Today's organization is faced with not one, not two, but three fundamental "gaps" that limit sales, revenue, and the bottom line. The gaps are:
•Differences between what a sales force thinks is keeping its customers up at night and what really is.
•Gaps within an organization between the sales and marketing functions.
• “Digital" gaps between an organization's marketing/communications team that is rushing pell-mell to engage in a social media dialog while their peers in customer service are doing everything possible to disengage from the very same target audience.
How can these gaps be closed? Sales forces need to think differently and understand how to uncover the pain, leverage social media, and incorporate comedy…yes, comedy!
GAP #1: What's Keeping Customers Up at Night?
Salespeople often get comfortable in how they sell and may not adapt fast enough to changing business models and dynamic environments. Sales forces often are used to selling products based on features and the strength of the company. That strategy almost always miserably fails. Salespeople need to understand how to uncover the pain the prospect is feeling so they can provide a specific solution and sell against that particular pain point.
Salespeople easily can become partners rather than vendors by changing the dialog from "about me" to "about you." To do this, salespeople need to ask relevant questions such as:
•What has changed with your customers during the recession, and what are your new concerns?
•What specific challenges are you currently facing and is your business as efficient as it can be?
•If I can show you a solution that will help solve your problem, would you be interested in learning more?
Asking the right questions helps strengthen the relationship and trust between the salesperson and their customers. Additionally, it helps salespeople turn the price factor into the third or fourth reason a prospect buys and make other factors such as service, quality, and value the basis for their decision. Really listening to what a prospect is saying and listening between the "lines" may provide rich insight a salesperson can effectively act upon.
Stand-Up and Listen
One of the best ways to learn how to listen is to do stand-up comedy. For example, Peppercom's Pain-Based Selling 2.0 program includes a stand-up comedy module, which teaches salespeople how to bond with their audience while learning critical listening skills and watching for important non-verbal cues to enhance presentation and storytelling skills.
No one loves to be pitched to, but everyone loves a good story. Understanding how to tell a compelling story, while also weaving in a prospect's issues and how your product or service will solve their problem is significant in a successful sale. Stand-up comedy is all about storytelling and helps the salesperson understand how to change the dynamic of a conversation.
Also, remember, customers/prospects tend to select people with whom they enjoy spending time. So, everything else being equal, laughter may help land a big account.
GAP #2: Sales and Marketing Not Aligned
More often than not, sales and marketing teams are not aligned. This is a significant gap since sales is conveying one set of messages while marketing is disseminating others.
So how do you align marketing and sales? The CMO and VP of Sales need to do four things:
•Work together and meet regularly: This seems so elementary, but it rarely happens.
•Go on sales calls: Marketing folks almost never do this. How do they know what the salespeople are saying if they don't tag along? How do they know what is keeping customers/prospects up at night if they don’t hear it for themselves?
•Stay on message: Sales needs to understand the marketing messages and how best to articulate them.
•Receive feedback: A mechanism for feedback from sales to marketing is critical. If messages aren't resonating, together they need to determine why. Find out if the message needs to be tweaked or how the sales team is articulating the message.
GAP #3: Social Media Divide
We have found that 70 percent of all new business comes after the fifth touch—which increases dramatically after the seventh touch. Furthermore, we found that each of these touches needs to be different to stand out and add value.
The good news is that there are several tools salespeople can use to stay on their prospects' radar. Social media should play a huge role in this. The key is to leverage these tools in a professional manner in a way that works to the salesperson's advantage. It’s easy to do and an excellent way to communicate and demonstrate thought leadership. Social media contains many different components, which allow prospects and customers to become part of a community. When a company effectively connects prospects and customers into their community, they are seen as a partner rather than a commodity.
For example, salespeople can encourage prospects and customers to sign up to their company's Twitter account. This will keep them informed of new announcements and allow them to comment or ask questions. Creating a community or group on LinkedIn or a Facebook page strictly for professional purposes are also effective ways to engage prospects and customers. By consistently engaging customers and prospects, salespeople can increase their touch points to improve relationships and gain a better understanding of customer needs. The more you're able to engage and understand your audience, the better chance you have at closing a deal or upselling current customers.
The more value you provide to your contacts, the more you'll stand out from the rest of the competition. When they are ready to "buy," they'll be calling you for their next order because you understand their key pain points, are able to engage them in a fun and knowledgeable manner, and know how to reach and react to them quickly. Demonstrate to your customers that you are reliable, innovative, and ahead of your competition, and, in turn, they'll trust you with their business.
Nicholaos "Coach Nick" Papadopoulos is the founder of Sky's The Limit Corporation (www.skysthelimitcorp.com), a sales and leadership consultancy providing professional interim Vice-President of Sales & Marketing management, strategic planning, team assessments executive coaching and trainings in order to increase revenues, enhance communications and to motivate teams to step into their possibilities. "Coach Nick" is also the author of the sales book "Championship Selling."
Deborah Brown is partner and managing director of strategic development for Peppercom. In this role, she manages a number of accounts including Nikon, Whirlpool Corporation and Ricoh Americas Corporation. With more than 20 years' experience, Brown also works on various management initiatives including new business, crisis management, media training, and pain-based selling and lectures on public relations at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.