There is no arguing that the internet has changed sales in a number of ways, however I do believe that a lot of that has been on the delivery side more than on the fundamentals of successful selling.
Looked at differently, if you sell a commodity, be it car insurance, wireless services or fasteners, the internet has provided efficiencies for both buyer and seller organisations, and has eliminated the need for sales people served in the process, much like robots in manufacturing.
But if you are a seller of a more involved or a layered sale (I never liked the notion of a “complex sale”, it is only complex till you figure it out and master executing it consistently), direct interaction between the buyer and seller will always be an irreplaceable truth. This is not to say that it has to be face to face, just direct contact.
Those of you who have read my posting here and on The Pipeline, know that I am not sentimental when it comes to “relationships”, to some mystical level, it is just that there are many things better sold directly. For some things the internet has not ushered in a new age, a Sales 2.0 if you will.
And while I read with some interest and amusement about this Sales 2.0 stuff I am curious when they will create a Buyer 2.0 to go along with it. At times I am so taken by the whole Sales 2.0 thing, that I am just rushing or is it gushing to work on and implement Sales 4.1.3; maybe by spring, with a patch coming in a couple of months; however for now let’s all work with the beta release.
Seriously, there are some things that the internet is great for, and others, it’s not. Having said that, let’s look at some ways one can use the internet to help you with sales or selling in a competitive B2B environment.
One of the most valuable and effective tools the internet presents is the email newsletters. While the concept of newsletters in and of itself is not new, the internet has elevated the medium to new levels of opportunity, while reducing the cost to more than manageable levels.
In the past it was a tool that was more effective on a broad company level, however now I recommend that every rep should be sending newsletter to their clients on at least a monthly basis, no matter how small their territory is. It is one of the most effective ways to continuously touch all your clients, from biggest to smallest. The key is having great email newsletter content and consistency or regularity.
A common challenge for sales is to have coverage across a rep’s account base, the reality is that reps tend to cover their top clients be they the top 20% or something in that neighbourhood. Due to physical realities the other accounts are often ignored, and we can have a whole other discussion on just this phenomenon, it is a reality.
However, newsletters can be a great way to maintain visibility and thought leadership with the rest of your base. A simple monthly update, containing useful information or data is a simple and cost effective way to keep you as a rep and your company front and centre.
The content can come from a number of sources, one is your own marketing group as long as it is not overly produced, promotional or salesy. If it informs while highlighting how your product and service fits in fine, however if it is all BUY ME BUY ME in neon pink, no. Could be tips, updates, how to, or best practices.
You can also access association sites for info or any of the many online e-news article sites to access industry experts with great stuff for most users.
The added benefit is that most internet based newsletter services provide the ability to see who has read which articles, when they read those articles, and how many times they read them. A real example, I had a sales rep with a large territory in western Canada launch a monthly newsletter.
In the second edition she published an article about a new process to packaging something for safer shipment. One of her products facilitated this process. A client she had not spoken to in almost a year read the article 5 times in two days and forwarded it to someone else in his company. After a quick call, she got a meeting, then the sale. Her commission on that sale will pay for her newsletters for at least the next 7 or so years.
Another way to use the internet to remain crucial to clients is to use webinars for updates and educational selling, make PowerPoints or tools available for download. Again these can be tracked and used to sell and other valuable purposes.
It goes without saying that the internet is a great lead generation and prospecting tool. You can even try pitching a guest post on your favourite sites. Going beyond the obvious things like LinkedIn or Google, there are the two things described above, webinars and downloads; the difference is that you ask non-clients to register as the cost of access. Which Legendary Actress has Lost the Best Actress Oscar a Whopping 18 times ?
Depending on your industry, you can use Monster to spot growth and change. I have an agent on Monster, and every time someone is looking for a sales rep or manager, I get an email, and they get a call, and I get deals. I am not sure if that is Sales 2.0, however it is a sale for me.
We talked about association and e-article sites above; you can contribute to those and draw an audience beyond your current visibility.
One last thing for those who are not bound by physical territory, it is the World Wide Web, and as such it is a good tool for sourcing business beyond the state line. Positioned properly, you, your product and company can use the internet to sell into specific markets and regions that would not be cost effective without the internet.
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