How to sell in the digital age
Over the last five years, a key element of my role at Maximizer has been to help smooth the company’s transition from a provider of ‘traditional’ client server-based CRM software to the latest Cloud solutions. This has involved transforming just about every aspect of day-to-day operations, not merely the technology itself – and one of the most noticeable changes is in our approach to selling.
What’s clear is that there’s been a fundamental shift away from outbound sales techniques and the ‘hard sell’ – cold calling, for instance. In fact I would say that the challenge for businesses like ours today is to sell without selling; modern consumers are simply turned off by what are perceived as old-fashioned methods, preferring to deal with suppliers who let them control the pace and direction of their buying journey.
This trend is part of the growing appetite for engagementrather than overt promotion, in both the B2B and B2C spheres. People are seeking moreauthentic, personalised and emotional connectionswith their chosen brands, which of course is partially driven by the immediacy of the online world. A Forbes article recently stated that over 60% of Millennials “are more likely to become brand loyal if a company engages with them, sincerely, on social media.”We’ve seen at first hand how the company website, blog, peer review sites, comparison sites and social media platforms have all risen in prominence and act as information sources for potential customers. They are likely to hold far greater sway these days than anything sent to them directly by a traditional sales rep.
So what does this mean in practice? Firstly, we’ve given marketing a far greater role, with the emphasis firmly on driving inbound leads - for instance through SEO and industry events - and engagement techniques that portray the company as thought-leaders. People willingly exchange their contact details for content and advice that is genuinely useful, such as eBooks on topical industry themes or free consultancy sessions. Also, attracting leads in this way is a must in the GDPR-era of tightened data privacy, as I discussed in my blog last month.
Secondly, it’s been imperative to modernise the sales team’s practices and an important element of this is working in tandem with marketing. That is quite a significant change in mindset for many companies. Sales representatives have a part to play in raising the profile of the company (and indeed themselves) as thought-leaders, taking an active role in hosting webinars for instance, or feeding ideas for content to their marketing colleagues and optimising the value of every report, eBook, case study or social media post. Certainly they should aspire to be perceived as a valued consultant in the eyes of their colleagues and contacts.
Thirdly, every member of staff needs to have a service and customer-orientated attitude if we are to create long-term, strong relationships based on trust. We set up a Customer Success team to keep in regular touch with customers through in-depth account reviews; this can also be considered part of the way we sell our services and engage with customers today. Frequently these reviews identify additional customer needs, which are passed on to their account manager.
As we’ve seen at Maximizer, today’s new rules of engagement are a positive step at both an organisational and individual level. When prospects do reach out, they are further along in their decision-making and leads are easier to convert – in other words, the sales cycle is shorter. Our collective role is about adding value and nudging prospects along their journey with helpful, timely interactions. Sales effort is more targeted, more thoughtful, more productive and more attuned to customer experience.
Of course, as a CRM provider, keeping ahead of the curve in sales, marketing and service - and using our own software to support best-practice processes in each – is vital if we are to help our customers do the same. CRM is a powerful tool to bridge the gap between teams, enabling improved collaboration and more personalised communications based on a rounded, data-driven view of the customer. What’s more, GDPR compliance relies on this centralised approach to data management.
One of our customers in the financial services sector recently transitioned from using spreadsheets to a CRM and testifies: “Simply by using the same system, the relationship managers have gained new-found visibility of the campaigns that their marketing colleagues are running. They can see who’s opened emails, on which themes, and use these insights to dictate the timing of their follow-up and to inform the content of their conversations.”
The way our company as a technology-led SME sells its solutions – and the dynamic between our teams - has changed radically over recent years and continues to evolve. Whatever the balance of responsibilities within your company, our experience shows that pulling together to embrace the move towards engagement and get closer to your customers is a prerequisite for success today.
Mike Richardson - Managing Director, Maximizer EMEA
As Managing Director (EMEA), Mike is charged with leading and delivering the marketing, sales, service and operational strategy for the EMEA region, alongside the management of the Certified Solutions Provider network.
Mike joined Maximizer Software in 2000, by which time he...