Sales effectiveness and productivity are critical in today’s business world, but there’s not a competitive business today that isn’t trying to grapple with the way the internet has redefined the classic 5-step sales process — engage a customer, qualify the customer, make a proposal, close the sale and follow up.
In the past, customers who needed a product would call in directly, or via an agent or broker. That call then set the sales process in motion. Or, a sales person would pick up on a lead and make a cold call to activate the first step. However, the harsh reality is that the internet has all but gutted that process.
Definitive evidence comes from new research from CEB and Google http://www.executiveboard.com/exbd-resources/content/digital-evolution/index.html that shows that customers are 57% of the way through the sales process before they ever contact a sales rep. That’s because they are looking at your business information online, sifting through a smorgasbord of information and are veritable experts before they even call in.
Customersresearch your company, your products, and pricing. They look at your competitors, and analyse your perceived strengths and weaknesses. They check online testimonials and reviews (good and bad), post questions on forums and ask their friend’s friends about you. They may even go to your social media pages and finally make a decision based on what their ‘gut’ tells them about the way you ‘feel’ on Facebook and Twitter.
This is the reality that businesses face today. With this change in sales process, a company has to adjust its marketing and sales strategy. You have to be available and accessible to customers where they are online. Your online presence must engage with customers and communicate the value you can add to their businesses. As a result, relevant content will continue to rule and escalate in value, especially content related to consideration and purchase drivers.
You need a strong, and ideally, all pervasive digital and internet presence to make it easy for customers to get information on your product or service. You have to consider and examine the full range of content that your organization is producing. Weigh up video, testimonials, blog posts, articles and white papers against their relevance, newsworthiness, insightfulness, clarity, and professionalism. This is a continuous process, and your businesses must analyse and improve online communications, content and accessibility with fastidious regularity.
And if that sounds complicated, that’s only one side of the equation. Increasingly, there is an equally important online aspect that goes hand-in-hand with everything else — online monitoring. Companies today must employ effective tracking and analytics to keep abreast of their Internet ‘buzz’ and avoid potential disasters. A single negative post on Facebook, Twitter or a blog can reach millions of potential customers in an instant.
In fact, some organisations consider this critically important to the way they manage their business. It’s a small wonder that a multinational like Nestlé now has a dedicated Digital Acceleration Team http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/26/us-nestle-online-water-idUSBRE89P07S20121026 , continually monitoring conversations about its products on social media.
Ultimately it may seem like confusing rocket science, but it’s really simple. Your website content should be well written, insightful, informative and up to date. Your blog should have regular updates, as should Facebook and Twitter. But perhaps most important of all, you have to ensure that your online reputation is what it should be. If someone did nothing but check you out online, would they decide to choose your business?