Selling In the Digital Era – by Steve Birkett
Sales shouldn’t exist in a vacuum.
In reality, it never has. Although the end salesperson has traditionally been the focus of both company and customer, many other departments are contributing to each sale in the background.
More recently, technology has developed in such a way that the periphery may no longer be an acceptable boundary for those other parties involved in the sale. Interactive touch points with customers, both potential and existing, have expanded from a manageable few (telephone, written, in-person meetings) to an almost intangible many, from e-mail and instant messaging to a vast array of social networks. The crucial element is that these are all two-way, multi-functional channels. The communication may well be a direct request for information about your product/service, but it could just as easily be a passing pleasantry or customer-service query. Furthermore, these latter non-sales based interactions can easily accumulate and develop into the former opportunity for a sale. Potential sales are everywhere in this environment, fluid and happening in real time with little consideration for traditional business hours.
As such, the teams manning these communication channels need to be multi-functional, including the need for skills that recognize and bring sales through the pipeline. Even if departmental boundaries are unable to be removed, the silo mentality that has beset traditional organizational structures must be challenged. If those responsible for online communications lack the sales abilities required, the sales team needs to be ready and willing to support them in understanding prospects and developing leads. Fluid, frequent checkins need to be made by each party with the potential to influence the sales process, probably utilizing some form of Customer Relationship Management software to track progress and assign responsibility for follow up.
Although this mentality has always been a hallmark of an efficient, integrated sales function, the sheer speed of development of new media channels has made integration a crucial consideration for today’s company, where only ten years ago it could be seen as merely a desirable direction.
Even for smaller businesses with fewer links in the communication chain, it is worth taking time to consider how your customers are using new technology and social networks. Understanding the potential of these tools to spark interactions and nurture prospective customers through to the sale remains an underutilized approach, with many business owners still dragging their heels.
How have new media changed the sales culture at your business, if at all?
Steve Birkett is a senior marketing associate at Brooklyn-based agency Esvee Group (http://www.esveegroup.com/). Specializing in translating brand identity to new media channels and content, he is a passionate advocate of building online networks and openly contributing value to the resulting communities. You can further connect with Steve on Twitter via @EsveeGroup, or on his more musically-inclined personal handle, @AboveTheStatic.
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