What are sales and marketing?

What are sales and marketing?

There are several definitions of sales and marketing. Sales obtained in lots of instances a lousy name. Your phone rings. One the other side is a telemarketer following a script. Therefore, the script is converting the person into a machine trying to sell you something. In addition, when they commence with the text, they do not give you a chance to speak. In cases where you show no interest, they still try to persuade you to buy. When you show irritation, they become rude. Above all, the resultant experience. BAD!

Based on the experiences mentioned above, many people define selling as a process to manipulate people into buying something they neither need nor want. Therefore, according to this definition, you need to become a pushy character attempting to smear something to someone.

The reality business people need to face is that repeated, and profitable sales are the lifeblood of any business. Above all sales and marketing are the oxygen keeping the company alive. Without sales and marketing, your business will die.

As a business owner, our number one responsibility is to SELL.

The negative perception of sales and the dire need for sales can create tremendous stress for the business owner.

I, therefore, like to subscribe to Phillip Kotler, an American marketing specialist’s definition of sales and marketing, namely that marketing and sales deals with the exploration and understanding of customer needs, with the response to them through the development, production and sales of goods and services (including innovation implementation) and also deals with the impact on customers’ needs in accordance with the strategic purposes of the organization.

You may have the best products or services. However, the market will not pay you for that. Above all, it rewards you for solving problems. A customer will purchase a service or product only where, in the mind of the consumer, the value of such products or services outweigh the price you’re asking.

The influence of COVID 19 on sales

Did COVID 19 change the above description and function of sales? The answer is NO; it did not. So what has changed?

We have changed overnight form face to face selling to virtual selling.

The reason for businesses failing is not because their products and services are not needed in the market anymore. However, it is they are prohibited or do not know how to sell in a virtual environment. In other words, virtual selling is the new normal, and we cannot turn back.

It is not all doom and gloom. However, it is creating opportunities to sell into new broader markets.

I believe that the probability that virtual selling will completely replace face to face selling is limited. In conclusion, I think a mixed model between virtual and face to face selling is our new normal.

The Virtual Sales process

The question we need an answer to is whether the sales process in the case of virtual selling is different from the sales process of face to face selling.

Over the years, I found the following process works the best:

Step 1: Prospecting. 

Prospecting involves a list of potential leads and conducting preliminary research to find out their contact information. For instance, sales staff often leverage call centers, social media, their existing network, and customer referrals to find qualified leads.

Step 2: Making contact. 

The purpose of this step is to arrange a meeting with a prospect. To be successful in the arrangement of a meeting, you need to start building rapport. Above all building rapport is the first step in developing a trust relationship. It would help if you made an excellent first impression with your goal to get the prospective customer to see you as someone who can provide value.

Step 3: Qualify the opportunity. 

During your first contact, whether it is utilizing a phone call, virtual meeting, or email, you need to ask qualifying questions. During this step, you need to understand their business needs and pain points. In other words, determine whether they are the ideal client who will benefit from your product or service.

Step 4: Provide a proposal and or demo. 

It is further essential to do as much research about the prospective customer. You need to use this information with the qualifying information to develop a proposal for the customer. In addition, in the proposal, you need to indicate how your product and or service will benefit them. During this step, you need to arrange for a demo. In addition, personalize the demo to fit the prospective customer’s immediate needs as far as possible. The more accurate you can do that, the more you’ll be able to sell them on the benefits of your service and or product. Above all, ensure that the prospective customer understands the benefit of your product and or service to them. You also need them to know what they’ll miss out on if they don’t buy.

Step 5: Addressing Objections. 

During this step, you are allowed to clarify any misunderstanding of the potential customer. Above all, this phase offers you the opportunity to polish your demo and proposal further. In addition, it is also the time to make sure that you address the customer needs in the most delicate details possible. In conclusion, it is essential to reiterate the cost to the prospect of not purchasing your service and or product.

Step 6: Closing the Deal. 

By now, you explained your proposal in great detail, addressed all the prospect’s concerns and reiterated what they would miss out on by not buying. At this stage, Trust in you and your solution will be at its highest. You have build rapport, know the prospect and their business. Closing is the stage where lots of salespeople drop the ball. Therefore, move into negotiating the details by making a limited time offer and discounts. Keep options as limited as possible. In other words, the more options you offer the prospect, the more prominent the chance to go into an unnecessary analysis phase. The customer must realize that they are ready to buy. Therefore, this is your most important task at this stage.

Step 7: Onboard the customer. 

In this step, it is crucial to stay involved with the customer. You build rapport and Trust. In addition, the customer trusts you, and you have to make sure that they also trust your company. Above all, by staying involved, you prevent buyers remorse.

During this step, you are allowed to clarify any misunderstanding of the potential customer. Above all, this phase offers you the opportunity to polish your demo and proposal further. In addition, it is also the time to make sure that you address the customer needs in the most delicate details possible. In conclusion, it is essential to reiterate the cost to the prospect of not purchasing your service and or product.

Step 8: Constant follow up. 

One of the biggest mistakes salespeople make is not to regularly follow up with the customer. Nurturing customers involves supporting them after the sale, answering questions, and keeping them happy with their purchase. In addition, stay in contact, maintain open lines of communication, and look for opportunities to upsell or cross-sell specific solutions. This stage is also essential to obtain referrals. Referrals are potential clients and the number one way of prospecting.

The relevancy of this process during and after COVID 19

The only thing that has changed is that you are not able to execute this process in a face to face manner anymore. This process is still relevant in our new normal.

I am personally involved in selling using this process during this COVID 19 period.

What is my personal experience? Technology opened new exciting doors for selling in the following ways:

Step 1: Prospecting. 

Social media quickly became a powerful, prospecting tool. In addition, Social media offers very focused prospecting opportunities utilizing technology like videos in positioning your product and or service.

Step 2: Making contact. 

Websites play an essential role here. For instance, emails phone calls and video conferencing technology are powerful tools to utilize during this stage.

Step 3: Qualify the opportunity. 

The utilization of a video conferencing tool (Skype, Zoom, Teams, and several others) is an excellent tool to utilize during the qualification process. Above all I found qualification using these tools very effectively. Clients are more compliant in affording a focused “qualification meeting” using this type of technology.

Step 4: Provide a proposal and or demo. 

Developing and presenting a proposal utilizing all available digital tools opens a new world of opportunity. What excites me the most is the capability to do online demos. Above all, technology allows you to include the best of the best, knowledgeable people, wherever they find themselves in the world, to participate in a highly professional demo. Questions asked by a customer, whether it is around functionality or technically inclined, you can answer immediately. Therefore, there is no potential for the customer to go into a further thinking and analysis paralysis process.

Step 5: Addressing Objections. 

Here we integrate the handling of objections with the proposal and demo process. All the top specialists are available to address any objection there and then on the spot.

Step 6: Closing the Deal. 

During the proposal and demo stage, you have the opportunity to close the deal immediately. In addition, what works very well is to get your existing customers to join into the discussion towards the end of the demo and give their testimonial. The testimonial is interactive, and your customer can address any possible concerns that the prospect might have.

Step 7: Onboard the customer. 

Using technology here makes it exceptionally easy during this stage.

Step 8: Constant follow up. 

Again you can use technology to your advantage during this stage. I found referrals very useful when the client joins me for a 5 minutes introduction using a video conferencing tool. In other words, this introduction immediately assists you in building rapport and developing Trust. What a compelling opportunity.

What are the challenges salespeople face in the new normal?

Before I discuss the challenges, I am going first to address the key competencies to be successful in sales. These competencies are a result of research done by Goodner Strategic Consulting in developing a sales assessment tool, EQFIT® Sales Profile. Goodner Strategic Consulting developed this assessment and resultant reports in conjunction with Six Seconds.

Key Sales competencies

The Key Sales competencies, as defined in the EQFIT® Sales Profile toolset, are:

Initiative. 

– This competency focuses on driving the sales effort, which is opportunity-driven. Salespeople with this competency have a great sense of urgency. Therefore, they are self-motivated and action-oriented.

Persuasion. 

– Here we focus on building Trust and persuade others to make decisions (buy). People strong in this competency are influential in connecting and influencing prospects for desired outcomes. These salespeople are excellent in presenting a desirable path forward. In addition, they use influence to overcome challenges and seeks “buy-in.”

Accountability. 

–  This competency enables you to manage the sales cycle for useful results. People strong in this competency are excellent in the follow-up. In addition, salespeople strong in this competency are also good at setting next step goals and timelines. They always include all decision-makers and influencers. They do well at ongoing prioritization. Therefore, they build reliability with prospects.

Direction. 

– Here you can maintain focus on what is essential. People strong in this competency maintain focus on achieving goals. Therefore, they enhance efficiency and effectiveness in the sales effort (agreed goals). They also prefer to align priorities with goals. They are self-reliant and self-directing.

Friendliness. 

– This competency provides the ability to engage and build rapport. Salespeople strong within this competency can rapidly build rapport and connection. Therefore, they create a comfortable dynamic that accelerates trust-building.  They leverage “common ground” to enhance the relationship and relational magnetism.

Understanding. 

– Here salespeople can understand decision drivers and patterns in others. This competency enables salespeople to Identify decision drivers, emotional insight, and agility. Therefore, they can enhance connection and communication,

Persistence. 

– Salespeople who are strong in this competency can bounce back, are adaptable, and possess mental agility. These salespeople can sustain focus and effort. They enhance mental agility and resilience. Therefore, they can extend the opportunity window. They have a very strong “Don’t give up” attitude.

Resourcefulness. 

–  With this competency, salespeople can identify and connect needs with solutions. Salespeople strong in this competency can identify felt needs. Therefore, they can create value through solutions that relieve pressure/pain points. Above all, through this, they build credibility, become the “Go to” person.

Are these competencies still relevant in the new normal?

These competencies proved to be important in face to face selling. My personal experience and research show that these competencies become more important in the new normal. Why is this the case? Let us look at the reasons:

Initiative. 

– We are mostly not working from the office but at home. If we do not have a great sense of urgency and are self-motivated and action-oriented, we might find ourselves not focusing on all the stages of the sales process. Therefore, our sales performance will start sliding.

Persuasion. 

– Here we focus on building Trust and persuade others to make decisions (buy). People strong in this competency are influential in connecting and influencing prospects for desired outcomes. Therefore, these salespeople are excellent in presenting a desirable path forward. They use influence to overcome challenges and seeks “buy-in.”

Accountability. 

– We are during COVID 19, most of the time driven by ourselves. If we do not focus on accountability, we will not manage the sales cycle for useful results.

Direction. 

– During COVID 19, as a person, we are influenced by a massive change in our personal and work environments. These circumstances create a lot of uncertainty and generate lots of emotions. Therefore, these emotions can de-focus us from what we need to change and do differently to be successful in sales.

Friendliness and Understanding and Resourcefulness.

 – These competencies enable salespeople to build rapport, connection, and Trust rapidly. Above all, these competencies support the identification of decision drivers, keen emotional insight, and agility. Therefore, they can create value through solutions that relieve pressure/pain points. Through this, they build credibility, become the “Go to” person.

Persistence. 

– Mental agility and resilience essential to be successful in this VUCA world driven by COVID 19, economic, social, and political uncertainty with tremendous technological developments. Above all, here a  “Don’t give up” attitude is essential for sales success.

What are the real challenges?

The most effective way to build relationships and Trust, resolve conflict, brainstorm ideas, gain consensus, present ideas, negotiate and close deals is a physical face-to-face meeting.

As we can see from the competencies discussed above, successful face-to-face salespeople are masters at reading other people, responding to nuance, and using charisma as a competitive advantage.

These salespeople have strong Emotional Intelligence capabilities. Therefore, they can intuitively sense the emotions of other people and respond appropriately.

In my discussions with several salespeople, it became evident that their biggest fear was face-to-face interaction became difficult, if not impossible.

Research proves your eyes manage more or less; 80 percent of the information and communication interpret. Therefore, a far more significant part of the brain is dedicated to vision than to hearing, taste, touch, and smell combined.

During face-to-face sales meetings, “whole body listening” is possible. Not only can you altogether see the person you are meeting but also their surroundings and how they interact with their environment.

Albert Mehrabian, in his book Silent Messages (1971) discusses the 7-38-55 rule is a theory that seeks to quantify how much of meaning a person communicates via verbal and nonverbal communication methods. According to the 7-38-55 rule, 93 percent of meaning, one delivers non-verbally. Therefore the spoken word only contributes 7 percent to successful communication, 38 percent through tone of voice, and 55 percent through body language.

As salespeople, we are continually scanning our prospects for clues about their emotional state. We read between the lines, interpret those clues, and alter our approach to people based on our perceptions.

Though you can see the other person on a video call or hear their voice over the phone, it is not the same as being in person. It is much more challenging to determine the emotional state of prospects as when you are selling face-to-face.

In his book, Virtual Selling: How to Build Relationships, Differentiate, and Win Sales Remotely, Mike Schultz describes, “In-person selling is three-dimensional (3D); selling virtually is two-dimensional (2D). Selling in 2D requires the seller to orchestrate a sensory experience that is rich, attention-grabbing, rationally engaging, and takes buyers on an emotional journey that ends with a decision in the seller’s favor.”

What do you need to do differently in the virtual sales environment?

There are several areas that we need to take care of. These areas range from technical regions to functional, environmental, and personal spheres. The purpose of this article is not to discuss these areas.

Throughout all my research and experience, creating rapport and building Trust stand out as core to successful sales. Therefore, we need to look at different ways to build rapport and Trust in the virtual world.

The role emotional Intelligence can play in sales in the virtual world.

Emotional Intelligence is crucial in a thriving sales environment. We subscribe to the Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence model. Six Seconds base this model on three Pursuits, namely, Know Yourself, Choose Yourself, and Give Yourself. The Pursuits consists out of eight competencies. These competencies are:

  • Enhance Emotional Literacy
  • Recognize Patterns
  • Apply Consequential Thinking
  • Navigate Emotions
  • Engage Intrinsic Motivation
  • Exercise Optimism
  • Increase Empathy
  • Pursue Noble Goals

The relationship between Emotional Intelligence and sales competencies.

In their research, Goodner Strategic Consulting, in conjunction with Six Seconds, identified that there is a direct relationship between the Sales competencies and Emotional Intelligence competencies.

The different relations are:

Sales Competency

Emotional Intelligence Competencies

The role empathy plays in sales and specifically virtual sales.

Increase Empathy is one of the core competencies for a salesperson. In the virtual world, it is even more critical to Lead with empathy and listens to how they’re doing. Above all, remember that listening differs entirely from face to face world, as discussed above.

How do you Increase your Empathy and listen differently in the virtual world?

  • Ask the right open-ended questions which support rapport building.
  • Listen carefully to the spoken words when the prospect answers these questions.
  • Listen between the lines when the prospect answers these questions.
  • Ask clarification questions if you are not sure about the meaning of the prospect’s answer.
  • Listen carefully to the tone of voice of the prospect during the meeting and be sensitive when you pick up a change in the tone of voice.
  • Listen carefully to the pace in which the prospect speaks. Be sensitive to a change in speed.
  • Look at facial expressions as far as the quality of the cameras allow you to do.
  • Look when the person changes the direction of their eyes from the camera. – You might interject with a question to bring attention back.
  • We need to be prepared to change to be successful in the new world of a combination of face to face and virtual selling.

How to we make sure that we equip ourselves for the new world of sales?

In summary, we recommend that we, among other things, look at the following:

  • Self-Knowledge: – To understand what and how we need to adapt, we first need to know ourselves better. I covered this topic in my blog article “Self-Knowledge.” In summary, a salesperson needs to understand their emotional skills and sales competencies, as discussed above. Therefore, we then need to develop the necessary areas to be prepared to ensure successful sales in the new environment.
  • Customer needs: –  As salespeople, we need to explore the full set of customer needs by uncovering both Aspirations and Afflictions.
  • Product and Service Knowledge: We need to have an in-depth understanding of the specifications as well as the benefits of our products and services we sell. Above all, it is essential to be able to do a Return On Investment (ROI) calculation for our customers in terms of our products and or services.
  • Technology infrastructure: – Our technology infrastructure, in terms of Network connectivity, Cameras, Microphones, Speakers, and Computers, which support meeting and the software platforms we are using, is of crucial importance.
  • Technology platforms and software: – The meeting platforms and different types of technology we are using, like email accounts, electronic diaries, storage, and presentation platforms, form an integral part of our digital sales capability.
  • Environment: – We need to select the correct environment from where we are executing our virtual meetings. Make sure that the visual environment is not distracting. Ensure that there is no interrupting background noise and that you will not be disturbed during the meeting. In addition, check that there is proper lighting and that your camera is positioned horizontal in line with your eyes. Therefore, you need to be able to look directly into the camera.
  • Personal Look: – We need to look professional as if you are in a face to face meeting.
  • Communication: – The most critical aspect of communication is listening. The whole person listening, as mentioned earlier in the article, needs to be followed. When we speak, we need to ensure that we express ourselves correctly, pronounce our words properly, speak clearly, and at a proper pace, not too fast or too slow.
  • Preparation: – As professional salespeople, we need to schedule and prepare our meeting correctly. If you are the host, make sure that you open the meeting room five minutes before the session starts. If you are not the host, join the meeting at least three minutes before the meeting begins. The host will let you into the room when he/she is ready.

Conclusion.

The novel Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 drove a radical, immediate shift to virtual selling. Even seasoned sellers found it difficult to adjust to the nearly overnight change from face-to-face selling to virtual selling in the face of quarantine.

After constant change and growth, the VUCA world is likely to have long-lasting implications in terms of differences in how we are selling. These shifts, some more gradual, and others within the span of a mere two weeks, made selling significantly more difficult. However, much as some sellers might want to revert to the traditional way of face to face selling, that is highly unlikely to happen.

The same sales dynamics are at play for both in-person and virtual selling. Therefore salespeople need the skills to approach and accomplish them differently.

Virtual selling is here to stay!

Authored by by Carel Potgieter

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