21st Century Sales: So, What Do I Know?

18 Jun

So, what do I know?
I know that I spent more than 20 years in sales and marketing. I know that I’ve spent the last couple of years listening to association members, exhibitors, and partners. I’ve listened to what people say they want versus what people really want.

So, what do I know?
I know that the sales process has changed since my first sales job in 1989. My customers were busy, but they would make time to sit down and listen to my sales pitch and give me feedback on how my product and service may or may not meet their needs. They didn’t have a Blackberry beeping and ringing, emails popping up, or virtual meetings with colleagues around the world. I had their attention the entire time they committed to when I set my appointment with them. They had time for a 1-hour lunch; were willing to go to a ball game with me after work; and play golf on the weekends. In summary, their time and attention were not pulled in a million directions, and technology had not made them accessible 24/7. No cell phone. No iPhone. No Internet. No email. In other words, I wasn’t competing for their time. I could give them a technical brochure or magazine article about my product and services, and they would take the time to read it. (Or at least make me feel as though they read it.)

So, what do I know?
I know that my customers no longer have time for me to come to their office and sit down for very long. I know that even when their talking to me, their Blackberry is beeping, vibrating, and indicating that their next meeting is in 15-minutes. I know that they rarely have time for lunch. I know that their “family/personal time” takes a greater priority. I know it’s unlikely they will go to a ballgame after work on a weekday or play golf on a Sunday. I know they won’t take time to read a brochure, magazine article, or email that is longer that 4 lines on their smartphone.

So, what do I know?
I know that I have to do my homework long before I meet with my prospective client. I know they don’t have time to explain their business to me; instead, I need to utilize the Internet, industry journals, discussion forums, and my association membership to learn as much as possible about my prospective client. I know that I can’t afford to waste my time or theirs if my product is of no use to them. And, I know that if they are doing business with my competitor, I better be able to offer a reason for them to consider change.

I know that I need to explain my product and services like it’s a “60-second elevator pitch.” I know that my message must include the features and benefits of my product, and should be clear, concise, and prompt further interest. I know their attention span is shorter now. I know I’m competing for their attention with 21st century technology. I know that demos need to be creative, and entertaining as well as informative. I know that I must engage with them through social media platforms and remain visible at every opportunity. And, I know that “selling” is not going to happen in a tradeshow booth…it’s a strategic process. So, that’s what I know.

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