Technology helps salespeople do many things more efficiently, but to seal the deal, we must put away our toys to have a real conversation. Joanne Black, who was recently featured in the Hayzlett Book Club with her book “Pick Up The Damn Phone!”, explains more.
By Joanne S. Black
Woody Allen said that 80 percent of success is showing up. We show up a lot differently today than when he made that quip. We show up in person and online. But the goals are still the same—to develop connections and build relationships. Even with whisper-light computing power and immediate, 140-character Twitter posts, people still buy from people, not from technology.
Experts have been quick to tell us that technology has changed everything about how we sell. And I was one of the first to scream: “No, no, no!”
Technology has certainly changed how we conduct research on prospects. It’s also changed how they gather information about our companies and what they expect from us. And let’s face it: If you’re not active on social media, you’re hanging out in the last century. However, our smartest, tried-and-true business-development, lead-generation, deal-closing tool is and has always been ourselves. And that’s not going to change anytime soon—if ever
So what do salespeople need to know in order to succeed in today’s technology-driven world?
You’re Smarter Than Your Buyer
In some ways, technology has changed the dynamic of our client relationships. They no longer need us to provide information about our companies or our products and services. Buyer 2.0 is very good at homework. Before contacting us, prospects have usually checked out our websites, compared pricing, read a white paper or two, listened to a webinar, and/or viewed a demo. They’ve also researched what other people have to say about our companies—and our competition.
But information isn’t knowledge. Knowledge comes with wisdom, experience, and a clear vision of the big picture—which is exactly what great salespeople have to offer.
Our prospects and clients come to us with problems. They’re often unclear about exactly what’s causing their pain or how to alleviate it. That’s why they need us. We know our industries, our products, and most importantly, our clients. By asking the right questions and applying our vast experience, we can help them find the right solutions—not what they think they need, but what will actually deliver the ROI they want.
Social Networking and Social Selling Aren’t the Same Thing
Has social media changed the way we sell? Yes and no. Social selling enables us to more effectively gather information, conduct research, and identify connections. It also simplifies the early stages of our sales processes, enabling us to quickly assess a buyer’s qualifications and spend less time on unproductive prospecting. But social networks are not the place to connect with or pitch prospects who don’t know us and have no desire to hear from us.
Social media is an invaluable sales tool, as long as we understand the parameters. It serves these purposes only:
- Researching new or potential clients
- Learning more about the networks of those in your social networks
- Identifying the strongest connections to your hot prospects
- Building a community of loyal customers
- Positioning yourself as an expert
- Search engine optimization
Then it’s time to log off the computer and pick up the phone. At the end of the day, it’s not social intelligence we need. Relationship intelligence seals the deal.
Relationships Still Power Our Lives—and Our Sales
Top salespeople understand that selling requires building strong relationships with clients—relationships based on mutual respect and trust. And with few exceptions, this cannot be done online.
Most sales reps now prefer to communicate digitally with clients and prospects. I get the appeal. It’s quick and easy, and many of us are more comfortable hiding behind a screen than actually talking to someone. But digital communication is also impersonal, disconnected, and very limited in its ability to convey real emotion or to foster real relationships.
Whether your company is ultrahigh tech or low tech, the most important business buying decisions are still based on personal relationships. Your customers buy from you because they like and trust you—or because someone they like and trust referred you.
For sales organizations, this is really good news. Because referral selling is, hands down, the most effective and least expensive way to attract and retain new clients.
Most buyers start out by conducting online research, but after they’ve done their homework, where do they turn for help narrowing down the options? They ask people they trust who they trust.
Think about it. Would you prefer to do business with:
- Someone who reached out to you via a cold call, or
- Someone you met through a friend or colleague with whom you have an established, respected relationship?
That’s the power of referral selling—the only prospecting strategy where you:
- Get every meeting at the level that counts,
- Arrive pre-sold, having already earned trust and credibility,
- Shorten your sales process,
- Eliminate sales and marketing costs, and
- Convert prospects into clients more than 50 percent of the time.
It’s really a no-brainer. While your competition is still playing around on social media, trying to identify the decision-maker, you’re in the conference room sealing the deal.
Bottom line: It’s our job to make connections that matter. Those connections are cemented with phone calls or in-person meetings, not with status updates. That’s right—it’s still people, not technology, that seal the deal.
About the Author
Joanne Black is America’s leading authority on referral selling—the only business-development strategy proven to convert prospects into clients more than 50 percent of the time. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and author of NO MORE COLD CALLING™: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust and Pick Up the Damn Phone!: How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal. To learn more, visit www.NoMoreColdCalling.com. Follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.