Guest blog by John Rees, sales and marketing consultant, mentor and creator of the Holistic Sale model of business development. You’ve read the book, seen the video and maybe even have the T-shirt so you know how the story goes … “This is Sales 2.0. and we will build momentum by using Social Media, Sales Automation and CRM to reduce the cost of sale and improve sales productivity.” This sounds great in theory and some businesses think the technology can and should take over. I don’t.
This approach may work well when selling to consumers, but selling in the business (or B2B) space is different, because trust and credibility are even more important. The strength of a story and the way you tell it, plus an ability to build a relationship can best be achieved by direct human contact. This can, of course use technology called a telephone or a video conference call. Face to face is not always possible, but it is still the best way to connect with others.
We all know that automation is excellent at making mundane tasks more efficient, but some businesses have taken this to extremes. They have lost that human touch. And it’s getting more complicated as Sales Automation and CRM systems connect with Social Media platforms to build automatic sales engagement models. Maybe the aspiration is to do business without having to make a sales call, give a presentation or even shake someone’s hand!
Many businesses use systems to ‘process’ potential buyers. They send predetermined emails at certain stages based on the actions people take. They only actually make contact with those who jump over enough hurdles at the right time to warrant a call from a human being.
The real danger in all this is that while you wait for the buyer to reach a certain stage of ‘sales readiness’ the opportunity may have passed. Either they are fed up with receiving obviously system generated emails, or a competitor beats you to the punch and has already engaged them in conversation.
Evidence shows that this automated approach is becoming less effective. According to recent findings, trust in online content including blogs and tweets is plummeting fast. Marketing-speak is widely used and most platforms have now become bloated advertising channels. It’s easier than ever to build a following of thousands on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, but what does this prove? Is this an endorsement of the quality of your brand, or evidence that you know how to use Social Media to maximise your exposure?
I’m not a Luddite though because I’ve spent all my working life in the technology space, so I know how it helps people become more efficient. The problem arises when it’s used as a replacement for human interaction and this is happening more and more.
During my career, I’ve used various sales processes that were far too complicated and convoluted. The emphasis was on ‘strategic selling’ by building power maps, identifying buying personas and preference grids and looking for blind spots and red flags. Many processes have now been automated and systems tell salespeople when they should actually call someone. It sounds crazy and it would be funny if it wasn’t true.
I’m not saying you don’t need a sales strategy because you do, but it should be as simple as possible. While some businesses spend far too much time strategising and waiting for the system to tell them the time is right, others are seizing the initiative and actually talking with people.
Let’s be very clear here, the ability to build trust, inspire confidence and develop deep and meaningful relationships can never be achieved by a sales process or a piece of software. People will always make the difference.
Social Media and automation definitely does have a place in business because it enables us to connect with many people at the same time. It’s excellent at building a profile and sharing ideas, but don’t rely on it as your primary means of sales communication. Don’t allow it to dictate how and when you engage with people. Use it to share your big ideas and attract attention and when someone shows interest, call them and start a conversation. That’s where you make a connection and that’s where the selling starts.
John Rees is a sales and marketing consultant and mentor, who specialises in helping businesses who either want to bring a new idea to market or build momentum with an existing one.
During his career he had sales and marketing roles in the Information Technology sector across Europe, India and North America. He worked with global technology leaders and start-ups who defined new market sectors.
He sold mainframes and minicomputers and witnessed the explosion of new markets created by the development of software application packages.
During recent years he worked with fast growth companies, start-ups and spin-outs and established businesses in many industry sectors. He learned a lot about how to succeed in business, and that’s why he created the Holistic Sale model of business development. This defines world-class ideas that can be used to simplify processes, create a compelling sales story, build a vibrant network of sales opportunities and improve sales performance.