A generation of would-be salespeople grew up on Alec Baldwin's Glengarry Glen Ross rants, anticipating a future in which swagger, exaggeration, aggression and the living room pitch would win the day. They believed in AIDA and intended to hammer the good leads. They cultivated their brass balls.
It happened. The single most significant technological and cultural invention of our lifetime (and possibly any other) flipped the script.
Say hello to the Information Age.How it used to be
In the cold, dark days before the World Wide Web, salespeople like Blake controlled the sales process from first touch to final close. They were all-powerful: controlling the medium, the message and the movement of a prospect through the sales funnel.
But those days are gone.
Technology has irrevocably shifted the power from the seller to the buyer.Today's climate
Peer reviews, media coverage, corporate Web sites, shopping feed aggregators -- these are merely a few of the uncontrollable sources of product or service information.
In today's intel-saturated world, potential customers are often halfway through the “buying” process, armed with reams of research, before their first contact with a company. They have already gone through the consideration phase -- with no help from the sales team.Funnel 2.0
But don't worry -- this shorter sales funnel is not necessarily a bad thing.
With a few strategic adjustments, companies can make Funnel 2.0 work to their advantage. Here are four tips to get you started.
Be transparent. Before the digital age, salespeople were forced to woo (then pass through) a significant number of lower-level employees (gatekeepers) before facing the decision maker. No longer. In today's funnel, decision makers have access to abundant information; they have already vetted your company on a cursory level. These C-levels pick up the phone with specific, pointed questions -- so be sure your sales team is ready with the answers, as well as specifics about your company's results and track record.
Invest in marketing. The shorter sales funnel makes marketing largely responsible for lead generation. You must dedicate significant resources to ensure your brand message is top-notch. A prospect may disqualify you merely based on a shoddy, typo-ridden Web site. Optimizing your company’s online presence for search is also essential: no one can hire a company they can’t find. And if your materials -- be they on-site, in print, or delivered via email -- don’t contain interesting and informative content, your prospects will flock to a competitor whose materials do.
Use social media to your advantage. Let’s face it: as a culture, we love to “share.” And businesses are no different. So while prospective clients are using the Web to vet your business, check out their social media presence for insights into their business practices, culture and goals. Follow decision makers at companies you want to target. By simply following a Fortune 500 CMO on Twitter, your salespeople have placed your company name in front of the keeper of the cash. LinkedIn is another great tool for revealing what matters to future clients. Look for articles that reference their employees, new hires, professional networks, strategic alliances, and product or service launches.
Hire closers, not hunters. Glengarry Glen Ross’ Blake was brought in by Mitch and Murray to remake their team in his image:confident, charismatic, aggressive. And in the days of Funnel 1.0, those were the qualities that made a successful salesperson. But now, your sales team must have a deep understanding of not only your company, but your industry as a whole. To close a deal in today’s climate, your salesman needs to know the ins and outs of what makes your business significant to the client, as well as why your service is superior to the competition.
While traditional sales
will never go away (relationships continue to be important), the game has changed. Finding prospects is no longer about making 100 cold calls a day to get the hot leads.
In the new sales funnel, the best leads come in hot. You and your sales team need to be prepared to handle the heat. By understanding how the sales funnel has changed and adapting your internal marketing strategy, you will be able to capitalize and close in this new age of digital marketing.