our customers’ needs, wants, issues and problems and offer them the right solution for them. Asking the right questions during the sales process will clarify the buyer’s lead time expectations and what they are prepared to spend. Now is the time to stop assuming!
Introducing and using innovative technologies, working with new processes and ensuring your approach to the sales conversation with customers, will need a business owner and their teams to have the right skillsets and approach. Training, coaching and ongoing development will be important to ensure their successes.