By Marty D. Blake, Chief Operating Officer, Optimé International Inc.
EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED. BUT THAT’S NOT NEW.
The biggest change in, and challenge to our industry, is the foundation that will dominate everything else as we enter this new decade – technology. Of course – this may not seem much different to the decades before. But it really is. Perhaps it’s not so much ‘technology’ that is transforming how we work, but ‘connectivity’. At the beginning of this past decade, in 2010, according to Statista.com, there were just under one billion social network users worldwide. They estimate that by the end of the year 2020, that number will have risen by 300% to three billion and I think they may be underestimating that number. To look at those numbers in a different way, Pew Research claims that seven out of every ten Americans (that number is slightly higher in Canada), use social media to connect with one another, shop, do research, engage with news content, share information and entertain themselves.
IT’S ALL ABOUT CONNECTIVITY – WITHOUT ANY CONNECTION
What this means, is that we have the ability to connect and to gain knowledge at an extraordinary rate. With this rapid-fire knowledge, comes the ability and human tendency to form opinions, right or wrong very quickly – and to make choices based on those opinions. In sales, this demonstrates itself in our processes and tools – such as CRM which enables us to track clients, long before they become clients and that tracking is at a phenomenal depth. It was designed to create a greater intimacy between the buyer and seller – but in many ways, it has the opposite effect. Our reliance on automated knowledge gathering has created a distance between the two, to the point where that personal touch is being lost.
Just last week, I was being given a demo (because I had reached out and asked for one) on a popular CRM/Marketing platform where the representative was eager to show me how they have been tracking my activity, relative to their offerings, for a few months now. They knew every time I had visited their website – and how I had interacted with it. They knew where I had been on social media – and had been able to build quite a robust profile for me with just a few clicks. They had stored our website address, along with each of my social media profiles. An algorithm had even given them a percentage score of how likely I would be to ‘convert’ (or buy) to one of their offerings. And I had NEVER spoken to them. Just my quiet surfing had given them access to so much of me. But – never once had they reached out to speak to me. To ask what my goals were – and how they might be able to work with me to build a solution. It was only a click-bait scenario that generated an email, followed five minutes later by a phone call to me.
BUT YOU DON’T KNOW ME
So at this crossroad, the tools and technology that the seller was using to generate mass efficiencies in tracking leads for their offering, and the tools and technology (me and my laptop) that I was using to find a solution to a set of goals that I have, collided – somewhere in cyberspace. Our respective technologies had formed a solid bond. The person at the call centre who called me and I had never met – and likely never would. Both of us had already formed an opinion about the other. I had read all of their online reviews and sat in on chat groups describing their experiences with the platforms – and they, with their algorithms and automated search engines had already sized me up as a potential buyer.
There is no denying that the way we sell to buyers has changed. In my last two posts I likened the balance of power in a buy/seller relationship to a pendulum swing from the seller to the buyer over the last century. What we are seeing now is a recalibration of that knowledge to put both parties on equal footing – but with a much larger online traceable footprint in terms of knowledge, understanding and connectedness (or, disconnectedness, depending on how you view it) coming into the relationship.
What does that mean for sales teams and their leaders? It means that it is absolutely critical that technology and its tools, such as CRM and social media, become integral in your processes so that when you go knocking on a door – they trust you to come in. You will be vetted, reviewed and analyzed based on your online presence before you even get to the door – so you had better make sure your digital profile is worthy of an answer to your knock. But when you get there, the door is answered. Put down the device and listen to the person on the other side.
Check out www.optime.com to find more tools and tips to take your sales organization from good to outstanding.
Good luck and good selling!