In the pulp novels of 1950s science fiction writers, the future was a nightmarish place where machines turned on their makers, and robots took over from - or did entirely away with - their human counterparts. For countless sales professionals across the country, that future is now upon us. Only instead of robots, it’s websites, self-service kiosks, email, PDAs, cell phones, and even interactive TV that are threatening to replace us, and do our jobs faster, cheaper, and without needing an annual vacation.
Thanks to rapid advances in technology we can now get virtually any product imaginable delivered right to our front door, at the click of a mouse, or the dial of a phone. The same technology that helps us stay connected to our customers also threatens to take our customers away as options for self service and buying direct increase.
Self-service options have become commonplace in virtually every facet of our daily lives. Whether it’s issuing movie tickets, checking into hotel rooms, buying airline tickets, checking in for flights, or putting gas in cars, sales from self-service kiosks last year topped $161 billion. According to IHL Consulting, those numbers could reach $1 trillion.
In other words, we need to use technology to stay connected with our clients, but we are also at risk of being replaced by that same technology. As our customers demand and use more and more technology, sales professionals must reduce their risk by utilizing technology to increase the effectiveness of all in-person client communication.
Wireless laptops, handheld PDAs, and cell phones now give most people instant access to communication. Email and text messaging is replacing just about every form of communicating. Likely, the day will soon come that email will not only replace mail, it will also begin to replace the people that deliver it.
E-mail is a great way to stay connected to your clients and prospects because it’s fast, and for most, easier than a phone call. Email works! We can communicate with more people, faster than ever before. Frankly though, it doesn’t work effectively often enough because many salespeople are lazy, hiding behind email and using it as an excuse for not making sales. When my below quota sales reps complain, “He hasn’t responded to my email yet!” I say, “It’s time to pick up the phone and call your customer!”
The key to maximizing the effectiveness of any technology you use to communicate with your customers is blending it with other media types. Email blended with voice contact, fax, and face-to-face contact provides the best approach to relationship building, and ensures you can’t be replaced by a technology-only sales process.
Here are some simple email rules:
- With people you don’t know well, keep all your messages short and clear. Don’t force anyone to scroll down the page, open attachments, or click on links to get the gist of what you are saying. They won’t do it. They will hit delete.
- Think before you send. Simple rule - make sure you actually send what you wanted to send. “Recalling” a message is a sure way to turn off a prospect. If you are not sure of your message, save it, walk away from your computer, and come back to review the message a few minutes later. Your fresh review of the message will ensure it’s the right message to send.
- Stop thinking about email as the only tool, and start thinking about it as one communicating tool to master and combine with others so you can stand out instead of being spammed out.
Speaking of other communication tools, I encourage you to use the fax. Why? Because nobody else is! Your fax messages make it to the decision-maker’s desk and stand out because you have little or no competition using this medium. In a business environment where your client’s voice mail and inbox are flooded with calls and messages that all sound and look the same, your fax stands alone.
Another option for using technology to improve connectivity and make more sales is multi-media. Have you ever seen a multi media presentation - say a movie? How did you feel? Now imagine that this is how your prospects will feel when you turn on your laptop and a video begins playing. They will be engaged and intrigued. Bingo! You have just differentiated yourself from the competition.
Another plus? Rather than having to rely on prospects’ presentation skills when they take your proposal to the board, you can rely on your carefully crafted multi-media presentation that delivers a consistent high impact message every time. A multi–media disc can be created with your presentation to leave behind, and the prospect can use this disc to position your products with others in the office.
Here are three tips for using multi-media presentations profitably:
- Canned presentations miss the mark. Just because it’s multi-media doesn’t mean it has to be canned. Make sure to customize each presentation to your prospect based on her needs.
- You are a part of the presentation and you must continue to interact with your clients while the presentation is running. Pharmaceutical sales reps use short, multi-media presentations to show doctors how their drugs work. During the presentation the sales pros point to the screen, ask the doctors to make selections about what they want to view and take notes based on the doctors’ reactions. This ensures they stay engaged with the doctors while increasing the effectiveness of the tool. If you simply hit play and sit there, what do we need you in the meeting for at all?
- Have live and written testimonials in the presentation. Proof that others are profitably using your solutions is the clincher to making the sale. Have the client click on a video section loaded with satisfied clients eager to tell your audience how wonderful you are and how great your product works.
Creating a Positive Customer Experience
Regardless of what technology tools you choose to sell with, your clients are demanding more and more technology tools to buy with. If you choose to ignore this trend, you risk being replaced with a person, or a machine that meets their needs better. So pick your technology tools wisely and don’t forget about building a personal relationship!
To continue to be successful, today’s salespeople need to develop an ability to create a truly positive experience for their customers using the variety of technology tools our customers are demanding. The following three ideas are some of the best (and easiest) ways to create a more positive customer experience, and keep yourself from being automated out of a job:
- Be empathetic and compassionate. Truly care about your customers. And remember, unless your last name is DeNiro or Streep faking it simply won't work.
- Add value and give first. No, this doesn't mean giving away free product in the hope that a prospect will give you his business. Rather, give away things that will increase your value, such as a referral to another client or partner, or sharing an idea that could help him solve a business problem.
- Love what you sell, the company you work for, and the customers you serve.
Customers buy from salespeople who believe in the products they sell, and the companies they work for. Choose to be honest, open, and empathetic to your customers' needs, and you will experience consistent sales growth, build an excellent reputation, and quickly rise to the top of your field.
The old way of selling doesn't work anymore. Old high-pressure in-your-face, pounding the phones, manipulative sales methods will cost you business. The 21st Century way is using a variety of technology mediums and personal skills creatively to build value and high trust relationships.
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Make sure you check out Colleen's latest book, Nonstop Sales Boom for powerful strategies to drive consistent sales growth quarter after quarter, year after year.
Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.
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