In part I we explored how well aligned sales and buying processes were just 10 years ago. We also explored the rapidly widening gap between the two in the last 5 years and how consumer and corporate buyers alike explore, select and buy products or services today. Selling into a highly connected business society has changed. 9 month ago I began to work on two cases, realigning sales.
Here is what hasn’t changed:
1) We still need to find potential customers who are “in the market” and explore products or services for their personal or business life.
2) We still want to be first if a prospect is in the market – or even before he or she is “looking” to increase our chance to be the selected product, solution or service.
3) We still compete for mind and market share
Obviously the business aspects of making a profitable deal and ensuring service cost is not exceeding profit is no different than it was.
Whether the above concept is right for you and your business is not the question. The more important question is: “Do you routinely review the alignment between how you sell and how your customers buy or want to buy?
About 9 month ago…
…I began to work with two open minded companies and sales teams to create a new alignment between buying and selling. After discovering the disconnect between buying and selling (see Part I), we tried to connect the new dots. Making a couple month long story short we created a new sales process chart that is in synch to the new buying pattern.
Instead of cold calling and email bombardment the inside sales team began to use social media monitoring to identify people who are looking for specific solutions / products. The “lead qualification process” which was created in the days when the company received on average 100 inquires for information a week, was actually retired. The new “lead identification process” is now done by social media monitoring. After a few month it moved from the presales team to marketing.
What was “introduction” where the pre sales teams tried to introduce the company and their wares has moved from the cold calling or old stiff introduction process with sending materials and nurturing the lead to an all new “Community Introduction Process”. In the old process it was hard to identify if the customer is just starting to look around or has already a good idea what he or she wants. Most of the times emails, letters and phone conversations were very professional, meaning formal and almost instantly created that “Buying / Selling” scenario which more often than not indicates building up your “position”. The new “Community Introduction Process” introduces a prospect very early on to one of the customers who can be found in the social web and freely discuss their opinion and experience.
If the prospect is now exploring the respective alternatives the old reference selling model with typically one to three references is now turned into a “massive reference model” the more customers advocate the company’s product the more likely the prospect will become a customer too. The big learning here: “The Customer” is not the “decision maker” or “economic buyer” but the actual user or beneficiary of the product or solution. As such the sales teams failed to convince the “buyer” to advocate the product. But the actually users already talked about it here and there.
Personal Sales Engagement
The above “crowd based” support in the sales process is equally the support of the buying process. That alignment made all the difference. Once the prospect feels well in the “community” the actual selling process is less of a convincing from the sales team but more a guidance selecting the right options, service components or other variations then the old “SELLING” that almost always put seller and buyer into a confrontational position were both FIGHT for the best deal. Still in the end the negotiation will happen but both parties are now in a very different position and highly educated position. A mutually profitable deal is simply more likely to happen.
The new day to day inside sales job
The inside sales teams are now spending 2 hours a day with prospects in the social web. They visit between 40 and 100 prospects daily on Facebook, LinkedIn, SlideShare, YouTube, Google and Yahoo Groups (very much depending on where their customers are). They know what’s on their customers mind and know when there is a time to be helpful and when there is the time to contact by phone or making an appointment. In one case it started as an experiment with two out of 23 inside sales people doing this for 20 minutes a day. From 8:00am to 8:20 am – we have the social minutes window; a concept we just publicly launched this week for everybody to experiement with. Over time more people joined and today it is about two hours a day visiting a total of 2,000 clients per week. It is still an experiment but we see early successes because the team is reaching more people faster and more easily and the number of confirmed appointments is twice as high as it was in the past. Those appointments seem to have a higher close rate. But it is a bit too early to draw a definitive conclusion. Both companies are on the B2B side of the world with sales cycles in the 3 – 5 month range.