These days, most buyers engage in significant online research before they ever consider speaking with sales professionals. Today's buyers are further along in the sales process, with a much clearer understanding of what they need, before your sales team ever says a word.
The good news is that new prospects are coming to the table more highly qualified than ever before, which helps your sales team become more efficient. However, because buyers have already done their homework, they have little patience for sales professionals who aren't complete experts in all of the details of their products and services, and how they stack up against the competition.
If you want to keep up, developing learning opportunities for your sales team is critical. Begin with intensive product training, including prospect drills where your sales team can practice handling tough customer questions and objections. Next, tackle more advanced sales skills, helping your sales team understand their changing role in the sales process. Today's buyer is more sophisticated; they already know the features and benefits of your products or services. Instead, your team needs to learn to focus on consultative sales.
Today's educated buyer wants your sales team to be familiar with best practices, industry trends and creative uses for your products or services. If you're not sure that your sales team is currently adding value in this way, ask your newest customers. If they appreciated interacting with your sales team, you can rest easy, knowing that your team is offering intellectual value.
Make sure you supplement product and sales-skill training with knowledge about your competitors. Have your sales team shop competitors directly, reporting their findings to the team. Your sales team has to understand how competitors are positioning themselves in the marketplace, especially compared to your company.
Because buyers can find anything online in just a few keystrokes, they crave immediate gratification. Your sales team needs to respond to their needs quickly, or they could miss the opportunity altogether. Set an aggressive response-time target, and then measure your sales and service teams against that metric to guarantee that you outperform your competitors.
You should also consider shifting from a geographical focus to vertical market focus. Today's consumers value expertise much more than physical proximity.
While your marketing effort can be fairly easily replicated by a motivated competitor, it is much more difficult to copy an effective sales team. Continue to invest in creating a solid sales culture with streamlined, efficient sales ?processes. It will set you miles ahead of your competitors.
Lori Turner-Wilson can be reached at www.redrovercompany.com.