You know the mantra. Your sales practice is only as good as your quiver of arrows, and your aim. It’s only as good as your attitude, your product, your leads, your proposal, and your closing skills. Is the mantra always true? How could it be? There are factors—variables—coming into play. These variables affect each stage of the game.
As of my writing this, consumer spending is at an all-time high. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (reported here by Trading Economics), the second quarter of 2016 saw people make more purchases than ever before. What accounts for this? Are products better? More qualified leads? Superior salespeople?
The truth is there are a great many factors affecting spending, just as there are many factors that affect sales. Are spending influencers and sales influencers all the same? No. As I talked about in my last post, this is the age of the informed consumer. Consumers are making decisions outside of marketing and sales funnels, they’re making purchases based on word-of-mouth—digital and otherwise.
But we’re concerned with developments affecting sales, because that’s the business we’re in. Awareness can help keep conversion rates high. The following developments have changed the game for good.
According to international marketing and branding agency Base Creative, personalization is one of the biggest trends to watch in 2016. And it’s not going to stop now. Because of the availability of consumer data from online activities, marketing and sales can now personalize campaigns, targeting individuals based on reliable information.
Base Creative’s research shows that personalization delivers 5 to 8 times higher ROI for marketing, and boosts sales by 10 percent, or more. Make no mistake, personalization plays a role in all of the developments I’m presenting to you here.
#2: Mobile payment
Now, because of technology such as mobile card readers, you can make a sale from almost anywhere. This increases the potential for sales in the field. You’ll never be unprepared to close. And, in an article on how to accept credit card payments, Square reports that customers spend 12 to 18% more when they pay with a credit card instead of cash.
There’s the potential for traveling salespeople and mobile businesses to conveniently accept payments. There are improvements in personalization from marketing and sales. Combine these developments and you can see why consumer spending has continued to rise.
#3: Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
This just makes sense. Repeat customers spend more, and they do word-of-mouth marketing for you. CRM uses science to simplify the process of selling, to help manage ongoing relationships and create new ones. It does this by sifting through data, allowing you to zone in and personalize the sales process.
Essentially, through CRM, salespeople can now keep track of more contacts, because the software does the work for them. They can hone in on leads, have productive conversations, and move towards conversions with precision. This efficiency wasn’t possible with old-school sales.
#4: Sales acceleration
Back in 2005, Barry Trailer, a founder of CSO insights, released a study showing companies who use CRM generate 17% more revenue than those who don’t. Then Sales Acceleration software came along to automate the process of selling.
Whereas CRM is about really working personally on those relationships, Sales Acceleration can operate in tandem to generate leads and make appointments. It takes out the legwork of scheduling and calling. Inside sales teams who use sales acceleration close deals in an average of 69 days, compared with 144 days for outside sales.
As more and more information has become available to consumers, the e-commerce store has stepped up. For the salesperson and entrepreneur, doing an e-commerce store is like putting your bait in the water and sitting back until the fish bite. This is where sales is becoming more like marketing.
But many are interested in improving their chances, which is where Robin Burton’s advice on how to make more money in e-commerce comes in. Interestingly, certain points in Robin’s how-to post can easily apply to sales:
- “Make buying easy”—of course! Every salesperson knows convenient access to what you’re selling is important
- “Accept all payment methods”—this is a matter of removing obstacles to purchase
- “Watch cart abandonment”—if you’re pretty positive a prospect is hooked, but they drop the line, it’s important to take note and think of ways to incentivize the purchase
- “Bundle products”—this is a classic sales incentive tactic: give them more value and they’re more likely to buy
In other words, sales best practices have migrated to the digital world. Does e-commerce spell an end to traditional, person-to-person sales? That’s something we’ll have to watch. Thankfully, any good salesperson has valuable knowledge to improve e-commerce.
According to research from Rutgers on globalization, 54% of U.S. companies are involved in foreign markets, and 72% want to increase their international business share. With the reality of globalization comes new challenges for sales, including adapting practices to different cultures and being flexible to a ton of travel.
In the global marketplace, companies must be tech-savvy, implementing data-driven solutions such as CRM, and automated processes such as Sales Acceleration. With that, salespeople must be prepared to use technology effectively.
#7: Social Media
In a study on entrepreneurs and social media, the UAB Collat School of Business made several noteworthy findings:
- Entrepreneurs are “hesitant” to use social media for their business pursuits
- When entrepreneurs do use social media, two of the top ten things they use it for are prospecting and sales
Social media throws yet another variable in the mix for entrepreneurs and sales. It can be tough to figure out exactly how to use it, but you can’t ignore the fact that billions of people are on various social media channels every day. This creates a whole new prospecting field. It also creates a challenging arena for outreaching and closing deals.
Here again, technology such as CRM and an e-commerce funnel can help a great deal if you want to take advantage of social media. But, in my opinion, if you have an excellent lead and you’re in touch on social, do your best to schedule an in-person appointment. Nothing beats the personal touch.