By Jenny Jo Conner
It’s no secret businesses see value in leveraging technology like social media in their marketing efforts. While technology has opened new doors in customer acquisition, it has also created new headaches for sales teams who find themselves struggling to adapt in today’s changing market landscape.
Consumers in today’s digital age have more information at their disposal than ever, like product features, prices and customer reviews. As a result, customers enter the sales cycle in different ways than they did a decade ago, creating a wider sales funnel and a less predictable pipeline. Additionally, this level of access to information has led to compressed differentiation among brands. According to Harvard Business Review, 80 percent of managers believe their companies have strongly differentiated products, but only 10 percent of their customers agree.
“Old hat” sales plays trump needed change in many organizations, as sales executives dig the hole of disappointing sales deeper by clinging to the things they have always done. Research giant Gartner calls this the “Seller’s Dilemma.” Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Gartner’s research also found this to be among the biggest challenges facing organizations and sales leaders today. The key to overcoming the Seller’s Dilemma lies in bridging the gap between sales and strategy within your organization.
Sales teams should start by shifting their focus from just shortening the sales cycle to improving the sales process. Sales teams frequently focus on shortening the sales cycle as the holy grail of increasing their value contribution. Unfortunately, this approach puts the cart before the horse. Instead, begin by evaluating disconnects in the company-wide understanding of your organization’s strategy. Has your organization linked departmental goals to the company's strategic priorities? Does your team's compensation packages tie directly to success or failure of strategy implementation?
According to Harvard Business Review, less than 50 percent of employees understand their organization’s strategy. When organizations under-deliver by providing service that leaves customers feeling deflated compared to the aggressive follow-up they received as prospects, positive word-of-mouth turns negative, leaving sales teams with a reputation hurdle to overcome in the marketplace. When you improve the overall process, your sales cycle improves as a result.
As another alignment strategy, train your sales team on social media to help bridge your internal digital divide. Equally important to building credibility for your brand is helping your sales team do the same. The results of one study, published in Forbes, showed that nearly 80 percent of salespeople using social media to sell outperformed those who weren’t. Arm your team with best practices, consistent company language, and industry news they can share with their connections.
“Best practices” developed at other companies, old tactics and generic sales methodologies may not suit your organization. To succeed in an increasingly competitive marketplace, sales teams must learn to adapt to survive.
Jenny Jo Conner is marketing and sales strategist at RedRover Sales & Marketing Strategy and can be reached at www.redrovercompany.com.