The latest string of high profile high street store closures, including Carpet Right, New Look and Mothercare, herald the official start of the UK high street crisis. Whilst there are some practical reasons these brick and mortar retailers have not been able to survive – squeezed incomes, rising overheads and increasing debt - nowadays, shoppers demand flexibility and freedom of choice. These are two areas where, by comparison to physical stores, e-commerce has prevailed.
As consumer shopping habits change, so too do sales peoples’ jobs. Making cold calls to get a ‘foot in the door’ takes up less of the day as sales teams transition to catering to consumers’ new shopping habits. If your sales teams are still relying exclusively more traditional sales strategies, it may be time to mix it up and take e-commerce into consideration.
Here are a few important areas to focus on when preparing your sales team for this change.
Building a sales team to cope with e-commerce technology
Despite what its name suggests, successful e-commerce cannot rely solely on technology. A solid online sales strategy needs people to create and implement it, and that involves plenty of staff training. It’s particularly important to make sure that training is readily available for current employees so that they’re used to all the company’s current systems and the various functions that they offer to salespeople. This means that they can adequately train any new hires.
When making new hires, prioritise candidates who are technologically literate and data-driven. Any new hires should bring in new ideas and fresh insight to your sales strategy and, nowadays, that includes how to best harness e-commerce.
Adapting to changing buying habits
With customers constantly having improved internet access, coupled with decreasing postage costs, e-commerce now provides shoppers with the flexibility and freedom that they need. This makes it a certainty that internet-based sales transactions will continue to grow.
Some e-commerce sites have played this to their advantage – Amazon, for example, uses the data it collects on customers to be more suggestive, offering similar products that they think you would be interested in buying based on the products that you’ve already bought. This makes shopping faster and easier for the shopper, without being too aggressive.
Moving away from aggressive sales techniques, towards inbound, needs-based selling
Aggressive sales techniques have always been the fastest way to alienate a potential customer. This is something to be particularly wary of when your customers are online, as it’s never been easier for them to just leave your website and shop elsewhere.
Aggressive approaches, including cold calls and spam emails, go against the very principles that make online shopping the chosen route for consumers today - it deprives them of control and forces them to engage with you on your terms, which is often inconvenient for them. Using data-driven marketing and sales tools, you can easily target your customers in less obtrusive and more convenient ways – increasing your chances of them purchasing the product they want from you.
Using data to make more informed decisions and support greater personalisation:
Data analysis is a crucial element of any effective sales strategy. By gathering the right information and extrapolating the relevant insights, you can yield huge dividends for your company.
Software is your best friend when it comes to these efforts. Once you’ve generated leads, customer relationship management (CRM) and business intelligence (BI) applications can show you relevant information, including how they first engaged with your brand, what they’re buying, and the business that they work in.
You can also use this data to close deals. Knowing what your customers buy during certain times or seasons can help the business to understand its clientele, launch perfectly timed promotions and enable them to get repeated custom.
When you understand your prospects’ interest in your brand, you can send them information that will help them buy faster. You can also send them more personalised and relevant promotions on other platforms including e-mail and social media.
Using a combination of marketing and sales to ‘guide’ your customers to your solution:
Consumers do not rely on salespeople for research anymore and are increasingly autonomous in this respect. Where they would once look to sales assistants to find the product that would best fit their needs, they now do their own market research via Google. As a result, shoppers often complete up to 90% of a sales journey before they even make it to the vendor website. The modern sales person’s job is to make sure your company is the one they reach out to when they’re ready to complete their purchase. This requires data analytics, digital marketing and online sales tracking abilities that go beyond just persuading a customer that what you’re offering is the best.
The role of a sales person has changed significantly since the rise of e-commerce. They must be data driven and intuitive, understanding the customer’s shopping journey, in order to yield significant results.