There’s no doubt that today’s buyers require immediately accessible information and sales interactions on their own terms. Customers often want the option of a comprehensive and valuable sales engagement with less dependency on human interaction. A recent survey by the Consumer Executive Board found that buyers are, at a minimum, 57 percent of the way through the buying process before they contact a potential supplier.
That means that the traditional buying cycle, from marketing to prospecting to proposing to even closing, is more and more digital. And while a wide array of sales tools is promising even greater efficiencies, research in 2017 by the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) and insidesales.com indicated that less than 60 percent of sales execs are hitting their quotas. How can sales results be declining despite all the advances in campaign automation, social selling, CRM add-ons and artificial intelligence?
A 2018 AA-ISP Executive Forum in San Diego discussed this very topic and may provide a glimpse into what some of the causes might be. Sales leaders from small to enterprise-wide organizations indicated that today’s generation of sales professionals are quite “digitally savvy” yet lacking on the side of human-to-human communication skills. Executives spoke about the need for more training on writing, verbal communications and even discovery and product demonstration calls. One senior executive from a Fortune 500 software firm noted, “We have had to actually teach verbal communicating skills and how to have a personal and engaging conversation as part of our new-hire onboarding process.”
On the buyer’s side, AA-ISP research indicates a growing requirement that sales reps provide valuable resources and a personalized, consultative approach if (and when) a decision maker chooses to engage with a rep. And despite great advances in dialer technologies, prospects and clients alike are more difficult to reach live. It wasn’t all that long ago when 15 percent of the phone dials you made would reach someone live. Today it is below five percent.
When you couple digital-selling preferences of buyers with the fact that people are harder to reach, the need for a more personalized and human sales interaction becomes very apparent. Mentioned earlier, prospects and clients alike are demanding that sales reps add value by first understanding their business while providing consultative value. So how then is this accomplished? Here is a summary of what sales professionals can do today to begin to “re-humanize” the selling process:
Begin to personalize in the early stages of prospecting. Today’s decision-makers get hundreds of “junk mails” and calls that just get deleted. A personalized email, voicemail or initial conversation which includes something meaningful about the person or company will increase your chances of starting up a human-to-human conversation. Instead of starting out with “Hi, this is Mary Smith from Acme Consulting,” start by asking about them. “Hi, this is Mary Smith with Acme Consulting, I noticed that you recently presented a webinar on the topic of employee engagement which I found interesting. That’s the reason I was calling you.” Making it about them will increase the odds of an ongoing conversation.
Understand before being understood
Know your customer’s business. In addition to finding out and using something personal when prospecting, it’s critical to become knowledgeable in the market of your prospect or client. Knowing your prospect’s or client’s space will help lend credibility to you as a resource.
That means shut up and listen. When speaking with your prospect and client, be sure to ask open-ended questions which indicate you are more interested in them than you are in telling them about how great your company is.
Get in their face
If you are an outside rep, you are already seeing your customer in person — or at least you should be. But if you want to have a digital or virtual meeting, make sure to use live video.
Seeing a person, and having them see you opens a whole new world, as opposed to conversations over phone, text or email. Live video is the next best thing to being there in person.
As reaching and communicating with prospects and clients alike becomes more and more digital, sales reps need to continue to find ways to “re-humanize” all aspects of the sales cycle. Besides the three tips shared above, there are many other ways to connect and keep it personal.
Remember people still buy from people. Re-humanizing your selling efforts will lead to more value to your customer and, ultimately, more sales for you.
Bob Perkins, Founder & Chairman, American Association of Inside Sales Professionals, [email protected]