There's been a lively debate among sales leaders in recent years and it centers on a big question: Has the digital selling environment we are all now operating in brought about a fundamental change in what it means to be a professional salesperson?
The answer, I believe, is both yes and no. When it comes to the basics of selling, the core requirements have not changed. We're still communicating. We’re still launching and supporting relationships. We're still establishing trust and creating a better and better understanding of the needs of our customer. We’re still identifying the business problem (the pain) affecting that customer, the budget available to address that problem, and the decision-making process the customer will be using to figure out whether it makes sense for us to work together.
Those things never change. What has changed – and what will continue to change over time – is how we go about doing those things, and what tools we use to do them.
So yes, prior to the countless breakthroughs in data collection, mobile communications technology, and AI that have shaped our professional world, we did things very differently than we would do them today. And doubtless there will be breakthroughs in these areas, and in new disciplines we don’t even know about yet, that will profoundly affect what we do tomorrow. The question we face as sales leaders is this: How can we best support our team with the tools they need as they execute the basics of their job – the parts of the job description that will not change, no matter what the technology offers?
I believe there are three critical steps sales leaders must take in this regard.
Step 1. Make sure there is a clearly documented sales process for people to follow. They need a clearly outlined sales strategy that tells them who the target is, where to find buyers, how to engage with buyers, what should be happening at each step of the relationship, and how that typically happens. In this document, you will want to specify the tools people should use. Do not assume everyone on your team knows any of this. Make it crystal clear! Tell them, in writing, exactly what happens, as well as when, and how. And don’t stop there. Tell them which personas they are selling to, what pain points those personas typically experience, how they are likely to describe those pain points, and the types of results you have delivered to your very best customers to make those pains go away. These points must pervade your team’s targeted digital messaging. Everyone on your team needs to be singing from the same sheet of music when it comes to your sales process and the people it serves.
Step 2. Understand the buyer’s journey. Having a clear, agreed-upon sales process is essential, but it is only the beginning. You also need to ask yourself: How has the digital environment affected the buyer’s journey? Today’s communication technology has allowed buyers to go much, much farther in their decision process without interacting with a salesperson. So, you and your team need to be clear on what typically happens on the buyer’s side before they begin to engage with you. Note that the buyer’s journey may change based on the different products and services that you're offering, as well as changes in the available communication options, so you will want to review this regularly. I would recommend quarterly reviews of this at the very least. If necessary, update and revise your sales process. Remember that your market is not static, so your sales process cannot be static either. It must be revised from time to time based on (among other things) what buyers are doing and what they expect from you.
Step 3. Look for new ways to leverage technology, and then share the latest and greatest best practices with your team. Perform your due diligence. Find out: What is the best technology available for you to find and communicate with your customers? If you and your team provide the same answer today as you did six months ago, you are not keeping up with the market or the competition. I’ll share just one example: there are tools now available from Vidyard that allow you to send unique video messages to prospective buyers. This tool has resulted in a tenfold increase in prospecting efficiency for some of our clients! Technology breakthroughs, like changes in the buyer’s journey, are an excellent reason to update your written sales process.
Consistently follow these three steps to ensure that you and your team execute the basics … by developing, updating, and executing a powerful selling strategy in the current digital environment.