Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Selling in the 21st Century

Selling has changed considerably in the last 10 years. Start-ups have embraced this change because they have to. Older companies are just starting to understand it. This change in driving business, has been brought about to a large extent by the movement away from the concept of “Web 1.0” to “Web 2.0”. The major difference in these two concepts is the Web 1.0 was a more traditional push-pull approach. The idea was to attract eyes to your website and then provide value. This is an electronic form of print advertising, except that there is a lot more real estate to use and a wider geographic distribution. Web 1.0 didn’t fundamentally change sales methodologies. Prospects were attracted to the website, were then pre-qualified by filling out a form and passed to sales as a lead.

Web 2.0 changes that dynamic. Web 2.0 is interactive. The website visitor can change the content by commenting on it. They can add their own spin. Two prospects can debate benefits and add insight for each other. Many Web 2.0 demonstration sites allow the viewer to interact with the demo by inputting their own data. They can have a dialogue with the presenter if there is one. Fundamentally, a prospect can experience the first 2 or 3 steps of the sales cycle without engaging a live person. When the lead gets to sales, the prospect is much more informed and qualified.

Using blogs, twitters and wikis as part of the marketing and sales strategy has become more commonplace. Letting the marketplace create marketing content through interaction provides deeper insight. Sales has to adjust to this new medium. As the prospects and client collaborate on new ideas and approaches, Sales has to keep up. No longer can they rely on marketing material printed annually for their source of information. Smart sales people have their own blogs and twitters. They are engaging their market to build relationships and find opportunities. Social networks can provide new knowledge on personalities, backgrounds, priorities. Reference selling through social networks is a growing tool.

Hiring salespeople with a defined rolodex and an aptitude for cold calling is old school and ineffective. There are just too many screening processes available to the prospect. The average buyer in inundated with spam and junk e-mail, not to mention telemarketing calls. They have e-mail filters and incoming call identification to help them manage unwanted interruptions.

Times have changed and companies must change with them. Take the time to reevaluate the interaction between clients, marketing and sales. Look for sales people who have embraced the new technologies and know how to use them to drive performance. Have they defined their social networks and do they know if and how these networks affect their performance.

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