The New Age of Sales

It's been 65 years since Arthur Miller's play, Death of a Salesman, touched on the highs and lows of living a life in sales. While cold calling and canvassing never seem to die, the sales industry today is dealing with a completely unique set of challenges. Social media and online review sites have amplified the significance of research, referrals, and the overall prospect experience. As a result, more control than ever has been placed in the hands of potential customers. Welcome to the new era of sophisticated selling.

The ABCs of Sophisticated Selling

In this new age of sales, the phrase "always be closing" has metamorphosed into "always be connected." In other words, if a prospect emails a sales executive on a Saturday, he fully expects to hear from the executive that very same day. In fact, according to the CMO Council, today's consumer no longer cares where they are or what device they are using when interacting with a brand. Fifty-eight percent of Millennials expect to engage with a company whenever they choose and via whichever channel they want. This might seem like a tall order for sales, but with the help of flexible cloud-based CRM tools, it's completely possible to satisfy the whenever/whatever mindset of today's prospects.

In conjunction with the necessity of having access to prospect information anywhere, connectivity for sales executives requires communicating through both traditional and nontraditional channels, such as social media. The CMO Council shares that 46 percent of consumers with a digital device use social media to help make purchase decisions. If sales executives don't have a presence on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, they're missing a golden opportunity to connect with prospects where they live.

Teamwork Works

The growing expectations of today's prospects have transformed communication for sales and changed the dynamic between the way they work with marketing and product teams. Given that sales executives are on the front lines—constantly engaging with prospects—they can provide much needed insight that's valuable across the organization.

Marketers, in particular, are seeing the benefits of having cohesiveness with sales. Recent survey findings from Corporate Visions indicate that nearly half of marketing professionals feel that alignment with sales results in increased lead conversion and closed deals. At the same time, only 10 percent feel that their company's strategies are completely coordinated. For this reason, sales executives should be proactive about sharing information company-wide and breaking down any remaining silos. It's also important to point out that the technology used by both marketing and sales in their day-to-day activities should be integrated as well.

CRM and Prescriptive Analytics

Once alignment of goals, resources, and data happens, sales executives can leverage CRM tools to efficiently identify trends and approach selling in a more systematic way. With access to information such as demographic markers, as well as details on won and lost opportunities, the sales team can tailor the way it approaches prospects based on past success. For example, Farm Credit Services of America, a borrower-owned credit union serving 50,000 customers, leveraged past customer analytics to grow its cooperative loan assets from $9 billion to more than $21 billion.

While every prospect is different, having a foundation of data on past experiences gives sales prescriptive suggestions for handling similar prospect scenarios. It's important to point out that, according to TeleSmart Communications, only 13 percent of prospective customers think that sales executives understand their needs. A deep understanding of personas and trends can help sales executives navigate even the toughest of prospects and ultimately earn their trust as well as their business.

A Final Takeaway

Daniel Pink, author of Drive and To Sell Is Human, once noted that sales' first meeting with a prospect is not the prospect's first meeting with them. The key to having a profitable 2015 depends on the sales team at your company being agile enough to keep up with today's razor-sharp prospect.

The demands are high for sales executives to constantly be available, align with all departments throughout the organization, and use analytics to craft a personalized pitch that evokes confidence in the salesperson and the brand he represents. With the help of tools such as CRM, sales executives can have the capability to develop stronger relationships with prospects and ultimately win customers for life.

Matt Keenan is the vice president of CRM product management at Aptean. He has 20-plus years of experience in all facets of CRM, including sales, service, marketing, and social CRM.

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