How Buying Has Changed: The New Rules of Sales
A conversation with DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT, Real-Time marketing & social sales expert about how buying has changed. David is author of ten books including The New Rules of Sales and Service. He is also author of the blog Web Ink Now.
HOW BUYING HAS CHANGED!
If you’re in sales, your job is to help people buy! But David helps salespeople (and sales organizations) understand how buying has changed, and how to adapt and succeed.
Most salespeople, and the executives of the companies they work for, increasingly know that making a sale has become far more difficult in a world where buyers are in charge. When anyone can jump onto your site—or those of your competitors—and can review independent commentary by bloggers or access consumer reviews on a smartphone app in seconds, it’s an entirely different world from the one a few years ago when the salesperson held most of the cards and was the gateway for the customer’s product knowledge.
Today’s sales professionals face a real dilemma. What happens when people don’t pick up the phone or return your messages when you cold call? What happens when you can’t get an appointment to meet the hottest prospects? What happens when your company’s advertising isn’t generating all the leads you’d hoped for? What happens when the game changes to football and you’re still in basketball shorts? What happens when buying has changed – dramatically?
I recently asked DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT, author of The New Rules of Sales and Service and nine other books, about ways to get attention in the Real-Time, always-on world of instant access to information. Scott’s an expert at helping those in business use the new communication tools to build business and create awareness for their products, services, and ideas. He helps them put fear and antiquated ideas aside to embrace a new way of engaging customers. Here we talked about how sales professionals' jobs have changed – and the role content creation and curation plays in successful sales.
THE NEW RULES OF SELLING WITH DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT
Why is selling so ripe for reinvention?
In spite of clear indications that the game has changed, there are still many who practice the art of selling by referring to the old cold-calling playbook, and other outdated sales tactics. I’m not just talking about financial hucksters who cold-call people looking for those gullible enough to buy into “guaranteed rates of return” that are too good to be true. Those “boiler room” operations still exist – but I’m talking about the really reputable companies with really reputable products and services that simply have not managed the disconnect between the way people buy and the way they’re trying to sell to them.
What’s the disconnect?
In my speeches I do this segment where I poll the audience with 5 questions. I actually tell them in advance how the poll will turn out. Their answers actually reveal how much the buying process has changed in their own lives - - and just how disconnected their sales efforts are when it comes to selling others. It's pretty dramatic. You can see the lights going on in their heads as they start to think about their own sales efforts compared to the way their customers buy.
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What are the questions?
Here’s what I ask:
1 – In the last one or two months, have you purchased a product or service, either personally or professionally, as a result of receiving direct mail from the post office? I predict it’s 2% - and it virtually is always exactly that.
2 – In the last one or two months, have you purchased a product or service, either personally or professionally, as a result of receiving a direct cold call from a sales person? I predict it’s 1% and typically it is.
3 – In the last one or two months, have you purchased a product or service, either personally or professionally, as a result of an advertisement in a magazine, newspaper, radio or tv? I predict 15%.
4 – In the last one or two months, have you purchased a product or service, either personally or professionally, as a result of visiting Google or another search engine? That result is always 100%.
5 – In the last one or two months, have you purchased a product or service, personally or professionally, after seeking advice or recommendations from your network of friends, family and colleagues using online technology like email, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, etc.? I predict 95% and it’s never less than 75%.”
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That really makes your point about how buying has changed
It really does. We’re all – every one of us – fed-up with unwanted phone calls interrupting us at home and at work. We hate wading through hundreds of unsolicited emails. We’ve had it with intrusive social media messages. We’re tired of poor service from companies that don’t treat us with respect or that send us into a phone mail maze that wastes minutes of our time and never connects us with a living person.
At the same time, all of us — you, me, and all our existing and potential customers — turn to the web to solve problems. Today buyers are in charge. That’s how we buy. The idea of mystery in the sales process is over. We research someone online before agreeing to a first date—is he a creep? We fire up LinkedIn an hour before an initial business meeting—does she have anyone I know in her network? We watch an on-demand movie trailer before deciding which film to see that night at the theater. We check out restaurant reviews and browse menus before booking a reservation.
Why are the old rules of sales and service no longer working in this real-time, always-on marketplace?
Several things characterized the days before real-time online communications:
-It was very difficult for buyers to find independent information about the products and services that interested them.
-There was no easy way for unhappy customers to voice disapproval of a company in public.
-Both buyers and existing customers couldn’t communicate instantly with the companies they did business with or patronized.
-Customers had little say in the products and services they wanted to buy.
All of this used to be true because communication wasn’t instant. There was no way to easily research products or companies or to complain about poor service. None of this needs to be true in your business any longer! The world has changed, and you need to adapt.
You believe salespeople don’t sell anymore
The best sales professionals today recognize the new landscape and realize that the lines between sales and marketing have blurred so much as to nearly become one. Since the first place everyone turns when they’re contemplating a purchase is to the web, it means it’s vital for people to find you, your product and service at the exact moment customers and prospects are looking. In the world we’re in, by the time customers reach out to the company, they’ve already done their homework and that means they have written off lots of other options before getting to you. That’s the biggest aspect of how buying has changed. You want to make sure you’re not among the ones who are written off.
You also talk about salespeople as curators
Yes. By the time well-informed customers do call, the best salespeople and sales organizations are providing just the right information to answer questions that are usually pretty pointed and direct. There’s no amount of hard selling in the world that is going to close the deal. On the other hand – the right piece of information at the right time will make things happen.
Your mantra is “Educate and inform instead of interrupt and sell” – what do you mean?
Every salesperson has the power to elevate themselves on the web to a position of importance. In the e-marketplace of ideas, successful salespeople educate and inform. They highlight their expertise by sharing videos, content-rich websites, social streams, blogs, e-books, and images rather than using the old sales playbook of hoarding information and letting it drip out. Now you’ve got to be on the buyer’s timetable, not yours.
We also have the ability to interact and participate in conversations that other people begin on social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, forums, and review sites.
The key is to focus on the buyer’s needs, not your own ego. I call it the Sharing More Than Selling Rule. Stop hyping your products and services. Don’t rely on interruption techniques. You’ll regret taking advantage of people’s time and attention with unwanted communications. Instead you need to deliver the right information to buyers, right at the point when they are most receptive. Organizations gain credibility and loyalty with buyers through sharing content, and smart marketers think and act like publishers in order to create and deliver content targeted directly at their audience.
Content marketing is a big part of what you've been teaching companies for years. If everyone is creating content, how do you stand out and get noticed?
While many people are indeed creating content, there isn’t that much that is great because most content is written about products. That egotistical approach doesn’t work well.
The basic idea is to understand buyers needs first, then create content especially for them. When delivered at the right time and in the right context content makes the sale.
Talk a bit about the power of real-time communication.
This is the change that can most impact sales people and their organizations and the results they can achieve.
Gone are the days where you could plan out your marketing and public relations programs well in advance and release them on your timetable. It’s a real-time world now, and if you’re not engaged, then you’re on your way to marketplace irrelevance.
What counts today is speed and agility – not necessarily the biggest budget.
When something happens that impacts your customers or your industry, it’s important to be commenting on it immediately – in real-time. Developing a real-time mindset is not an either/or proposition. I’m not saying you should abandon your current business planning process. Nor do I advocate allowing your team to run off barking at every car that drives by. Focus and collaboration are essential.
The smart answer is to adopt a both/and approach, covering the spectrum from thorough to nimble. Recognize when you need to throw the playbook aside, and develop the capacity to react quickly. An immensely powerful competitive advantage flows to organizations whose people understand the power of real-time information.
Developing that capacity requires sustained effort: encouraging people to take initiative; celebrating their success when they go out on a real-time limb; cutting them slack when they try and fail. None of this is easy.
In your talks you tell audiences the biggest obstacle to trying these new things is fear. How do salespeople and sales organizations make this change?
To make the new rules of sales part of your world, you must change your mind-set. You’ll need to understand your buyers, rather than just talking about your products and services. You’ll need to be aware of what’s going on in the real-time news and on social networks. You’ll need to create content and publish it on the web, and sometimes you’ll need to do it urgently to be successful. On social networks, two-way communication is required, not just the typical broadcast approach that most people are used to. These habits and techniques do not come naturally to entrepreneurs, salespeople, or customer service representatives steeped in more traditional ways.
But making a change is tough. I’ve spoken to many people about this.
I’ve heard you tell audiences that changing their minds about how they sell is a lot like exercise
It absolutely is. You need to make social media and content generation an important part of your life. Like exercise, if it is important to you, you don’t even think about it anymore. It just is.
You have a choice. You can choose to exercise regularly in order to stay fit. The most effective way is when exercise becomes part of your routine. Some people like fitness clubs. Others enjoy running outdoors or dancing or kickboxing. But in all cases, success comes from making it an important part of your daily life.
DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT SPEAKS
David Meerman Scott is a popular speaker for conferences, conventions and expos. He has spoken all over the world and is available for keynote speeches and workshops. He shows audiences new strategies and tactics to get attention for their products and services and how to navigate the disruptive change affecting marketing and sales. Contact D’Amelio Network for more details. David’s landmark bestseller, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, is available in 29 languages. To watch videos excerpts from David’s speeches on Fearless Marketing & PR and Fearless Selling, click here.
TELL US YOUR STORY: How do you use the new communications tools (blogs video, social media, etc.) to generate interest in your products, services, or ideas? How have your own buying habits changed as technology has become more mainstream? Tell us about it below in the comments section.
About Tony D'Amelio
Tony has spent his career putting talented people and audiences together, first in the music business and later representing the world's leading speakers. After concluding 27 years as Executive Vice President of the Washington Speakers Bureau, Tony launched D'Amelio Network, a boutique firm that manages the speaking activities of a select group of experts on business, management, politics and current events. Clients include: Mike Abrashoff, Geoff Colvin, Katty Kay, Polly LaBarre, Nicole Malachowski, David Meerman Scott, Bill Taylor, Bill Walton, and Bob Woodward.