3 Ways Social Media is Revolutionizing the Sales Process

2013.7.5 Men Suits

There are many people like me who are not shoppers – we’re buyers.

When buyers find what they like we buy it – no selling is necessary. This often keeps us loyal to the same vendors and stores for a long time, and certainly explains the success of Amazon Prime for everyday purchases.

However, when buying decisions are heavily influenced by factors such as style, comfort, and fit, then buying necessarily leads to shopping, and that means the counsel of a skilled sales professional is also an influential factor.

If your products and services are sold, rather than bought, then it may be time to consider how social media is dramatically changing  the shopping experience, and therefore, what your business needs to do to adapt its sales process.

Let’s take a look at three.

#1 – It’s Making People Differentiators

Old-school selling was a game of trading secrets. Since everyone was reluctant to show their hand, the process of coming to agreement was agonizingly slow.

In today’s business environment, it’s amusing when a business suggests they have a secret that makes their product better, because if there are product differences (advantages and flaws), they are soon known by everyone.

We all know that most people cannot keep a secret, and digital technologies such as social media make their sharing that much faster and easier. Thus, these days there are no secrets, and implying that there are is incongruent with how people expect to be sold. 

Many buyers today know more than salespeople, because they have abundant access to information resources, including the wisdom of the digitally connected friends. This is why smart businesses treat their buyers as collaborators.  

The true differentiator these days is nearly always people – not products. So, stop selling and start collaborating. It’s one of the ways that social marketing works, and it naturally transcends to the selling process too.

#2 – It’s Making Transparency a Differentiator

While recently shopping for new business suits at a store that was new to me, I was almost, but not quite sold.

What I learned there we discussed at another store where I have been previously happy, but whose prices I was told were substantially higher – and they are. However, the reasons for that were later substantiated.

What impressed me was the salesperson knew his competitors products just as well as his own.

When you pull back the curtain to show it all – good and bad – you earn trust

After discussing product features, I was shared advance information about an upcoming sale, with those prices being still higher than I wanted to pay. However, other factors such as free alterations made a significant difference in my decision.

It’s interesting that I was just about ready to buy at the first store until I learned of the significant cost of alterations, and only at the very last minute. That small detail proved just enough to make me undecided.

Transparency means sharing it all. You may not be able to put a price to everything until your process goes the full distance, but the buyer should generally know what is coming so there are no surprises.

This may be the cardinal rule of selling in this connected environment where the choices are abundant. Compromising trust is like playing with fire.

Now that consumers know nearly as much as the business, they should be treated as equals, as partners.

Engaging buyers is a collaborative process and a means of differentiation, especially when other businesses are not doing so.

#3 – It’s Making Ideas Differentiators

The day of selling products and services is over. These days sales success is about selling ideas that reveal the true desires and fears buyers have – provided they are being honest.

When sales professionals ask good questions, they open doors for sharing ideas that earn the trust of their buyers. Make this part of your sales process.

Refuse to progress to the next step in your sales process until your’ve asked the questions that ensure you are aligned with your potential buyer.

If your price is higher than your competitors, you absolutely have to ask questions that allow you to sell the idea that paying a higher price is smart. Here are some suggestions for doing that.

  1. Discuss hidden variables that contribute to quality, but are often left out to reduce cost
  2. Be sure your buyer understands the risk of failure is often more than the cost of doing it again. It also includes the cost of removing or living with the fallout of the first result
  3. Sell your process for ensuring alignment with your buyer: before, during, and after the sale.
  4. Then encourage your buyer to ask for the process of any other company they are considering before making a final decision

Most small business do not have a reliable sales process, one that is written down, and readily available to everyone – including and especially the customer.

That process is more than a series of steps, it is a tangible structure that brings together the subtleties of people, transparency, and the ideas that align your business with its ideal buyers.

If you want to learn more about building your sales process, check out Chapter 9 of Built-In Social. Now available (and on sale) in audiobook by Audible.

About the Author:  Jeff Korhan, MBA, helps mainstream small businesses create exceptional customer experiences that accelerate business growth. Get more from Jeff on LinkedInTwitter and Google+.

Jeff is also the author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business – (Wiley 2013)

Photo Credit

Sell The Process that Sells Your Product

2013.6.24 Sell

In competitive markets the differentiation of products and services is challenging, with many consumers not able discern a noticeable difference.

This leads to commoditization and the aggressive price competition that naturally follows.

The solution is to develop a process that profiles the unique characteristics and capabilities of your company – then lead your selling with your process while using it to guide the efforts of your team.

Since most small businesses do not have a carefully designed and orchestrated sales process, yours may well become the ultimate differentiator.

When other companies are selling products, yours will stand out by taking the refreshing approach of selling how your business serves its customers.

Your Business Process Builds Confidence

Before buyers will engage in commercial transactions they want to know more about your business, and especially if it is capable of satisfying their needs and desires.

If your business has a process for creating exceptional customer experiences, it instantly becomes more attractive than its competitors. At the very least, this gives you a shot at every buyer’s business.

One of the greatest challenges for any small business is attracting the attention of buyers. In a world where free and easy access to information and pricing encourages commoditization, the one thing that can differentiate your business is how you work.

Zappos is known for having a culture that makes buying shoes and other retail items a delightful experience. Go ahead and pick up the phone and call them to see for yourself. There is no pressure at all to buy – just focused customer service to help you make a decision that is right for you.

Isn’t that what every buyer wants?

Refining Your Business Process

While a some people may initially disagree, the truth is potential buyers want businesses to take control of the selling process. This is only possible if your business has a process in place that leaves no doubt as to what is going to happen next, starting from the very first encounter.

While operating the landscape business that I founded, it took some time to develop a reliable process for selling high-end residential landscape projects because every client and project was unique.  Also, the practices that other businesses used focused on products, as opposed to the project design, which we believed was more relevant.

We indeed lost some viable prospects in the early stages by focusing on design because buyers were more interested in our products. However, by debriefing every single client meeting our process began to come together. Then selling became much easier – and a lot more fun.

To get started, I suggest listing your top 20 most successful projects, transactions, or business relationships, and break them down to reconstruct exactly what happened. Then contrast and compare to find the similarities and patterns that led to your success.

Embedded within your business successes is your natural sales process. It takes time to analyze it, and even more to orchestrate it into a flawless series of steps that actually becomes a guidance system for getting and keeping your sales team on track.

When you do that, you learn how to reliably earn the confidence of your buyer – right up to when you consummate the sale.

Name and “Sell” Your Business Process

What does it mean to sell the process?

First name your process to make it uniquely yours, and also create a graphic representation or “logo” of it to make it more tangible.

Our landscape process was The Intelligent Landscape System™. The word intelligence suggested we were taking a smarter approach, but in reality it also referred to understanding and working with the “Intelligence of Nature.”

Quite simply, when everyone else is selling their stuff, there is little or no differentiation, other than price of course.

However, for the buyer especially, it is refreshing when the business takes a different approach, by explaining how they can work together with buyers to take them on an enjoyable ride.

When you focus on the process that provides an exceptional experience for your buyer, the sale of products and services naturally become a byproduct.

It’s a new way of selling that happens to work nicely.

About the Author:  Jeff Korhan, MBA, helps mainstream small businesses create exceptional customer experiences that accelerate business growth. Get more from Jeff on LinkedInTwitter and Google+.

Jeff is also the author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business – (Wiley 2013)

Learn more about Jeff’s live programs on relationship selling for small business.

Photo Credit