I blend high-touch with high-tech. I teach what I call Rapport Selling, which is about being truly customer-focussed and engaging at a very personal level. But I also embrace the use of high-tech, with video, podcasts, blogs, Flickr slide shows, and more.
I think that’s really important, because organisations and their leaders just can’t ignore the impact of technology and the Internet in the entire sales process. It’s not just for tech companies; it’s for everybody. That’s why I wanted to share with you how the Internet has changed selling.
So join me now as I’m being interviewed about my insights in this area.
What else, apart from the Internet, have you noticed has changed about the way people buy?
I would say there are 4 changes in the way people buy and these are not directly related to the internet.
The first is technology in general which has improved immeasurably to encourage more communication whilst mobile. Yes the internet allows for the social media revolution but the devices had to be there in the first place. This enables consumers to buy on the move, truly mobile.
The second change is globalisation – a rather grand word but it means for consumers that they have vastly more choice than a few years’ ago and can buy from the new economies of the Far East and South America. In fact consumers demand more choice now and expect it.
Thirdly, buyers are much more demanding than ever before. By this I’m not just referring to product and services and their suitability but the service levels that surround them. Consumers want better customer service and can now voice their opinions and be heard.
Finally I think buyers are far more in control of their buying than ever before. Yes the internet has allowed this, but it is also the better education and access to information that we have never had before. And this brings the outcome that buyers will no longer endure being sold to. Yes they like buying, but will not be sold to anymore, those days are long gone.
What about the impact of the Internet? What does that mean for sales leaders and their teams?
The internet has caused enormous changes to the way buyers consume products and services. It’s game changing and sales teams ought to get with the changes or wither on the vine. And to be fair, many have, but some are still dragging their heels refusing to move away from their 1980’s sales processes.
How has the internet impacted? Let me look at three major impacts.
Firstly the sales process has undergone a seismic shift in the last 5 to 7 years since the internet has really taken off. This shift is a result of the internet becoming a truly shared experience with consumers contributing content rather than just the big wig web page developers who created web pages in the period up to about 2004. Known as Web 2.0.
Imagine the earth shifting on its axis, just a couple of degrees. The impact on the environment, the weather would be catastrophic and Hollywood has made a number of disaster movies on this event.
The buying process has shifted and is no longer in line with our traditional sales process.
In the old days customers would realise they have a need for something and head towards the legions of salespeople by foot, by phone, and engage with the sellers. They would find the salespeople via advertising, in the High Street or they would ask their friends for a recommendation. outsourced sales for startups Sellers would ask questions about their needs and promote the most appropriate product, which they knew a lot about, and if they were good at closing, would secure the sale. It worked.
The second impact is that buyers now have more control within the sales process.
Now consumers realise they have a need, the urge to buy hasn’t changed but this time they do one of three things. They’ll fix the need themselves by accessing the internet, Google, YouTube. Or they’ll ask their friends for a recommendation but this process is multiplied because we all have so many more friends online in our social networks, we’ll even solicit advice on reputable salespeople from strangers because we believe these people more than the advertising that still intrudes our lives.
But the most common way to satisfy our need, the itch is to seek a solution or scratch from the internet. We’ll Google the need and research thoroughly on the internet, seeking recommendations as we go. Much is available to us to buy there and then; I’ll talk about commoditisation shortly. If they’re seeking the services of a company to satisfy their need, they’ll research the competition along with you, and in some situations end up learning more about your company than you could possibly know.
Consumers have become expert at researching and using the internet to find out what they need.
The point is though, that by the time we reluctantly call a salesperson or visit a company that sells the product, we’ve already made up our mind as to the solution. We know what colour we want, what spec and how much is the cheapest possible price for the service. Salespeople have become order takers and can’t use their charm and persuasive abilities to change our minds.
Consumers enter the salesperson’s sales process half way through – at the negotiation of price stage – which removes the need for a salesperson entirely – a robot could do it if the product is simple and commoditised.
The third major impact of the internet is commoditisation, which I’ve mentioned a couple of times before. This means that many products and services have been stripped of their “bells and whistles” and have been whittled down to their bare components and sold at the cheapest price possible. This has been driven by consumer demand and the internet. If the internet can commoditise your product or service, then it will. It’s like a floodplain, the water will come, and you can’t stop it.
Take my main industry sector – financial services – here in the UK this sector has gone through some major changes recently, become more complex and costly to access. But still the products are slowly being commoditised and sold online or by phone. Car insurance, home insurance, medical insurance and now life assurance can all be bought cheaply and online. The bastions of face to face financial advice are now being hit hard by online models that have even commoditised financial advice. One site promotes that they have we have a diverse team of fully qualified financial advisers who can offer free answers to your personal finance questions within 60 minutes.
My profession, training and speaking is currently being commoditised right now and this will change the way corporations but training and development in the future. This morning I was speaking to a client from a major building society and he explained that they’re moving to an online training model as face to face training in a classroom is prohibitively expensive. I currently deliver more training via video than I do face to face.
Another trend is automated buying software called procurement purchasing packages which allows companies to procure all their services and goods via automated means securing the best possible deal and never coming face to face with a salesperson.
Creepy. But the result of commoditisation.
You work in diverse organisations in many countries. Do you think most organisations “get it”?
I believe that most organisations “dig” the changes and the impact. Some have gone a little bit too far into social media but we’ll talk about that later. There are still legions of salespeople who are being trained as talking brochures and not true problem solvers but this is changing slowly.
There are clients of mine who have radically modernised their value proposition to be more in line with post commoditisation but again, this is slow to take off. Pre-emptive selling is gaining ground with the correct use of social media to engage early with clients who have itches. I’ll talk more about these later.
Generally they’re getting there, particularly in the UK and USA but some countries are behind the curve as the internet begins its swallowing of their consumers. Take India for example, the internet is being consumed via mobile technology now as is Africa so this will change the patterns of consumers, although the infrastructure is different in these continents.