Want to upgrade your sales techniques into the 21st century?
Consumer tastes change, and sales techniques change with them. What used to work in a bygone era would look hokey and superficial today. Likewise, we lucky moderns benefit from amazing sales techniques that were virtually unthinkable ten or twenty years ago.
If change is a constant, it’s a good idea to look back now and then. Getting a better idea of where you came from can help you understand what’s coming next. If there are two key ingredients to sales success today, they must be adaptability and foresight.
Let’s look at three techniques that had their heyday and are long gone today:
Let’s face it: The image of the door-to-door salesman sticking his foot in the door – literally – is what many people conjure up in their minds when they think about sales. Today, when knocking on a prospect’s door is virtually unheard of, we might call this the “spray and pray” method.
Back in their time, however, door-to-door sales were no joke. The door-to-door salesman was typically the purveyor of high-value prestige purchases. These status symbols weren’t owned by everyone, and they didn’t come cheap. That’s why persistence was so important.
But here’s the thing: The underlying assumption that everyone wanted a vacuum cleaner or a set of encyclopedias was exactly the problem that made the door-to-door salesman untrustworthy. He didn’t get to know you: He wanted you to get to know his product.
These days, door-to-door soliciting is usually about politics or religion. No matter what your convictions may be, though, the usual response is to close the curtains and ignore that knock. We can all figure out why: People don’t want to be sold to.
To be successful today, a salesperson has to take a genuine interest in the other person. That’s an idea Dale Carnegie articulated in 1936, but this business model was built around ignoring it.
That, as much as anything else, is the reason it has long since disappeared.
Traditional Cold Calling
Cold calling is so widely loathed by so many people that it generated a huge new federal program in the form of the National Do Not Call Registry.
In hindsight, it seems amazing: Millions of people were annoyed about something, and that annoyance was so huge it prodded the government to action.
And the wave didn’t stop there: The CAN-SPAM Act is essentially a “do not call list” for commercial email. Sure, it’s a little bit less effective. But legitimate businesses can be harshly penalized for not following the rules, so compliance is a priority.
(That doesn’t stop your average “Nigerian prince,” but perhaps nothing ever will.)
Whatever you call it, and whatever form it takes, society has put its collective foot down. No one wants to have their dinner interrupted by cold calling, have their name mispronounced at them, and then have to try three times to get off the phone before rudely hanging up.
The fundamental problem here is the same as with the door-to-door salesman: You haven’t built up a relationship with your prospects and they know you’re not interested in one. Why should they give you the time to “make a pitch” when they don’t know you from Adam?
But there is a catch: The problem is not cold calling, but traditional approaches.
Cold calling is still a viable strategy in some markets, including B2B sectors where purchases are typically complex and expensive. But even then, it should never be done out of the blue. A contact on LinkedIn, even if it might seem a little impersonal, is better than nothing at all.
And when you finally have them on the phone, they should feel like you know them.
That means understanding their challenges, pain points, and constraints. You can still ask about these things, but no matter what, you should be able to discuss them effectively and understand how your offering will better the prospect’s world.
That’s how to take cold calling from traditional to modern.
Old-Fashioned Direct Mail
Not that long ago, direct mail advertising was the most powerful sales technology in the world.
Think about it: So much of what we know today about marketing and sales psychology came from the early pioneers of direct response advertising. That includes venerable old catalogs and magazines where customers could take weeks to get whatever it was they ordered.
Imagine it: People would actually cut out an ad from a publication, fill out a form, carefully enclose payment, and wait. Many of the brands they ordered from were recognizable, but some weren’t.
The sheer deliberateness and patience of it may seem mind-boggling.
Yet, we’re the heirs of that bygone world of postal sales techniques.
Old-fashioned direct mail is dead. Hefty, old-fashioned catalogs are few and far between. Even other forms of direct mail are more likely to raise ire than revenue: Thousands of pounds of reminder postcards, coupon books, and more are thrown out every year.
But today, sales can benefit from tremendous insight delivered by the “new” direct mail: Pay-per-click advertising. Sure, sales professionals might not be directly involved in developing these ads, but they give unbeatable insight into consumer behavior.
When sales, marketing, and advertising teams work together in a modern organization, they can truly track the buyers journey from beginning to end. Likely as not, it begins with some form of “direct response” to an online advertisement.
With antique direct mail, weeks could pass between the campaign and the result.
Now, the delay between inspiration and action is measured in seconds. How prospects reach a website and what they do once they’ve arrived can tell a sales pro what’s on their minds, what questions to ask – even what their budget is.
To do all that, however, analytics tools are essential!
Without analytics, you’re not capturing useful data – and the prospect’s mind remains a mystery.
What’s the Lesson? Get Up Close and Personal with Sales Techniques
In an era of ever-increasing speed and personalization, it’s easy to see why these old-time sales techniques would never be effective today.
No matter what industry you’re in, prospects want it all:
- They want the speed to get immediate feedback and results from everything they do;
- They want the convenience to move forward with their sale – with or without you;
- They want to see that you genuinely care about their problem and know them well;
- ... but they don’t want you to know them too well, or else they might get scared.
Inbound marketing gives you the tools to build strong, robust, and resilient relationships with prospects so that, when it comes time for a serious talk about buying, they don’t look at you like that old-timey salesman trying to get his spats through the door.
Combined with analytics, it also gives you the information you need to craft an effective and personalized sales presentation – without having to come on too strong or lay it on too thick.
When all is said and done, people all crave certain things. One of the most important: Someone who can listen to, understand, and solve their problem. Today’s most successful sales pros strive to be that person.