Business hinges on the sales process. All this month, we are digging in deep to learn about the sales process and share some helpful sales tips. Today, we are offering you expert advice and sales tips from Outside Insights’ Jen Storey.
We at Quote Roller had a chance to talk with Jen Storey of Outside Insights about various aspects of the sales process. Jen has worked in start-ups, Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) listed companies and agencies, too – giving her a tremendous amount of knowledge about business across a broad spectrum of topics. She is also a corporate speaker, tutor, and trainer, versed in all things digital and social. Phew! Now let’s jump right in and talk about the sales tips she has to offer based on her 18 years of experience in the digital world.
The popular methodology of sales changes all the time — just think about how you originally learned to sell and compare that with how it happens now. No doubt, a lot has changed, hopefully evolved.
Nevertheless, the underlying concepts remain the same – and they have been such as they are for more than a hundred years. Although, at times, each part of the sale process goes differently from one industry to the next, the basic sales process is:
- Overcoming objections
The sales process has an inexorable link to the sales formula. Reduced to its most basic, elementary school form, the equation is:
Sales x Gross Margin – Costs = Profit (before taxes)
While it is very fashionable to refer to the last part of that formula as return on investment (ROI), a rose by another name is still a rose, and the ideal outcome for any successful sales effort is profitability.
With expert insights from Jen, let us look at the sales process, one-step at a time, and learn some helpful sales tips along the way.
In this world of brick and mortar, the greeting is often little more than “Hi, welcome to McDonald’s.” The visitor to McDonald’s knows that the restaurant is in the business of burgers and fries, and little other than a pleasant (albeit boilerplate) response is all that is necessary to make the guest feel reasonably welcome.
However, in the digital space, more explanation is necessary. The visitor has likely come to your site from a search query. This means that they are looking for something related to it. Your content should clearly tell them if you have what they came for, right off the top. You don’t know how many times us at Quote Roller come across official company webpages that just have a run-down countdown to an update, without even contact info. We believe it’s better to use your LinkedIn page, if you don’t have the time to create a website.
The next thing to do is to build rapport by briefly explaining your background and history of successes. Do not get too bogged down in the celebration, though, because, as we have previously covered, it is all about your customers (and what you can do to respond to their needs,) not you.
On the subject of getting the customer’s attention, Jen says, “There are so many businesses all vying for customers – standing out from the crowd is becoming increasingly difficult, especially for new businesses.”
“Businesses need to find a way to stand out from the ‘noise.’ get a customer’s attention and then, convince them to buy,” she says. “It is no longer just enough to be there online, a business needs to attract the attention of the right customers and then, be compelling enough to generate a sale and keep them either as a repeat customer, or as a source of customer referrals.”
In the over-saturated digital space, the greeting has to be great to attract the prospect’s attention. Whether it is a landing page or the introductory page of a proposal, you have to stand out from the crowd by being compelling and meaningful to your audience.
Qualification is the second essential step in the sales process. It is during this phase that your prospect will uncover whether or not you have what they need. Here, your approach should move from explaining your business broadly, to explaining your product or service specifically. As always, the content that you employ to do so should relate clearly to the prospect, and underscore the value to them in doing business with you.
Here, at the qualifying step, you are setting up the offer. Why will your offer benefit the customer? How can what your offer save them money? Time? How can you deliver better than the competition? Delivering answers to questions such as these is what qualifying is all about.
Invite the lead to fill in the form. This is where the prospect really becomes a lead – the selling happens off the page, with personalized follow up.
If you have seen any page relating to a service industry lately, you have probably noted that there is less and less “click here to buy,” and a lot more “click here to talk to us” on the web. That is because personalization is critical. The modern buyer has been so inundated with cold sales techniques (“click here to buy”) that smart money is on avoiding overt sales altogether. At this point in the sales process, what you are offering is the chance to become a true, qualified lead.
Jen has a great sales tip that touches on the state of the modern Internet consumer, which is worth bearing in mind when referencing personalization: “I think it goes beyond personalization. We are talking about individualization. We are at the stage, or very close to, having everything refined down to that level,” she says.
Jen warns that this can come at a cost though. “If Google knows all that it does about you and only serves your search results and ads based on that information, how will you ever discover new things?” Jen says, “One of the pure joys of the Internet is discovering new things; things you did not know existed five minutes ago. You can get ‘lost’ in a new blog, a new publication or, a new store. You learn new things by following a link in an article and end up somewhere new and amazing,”
With that in mind, give your customers something to latch onto, something memorable, and action-worthy. Give them a reason to accept your offer.
The next part can get a little hectic and frustrating. This is where you contact the prospective lead to discuss their needs and concerns. Often, this is the time when objections appear. If that happens, you have to hear them out and work to overcome them.
One of the ways that this comes to be is through email marketing. Done right, email can be an extremely successful means of keeping customers in the sales funnel, while learning what objections they have. In other cases, you will learn that you are wasting your efforts on someone who reports you as spam, as you will hear never hear anything from them. That is a sure sign that they will not convert to a sale. However, email is a great way to keep the channels of communication open, and uncover (and overcome) any objections the customer might have. There has to be a balance.
Jen cautions us here with another sales tip, as consumers are increasingly less sensitive to marketing emails. She urges us to use some email etiquette with sales messages.
“Email stalking is an increasing problem. It is indicative of our ‘subscription-based’ world – everyone wants your email address,” she says, “and you just know you are going to be hassled, in some way, if you hand it out. Hand on heart – who does not have an email account that they use for the sites that they suspect will be spammy? Everyone does!”
To avoid being shoved into that spammy column, Jen suggests that “rather than just sending out offer after offer or blanket emails, try to target specific customers. A business should feel privileged that a customer has graciously given their email address.” And even if you’re using a flash email, at least try to make it personal with addressing them to each person — most CRMs can do that for you.
Jen says to put yourself in the shoes of your customer before hitting send, asking yourself “How would I react to this email?” The emails should look to spark a collaborative action from the client, whether it sparks a new partnership or just asks the customer more questions, so you can provide more meaningful offers and communication.
The final step in our simplified sales process is the closing of the sale. This is where the conversion happens. The lead becomes a customer, and your business delivers its service. Bringing the sales process to a close means asking for the sale. After all, this is the reason for the lead generation effort and sales process, and without this final step, your efforts will have been in vain.
One of the most helpful sales tips I have ever heard is: It is not a sale until you ask for the close.
And if the answer is Yes, remember, it’s only the beginning of your sales relationship — now it’s time to deliver on everything before.
The sales formula
When asked about the role of the sales formula in the digital space, Jen is quick to point out that many businesses are putting their hard-earned dollars into campaigns, sales efforts, and proposal opportunities with wanton disregard for the fundamental principle that creates the need for selling: profitability.
“I’ve been using the phrase Dot-com Boom 2.0 for about four years now. I still believe that crash time is coming possibly because the signs are there, the same as they were for the Dotcom Boom 1.0 crash,” she says. Probably referencing Facebook, among others, Jen continues saying, “We are increasingly seeing billion-dollar sales prices for companies that are barely turning over millions. You cannot have a business without a business model. An idea is not a business model.”
“When I see the business plans of start-ups I always skip to the ‘ramp’ – the bit where suddenly spending $1 million will generate $8 million in sales. It is always a vertical line and it is in every pack I see. And, usually it is wildly unrealistic,” she says.
Businesses need to frame everything around the ultimate goal of being profitable – right down to the penny.
“Maybe because I am an old-school marketer or, because I have been there and done that – but every investment should have a measurable return. Just what you are measuring, is key: it may be new customers, it may be brand awareness, it may be attracting talented staff – but everything dollar spent in a business needs to be spent to show a return. And, what that return is should vary depending on the business,” Jen says.
How does your company shape its efforts around the sales process?
If there’s a weak link in your sales chain, you might not be getting the results you really could. No matter how cutting-edge, new, or novel your business is, sales is a constant that should be informing not only your proposals, but also every action your team takes.
Jen leaves us with one final sales tip (and it’s a goodie!): “Be honest. Remember that no one is really an expert. What you have done before may not work again. The glorious thing about the digital space is that every day is different. Every company is different. And, every day there is something new.”
She concluded our interviewing saying that, “Working in the digital space is not for the faint-hearted. You have to be ready to start all over again, almost every year, sometimes, every month. The space changes too rapidly, it can be tiring to keep up. However, for so many of us, this is what makes our brains happy. It’s the challenges that this sort of environment creates that appeal to the real digital worker.”
Now, those are words to live by.
Is your business getting winning results from its sales process? How do you work within the digital space?