Selling is more difficult than ever because the rules of the game have changed. But few people and companies have evolved. When you try to sell in 2018’s economy using a sales process from 1996, you’re bound to be disappointed with your results.
How It Used To Be
Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always been able to sell, and that continued into my very first big-boy job, The Good Guys, where I sold computers. Sales seemed simple back then. People walked in, I talked and educated them, and they bought or didn’t buy. Today, it may feel like selling Apple computers would be easy, but in 1996, Apple computers were not cool. Everyone wanted this brand-new thing called a Pentium processor. But Intel was not offering a contest, and Apple was, so I talked to hundreds of people and sold as many Apple computers as I could. I even sold one to my grandma because they were good computers and I wanted to win.
Selling in 1996 was different than it is today. In 1996, the internet was really just starting out, and pretty much no one was using it. Even when someone did use it, the information available was minimal, to say the least. So, when a family wanted a new computer, they didn’t research it on the internet; they came in and let some 16-year-old kid tell them what RAM was or how much hard drive space they needed. Of course, like any good salesperson, I also had to make them aware it would be a travesty for them to not buy the five-year warranty on this piece of equipment they didn’t understand.
Think about how different that was from today. In 1996, I was the internet for Apple computers. I was the place people came to for information to make purchasing decisions. Prospects needed me in order to buy.
How It Is Now
Today, prospects have already researched the products they want and the needs they have. They educate themselves on what RAM is or how big of a hard drive they need. Of course, many products still need salespeople, but the prospects are much smarter today than they were 20 years ago.
So, why do we keep selling as if it is 20 years ago?
Prospects walk in with a base level of education. Now, it may be internet-based education, which isn’t always reliable, but they don’t know that.
A 3-Pronged System For Your Sales Process In Today’s Economy
To sell anything complicated or expensive to a prospect today, the prospect must meet their internal personal sales threshold in three areas.
First, they must believe that your product or service is not garbage and that it can help them.
Second, they must believe that you are a good salesperson and also not garbage. They need to know you will help them before and after the sale.
Third, they must believe that the company they own or work for is not garbage and will stand behind whatever they buy.
You have to achieve each person’s minimum sales threshold on all three fronts to even have a prayer of selling anything to them.
How To Apply The System
Think of these three areas as a points-based system. Each area has a maximum of 10 points, and each person has an unknown minimum number of points for each area that you must hit in order for them to close and become a customer. You have to increase your points in each area if you want people to buy from you.
For example, Jim might feel your company’s reputation is good and give you eight points there. Jim thinks you have the product that will solve his problem, so you get nine points there, but you’re a jerk, so you only get three points, and you aren’t closing a sale.
Of course, it makes sense that your salesperson needs to be likable. Let me show you another example.
Jim now gives you 10 points and the product nine points, but when he Googles you, he sees you have horrible reviews and your company gets one point. Do you think Jim is buying anything from you?
You have to meet a person’s threshold in all three areas or you’re screwed.
Unfortunately, the two examples I just gave are easy scenarios. Most of the time, it isn’t that black and white. Most of the time, the scenario looks much more like this.
Jim is considering the product you sell and three other competitor products. Jim gives you six points, the company five points, and the product 5 points. He is, in essence, sitting on the fence.
After you chat with Jim and he leaves, you make one follow-up call and never contact Jim again — except with promotional emails.
What do you think that does to your overall points each week and month that passes? You see, Jim is trying to make a large purchase, and when he first reached out, he wasn’t 100 percent ready to buy because he was gathering intel on all the companies to make an informed decision, and your actions (really, your inaction) informed Jim that you were not the company to buy from.
How To Raise Your Score
What Jim needs is some TLC, but you were still selling like it is 1996.
You’d think that all the information at everyone’s fingertips would speed up the sales process — and for some low-ticket commodity items, it has — but in larger purchases, in many instances, it has slowed down the buying process.
Selling to Jim today requires that you follow up and nurture him. It requires that you build a relationship and educate him. You need to show that you have his best interest at heart and that you’re a good person and work for or own a good company.
With all the options on the market, including the option of doing nothing if you don’t follow up long-term (possibly for years depending on your product or service), you’ll get nowhere. Just because people inquire doesn’t mean they are ready to buy. They may still be in the research phase, and maybe they wanted to get some information from you, so it’s so important to follow up.
If you want to gain points for your company and/or as a salesperson, you have to let the prospect peek behind the curtain to get to know you both personally and professionally. Share wins and customer success stories, communicate your guarantees and stay top of mind, or you’re going to win fewer deals. Two-thirds of winning any deal is making people trust you and your company, but so little time is spent on these areas of selling. We all focus on the features and benefits of our products and services, so it’s no surprise that people don’t buy from you or your team when that’s how you sell.
Surviving Today’s Economy
Adjusting to selling in the new economy isn’t easy, but that’s what needs to happen to win. Small business is being assaulted on all fronts, but small businesses aren’t adjusting. They are simply losing market share, accepting lower profits, and complaining about competition and the internet.
Consistent personal contact, such as a newsletter, is a great way to build those relationships, nurture prospects and customers, make offers, and stand out from the competition. This is one way you move a prospect’s internal threshold. Think about it. Owning a piece of media like a newsletter allows you to create content that builds trust between you and your company by offering personal stories and customer success stories. It also allows you a place to get the message out about your product or service. All of this has the benefit of moving those prospects closer and closer to a 10 in each category. The way we sell has to shift; the question is, are you willing to take control and shift with it for 2018?