Whether you are selling a product or services, from a storefront or website, B to B or directly to consumers, sales is a key component of any enterprise. With that in mind, this article focuses on some recent trends in sales and marketing.
SELLING EXPERTISE: Conventional wisdom says that it takes an average of 11 contacts with a potential customer before a sale is made. Statistics like that promote the volume approach to selling, encouraging quantity of interactions over quality. However, a relatively new approach to sales has replaced these accepted principles with a focus on selling expertise rather than selling the product.
The core idea is that businesses and individuals want to buy from someone who knows the subject matter, whether they are purchasing paper, paint, or parts for their manufacturing equipment. Consequently, companies need to shift their focus to educating their sales force rather than training them on hard selling techniques. This is especially true in areas that are new or complex to the buyers such as cloud-based services or the latest medical devices, where the purchaser is looking not only to purchase but also a tutorial on what they are purchasing and what else is available on the market.
Furthermore, if the sales force is not informed, the buyer certainly will be. A great deal more information is available to the average consumer or corporate buyer than ever before. Consider the automobile industry; the typical buyer who enters a car dealership is much more informed than the same type of customer may have been even 5 years ago, and will have information about the car’s specifications, price discounts available, quality, and performance rankings. Accordingly, car salesmen have had to adjust their selling techniques to accommodate and respond to a much more informed consumer. Corporate procurement departments are also well versed in what is available and will have the latest market data and reviews on hand before the first sales call.
LIMITED MARKETS: Similarly, companies that focus on a limited sector are also more sought after for their perceived expertise. For example, insurance is a tough sell under any conditions, but companies that sell one type of insurance, e.g. American General and life insurance, historically perform better than those that sell multiple lines. Another industry where specialization seems to be a winning strategy is technology. It is rare to find a successful company that provides general IT services; in order to differentiate, companies must sell unique, customized solutions.
Consider the traditional call center. Previously, a call center would answer any type of customer call. However now almost every call center markets themselves as specialists by verticals, such as financial services or utilities, which may have very specific compliance and regulatory needs with respect to their customers.
THE CUSTOMER: Another trend in sales is a renewed focus on the customer. Although this may seem straightforward, it is often overlooked. Companies expend a great deal of their sales and marketing efforts focusing on their own goods and services and differentiating them from their competitors. Smart companies focus on what their buyers need and gear their sales efforts towards meeting those needs.
Accordingly, companies are investing their time and resources in analyzing customer data and experiences. Specifically, companies that are e-commerce-based use these analytics in all aspects of their sales process from determining what brings a user to their site, to their behavior patterns once on the site, whether they linger and buy, or drop off after certain pages. Programs like Google Analytics can identify the age, gender, and geographical location of the user and whether they accessed the site on desktop or mobile device. An important aspect of collecting customer data is making sure the data is used in a productive way to improve the customer experience and ultimately the sales outcomes.
The bottom line is that just like every other aspect of doing business, the abundance of data and the increasingly competitive marketplace is changing how we sell and market our goods and services. Staying ahead of the trends is not only smart but necessary to stay relevant to customers.
Business Insights is hosted by the Law Firm of
Kumar, Prabhu, Patel & Banerjee, LLC (KPPB Law).
Sonjui L. Kumar is a founding partner in KPPB. Her areas of practice include general corporate law, complex commercial transactions, and trust and estate planning.
Disclaimer: This article is for general information purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or other professional advice.
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