Is it possible to ruin the sales relationship through digital communication?
If you are having conversations with your sales team about sales relationships, then you are potentially missing the key changes in the buyer process of today’s new world market.
For decades the conversation of relationships in selling has been at the forefront of priorities. Any action that could ruin the sales relationship raised alarm bells across the company. Today, the sales relationship no longer has the strength and reliability that supported salespeople in the past. Customers have different buying processes, and many companies are still attempting to apply sales tactics and relationship values that are superseded.
The digital age has changed how customers purchase like no other time in history. Their access to knowledge, their evaluation and decision-making processes, and importantly their ability to internally define solution options is controlled by the customer now. The customer is nearly finished buying before a salesperson is even aware they are in the market buying. In fact, salespeople are unaware that the customer is even in the market buying as customers often do their first phases by stealth. This changes the landscape and with digital marketing managing more of the relationship and interaction it reduces the risk of salespeople actions that ruin the sales relationship.
This is having a huge impact on sales results as sales directors scramble to meet the challenges of the market and are often left floundering against the forecasted sales revenue requirements. In a review of sales results delivered for FY2016 – over 72% of Australian sales forces failed to meet their revenue targets, attaining just 82% of their goals.
Without intervention and the creation of a more agile sales and marketing organisation, sales directors will again be challenged to deliver revenue in FY2017. For companies that have minimal marketing activity, they will find themselves left on the bench as competitors take control of the market. New products applied with the past sales and marketing approaches are just not going to breakthrough. New markets become even more challenging and increasing market share through new customer acquisition may be negligible.
The reliance on salespeople carrying brochures and leaving product sheets behind with customers is a legacy that no longer carries success. Buyers have established internal buying processes that minimise being influenced by relationships with salespeople, even with your existing customer base. Sales are about solutions and buyers are not communicating their problems to salespeople as openly as they have done in the past. They find solution options before sharing their thoughts with salespeople, again to minimise the risk of being influenced to make a poor decision.
The digital age is affecting both marketing and sales. Marketing’s role has shifted from branding, public relations creating awareness and promotion to a process of generating awareness, proposing solution options and managing the customers to the point of engagement with salespeople.
Buyers today go to the internet to research business solutions long before they will speak with a sales person. The website and marketing must do the legwork now.
A strong presence on the internet that is carefully managed through search engine optimisation is part of the equation. The ability for marketing to reach out to target audiences and draw them to the website even more critical. With buyers focused on research, the rise of content marketing has become the silent salesperson for companies. The ability to engage people to interact with your company through the website and nature those buyers to become a shortlisted solution option.
In the past few years, the focus of solutions to these challenges has shifted. Sales training has become redundant for many companies as this is a Band-Aid approach that will not resolve the problem. Marketing pushing out traditional campaigns is also struggling to gain return-on-investment. Solutions are coming from an understanding of marketing and sales integration and realignment of systems and processes, management methodologies, and strategy implementation to embrace the new market.
For buyers, the key now is to have a deeper understanding of the challenges and issues before attempting to make changes and improvements. The wrong choice of a solution can have disastrous effects on a company’s revenue.
I recently reviewed a manufacturing company that had embarked on a change programme led internally. The original diagnoses of the problems were not correct, and the investment of $200,000 has led them to a place that is worse than where they started. The fall-out being good salespeople leaving the company, marketing unable to function, and customers feeling the pain of constant change in their interaction with the company; the results being to ruin the sales relationship. The company revenues had fallen from 12% behind sales goals to a commercially unacceptable 34% behind sales goals in just a one year period.
To discuss more about transforming your marketing and sales, please contact the office to discuss how we can assist you to minimise the risk of the business operating inadvertently to ruin the sales relationship.
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