Be better at selling in a tough climate

By Nial Adams

The New Consumer Landscape – Get used to it!

Business and commerce has changed. Forever. And so has ‘selling’. The relationship between retailer and consumer are not the same as they were ten years ago. Even in the past five years consumer habits have changed significantly.

Your approach to Sales and Marketing needs to keep pace with this, if not, you’re simply going to fall to the back of the pack and probably get picked off.

Selling more in a tough climateEvidence points to the way consumers are changing both their online and direct retail habits. In the retail environment shoppers are looking for greater value, more trust and confidence. They are certainly less cavalier with their disposable income.

The larger and well-established retail brands are finding it harder as consumers become more selective in what and where they buy. Credit, which fuelled our economy for years has dried up.

Likewise, in the digital world consumers are being more selective and doing their homework. Advertising is losing ground as people become more Internet-savvy and confident in their ability to search online.

70% of links followed from search engine results are organic and not paid for advertising. And 60% of these are shared between the top three organic search results. So if you want to market yourself online you need a better plan than simply buying your leads.

We’ve seen a shift in consumer habits, a shift in brand perception and alignment. Consumers now have more choice and are more cautious than ever before. Trust is everything. Closely followed by value. These really are where you need to be focusing your business efforts and your marketing in particular.

Selling successfully in a tougher climate begins with marketing and the ability to not only communicate with the consumer but also to engage them. Engagement has been something that digital marketers have focused on for many years but now this extends further.

It makes no real difference where you sell; the digital marketplace and the ‘analogue’ one too are changing. So are you adapting to this change and if not, where do you need to place your focus?

If you want to get your head around what this really means, and more to point if you want to do something proactive about it, then here is your starting point:

The ‘Three-Step Adjustment’

This is a process that I recommend you take a serious look at. Reading this blog and enjoying it is not enough. I urge you to block some time out in your diary, and your colleagues too, and follow these steps.

1. Better customer profilingone size doesn’t fit all. The chances are that you recognise that there are a few different customer profiles that you can already identify within your business. You may have only two or three, or there could be many. Let’s assume you can clearly define three different types of customer (so here’s your starting point).

If you do see this in your business then the next question must be are you expecting your current sales and marketing process to be adequate for all your customer profiles? If you’re like most businesses then the chances are that you expect your marketing messages and collateral to engage all of your customer types. And at the same time you probably expect your sales process to fit everyone’s needs and expectations too.

Hopefully you can see my point and that this simply doesn’t make any sense. If there really are some polarised groups of customers that currently buy from you then surely it makes sense to accept that these people have different needs. They probably want to be treated slightly differently too.

For example, some customers know what they want, why they want it and they are ready to buy. It could be from you or it could be from any of your competitors. All they need is some basic information before they commit to a transaction with you.

Alternatively, some customers have very sparse knowledge. They don’t recognise their own needs, although they may be aware that there’s a problem and they would benefit if they found a solution. Beyond this they are pretty much in the dark.

So your first tasks should be to take a step back and look carefully at this. Create some defined customer categories and build your business using channels that match these. Marketing can be so carefully targeted now that there’s no longer an excuse to simply ‘spray and pray’ with your adverts, promotions or campaigns.

2. Advance the sales process into marketingexpress benefits and increase understanding. One of the greatest assets that marketing offers is leverage. You can make one action or output work a multiple of times. Here’s a really simple example:

You’ve noticed that your customers tend to ask the same questions when enquiring about a feature or benefit or your product or service. There’s a clear pattern and this happens frequently. “How much do you charge for delivery?”, “do you offer it in different sizes and colours?” or “do you accept credit card payments?” could all be examples of this.

If this is something you notice happening and you (and your team) normally deal with this as part of the sales process, then consider how you can bring this forward and advance and express it within your marketing. Answer these questions up front.

Despite what we might think, or be led to believe, customers don’t want to work hard at figuring out what you’ve got and if it fits their needs and criteria.

Good marketing results are not about creating a lot of enquiries or footfall from people who then leave without buying because you don’t offer what they have. It’s all about conversion, it’s about how many actually go on to purchase.

3. Emotion, not logicthe real art of sales and marketing engagement. Let’s face it, a good sales experience as seen from the consumers perspective is all about feeling involved, feeling in control and feeling confident that the person we’re buying from understands us and is actually helping us to make the right decision.

When this happens the customer walks away with a smile and is likely to want to share that experience with others. Congratulations, a happy customer who is now a walking-talking advert for your business!

Whereas too many times we feel the salesperson doesn’t really know what we want, or why, or has any interest to find out. We feel that the sales process and event is more about their agenda than our own. We feel ‘sold to’.

This is why so many good sales opportunities fall at the last few feet before the line. If we don’t have the confidence to buy then we will walk away. Of course there’s always a chance that we’ll take a risk but if we’re disappointed, or been mis-sold to, then we’re right back in there asking for a refund. Worse still, we tell all our friends.

The very best outcome is where we as the vendor or retailer feel satisfied at a successful sale and our customer feels they’ve made the best decision. It truly is a win-win for everyone involved.

So how do we create this? The art of selling is a deep subject and I’ll give you more on this in future blogs, for now let me give you the really important bit you need to know:

“Selling is a brain-to-brain activity that engages at an emotional level”

People don’t buy on logic, no matter what they might tell you. Sure, they might think they apply logic to make or confirm a buying decision but the truth is that emotion is key.

When we feel really good about a situation we can feel compelled to act. This is the point where interest turns into desire. And this is exactly where you want your customer to be. If they are only ever going to be mildly interested in you, your business and your products or services it’s always going to be a struggle.

Flying Start Marketing ChallengeWhat does this really mean? Well, here’s the newsflash – stop being so modest and ‘cool’. Dare to get excited about what you actually do and some of that might just rub off on your customers. If you have sales people who really struggle to smile or feel enthused about what they are offering… change them for someone that actually cares. Seriously!

If you are not engaging your customers fully at the point of selling then you’re making it way too hard or them and for you. The same goes for your marketing. There are no points for being so cool and modest that nobody actually cares about what you’re saying, or has enough interest to bother finding out.

And so… if you want to learn how to become better at selling in a tough climate now you have a plan to follow. Use this Three Step Adjustment and work through the steps logically.

If you get stuck, need to understand this better or just want some help as you go through it, please get in touch. I no desert-island internet-guru, I’m here to help you!


PS. If you want to learn more about marketing take the Free Trial of Make Marketing Work – my new marketing course online.


Nial Adams Author of Make Marketing Work

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