Why You Need to Change Your Selling Process to Compete in the Amazon Era

Approaches to buying are evolving as technology advances. Selling tactics must keep up if companies are to remain relevant. How poised is your company to keep up with these continuously-changing processes in 2018?

The rules of business continue to change. A number of these changes are redefining how business is done and selling is one function being transformed. If companies want to successfully participate in the future, they must adapt. 

How customers buy is one area where companies with outdated models for buying and selling struggle. Let’s look at two examples where the buying and selling processes have changed and will continue to drive change across industries: Toys and automobiles.

Example No. 1: Toys

Traditional specialty retail companies like Toys R Us were late to online selling. To close the gap, they tried a non-exclusive relationship with Amazon to address the fulfillment role. As time moved forward, customers grew comfortable with the online buying experience versus the brick and mortar store experience. In September 2017, Toys R Us filed for bankruptcy protection.

Example No. 2: Automobiles

The auto industry is seeing a similar need to continuously revise their selling model. The average car buyer’s research skills have increased. Their demands for tailoring a car and scheduling test drives, as well as a more transparent and streamlined purchasing process, have all increased. Many car buyers are expecting to reduce their time in the dealership environment and have more choices, options and guarantees than in the past. According to Autotrader, the top five activities conducted online by car shoppers include: researching car prices, finding actual cars listed for sale, comparing different models, finding out what a current car is worth, and locating a dealer or getting dealer info. Clearly buyers are getting very skilled in conducting the research they need in order to increase their confidence in negotiating and making better buying decisions.

In the age of Amazon, is your B2C or B2B selling process/model evolving and current with what your customers need from you?

So if buyers know how to research products and services as consumers, what do your customers need from your sales people when they first meet? As this self-service behavior becomes the normal buying and selling process for B2C buyers, it is easy to see how this model would be applicable in a range of buying scenarios for B2B environments.

Since the 1990’s B2B companies have broadened the use of the Internet and related technology across the enterprise. Companies have formed well-organized teams of decision makers, increased access to data and information, developed sophisticated buying processes, and leveraged technology to augment human research and decision making. As we see in the B2C markets, this allows most companies to complete much of their research and decision process before ever meeting your salesperson.

How the B2C and B2B customers buy what they need from you and the customer experience they prefer are critical areas under pressure by new digital tools being created every day. The customer used to need more from a sales person in order to evaluate and solve a problem or need.

For every business, how you engage your customer depends on several factors to include:

  • The complexity and specifications of your product/service;
  • if your product is an integral component of/in the customer’s product/service;
  • if your product changes or is upgraded frequently;
  • if the purchase is the first one or ongoing transactions (repeat purchases); and
  • if your product is a commodity.

As technology improves, the buying and selling processes will continue to evolve.

Have your marketing, sales, customer service and fulfillment processes and your sales training and strategies kept up with these trends and changes in the buying process in order to remain relevant and aligned with your most demanding and most profitable customers?

Are you engaging your customers at each stage of their buying process? Whether it is a first-time customer or a long-term loyal customer, are people, processes, data, and digital tools aligned to respond to and satisfy customers based on the way they want to buy to help them achieve their goals?

The purpose of every business is to attract, create and retain the target customers that build the business. Building your business model around your best customers, what they need and how they buy is a great place to assess your selling process.

What needs to change in your sales process in 2018: How you sell? How you train? How your selling process best fits the customers buying process?

Consider the following steps (which I will cover in future articles):

  • Assess and define where you are today with your best customers, their needs and their experience doing business with you. Does your selling process align with their buying process?
  • Develop a vision for your new selling process and commission a cross-functional team to champion the changes and improvements identified by your best customers.
  • Develop an action plan to upgrade your capabilities, improve your processes/systems/tools to augment human skills/effort, overcome obstacles/resistance and move toward the vision.
  • Pilot changes with cooperative customers and demonstrate quick wins to key internal stakeholders.
  • Consolidate lessons, identify training needs, reinforce the benefits of the new selling process and recognize the desired new behaviors.

Your best customers depend on you and they want you to keep up with them. What must you do now in order to do a better job for your customers in the future?

Wayne Bergman is a business and executive coach and founder of Consistent Business Growth. Questions or comments about this piece? Email him directly at wayne@cbgrowth-gfm.com.

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  • Next up: Why You Should Invest in Sales Training

    Why You Should Invest in Sales Training

    Proper sales training can mean the difference between keeping and losing a customer. Here’s what you should be looking for in a sales training program.

    “The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.” Peter F. Drucker

    Leaders of companies of all sizes, and in all industries, look for new and innovative ways to drive growth and financial results. Developing the skills needed to execute assigned roles consistently ranks in the top five focus areas that impact results.

    Growing organizations invest in a range of targeted training for their people. Well-designed training programs can be measured in the following areas: desired skills needed to achieve goals, fill gaps in knowledge and skills, creative problem solving and actions to overcome the status quo.

    Any training needs to be aligned with and measured against the purpose of the business and the desired results. Performance gaps help leaders identify ongoing training priorities and return on the training investments.

    Evaluation of most business investment decisions starts with a baseline and the desired results: “Where we are today and where want to be in the future?” To help in this evaluation, let’s focus on sales training and the benefits of creating an ongoing training and development agenda that best supports your customers and aligns with why your business exists.

    The first step to help choose the best training for your team is to research the best training for your sales roles, your process and the industry you compete in. It is worth the time to research the best training others use in your industry. With that, consider the following:

    • What are your target customers and markets, such as B2B/Commercial, B2C/retail, large, small, international, etc.
    • What is your industry’s and customer’s requirements for technical expertise and skills
    • What is your customer experience and buying process: transactional or long term relationships, your sales process/pipeline.
    • What is your organization structure, leadership & management, roles, territories, etc.

    Next, you must address the current and desired skills and knowledge the sales team must have to execute the purpose of every business to include the following capabilities:

    • Know the context of your customer’s business, their business goals and why they buy and value a product or service.
    • Know how to separate your product or service solution from other options customers have researched and will choose from.
    • Be a trusted long term solution to include innovative ideas and solutions needed to support customer evolving needs and challenges.
    • Achieve success as an influential leader and manager of both transactional and long-term relationships with your customers.

    Lastly, the best way to judge the success of any training is to focus on the individual change in the desired skills and the increased performance in assigned roles. Measurement of sales training can include:

    • Increased customer retention and loyalty.
    • Increased new customer conversion.
    • Increased revenues and profits.
    • Reduced costs to serve and cost of sales.
    • Reduced sales cycles.
    • Faster rollout of new products and services.

    Remember, to execute the purpose of your business, your customers expect you to get better and your best competitors will force you to get better. If you design your sales training correctly, every hour and every dollar you invest in upgrading the skills of your sales team should produce improved and measurable results. You owe to your customer to get better at what you do! Wayne Bergman is a business and executive coach and founder of Consistent Business Growth. Questions or comments about this piece? Email him directly at wayne@cbgrowth-gfm.com.

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  • Next up: Why I Hate Elevator Speeches ... And So Should You

    Why I Hate Elevator Speeches ... And So Should You

    It’s time to kick your boring, distorted, drawn-out elevator speech to the curb. Learn how to elevate your pitch and then upgrade it to an even more powerful escalator speech.

    Have you ever been at a COSE event and heard an amateur networker deliver an ‘Elevator Speech from Hell?’ I know I have. Lots of times. You wanted to hit the emergency stop button and escape fast.

    So many elevator speeches are too long, too technical, too unfocused and too boring. In that brief opportunity to make a good first impression on strangers, those amateurs annoy and turn off people instead. That’s why I hate elevator speeches…and so should you.

    But, what should you do if your elevator speech approaches the ones from Hell? You’re going to be at lots of events where people will ask ‘What do you do?’ and you need an effective, efficient and engaging response to that question.

    First, Elevate Your Elevator Speech. Take it to a higher floor by making sure it’s:

    • Audience-Centric focused—aimed at the listeners with a high level of interest for them;

    • easy to understand—no confusing acronyms, terms or buzz words;

    • benefits rich—emphasizing who benefits rather than listing a string of facts or feature statements;

    • interactive—helping to create a dialogue rather than a monologue by encouraging and responding to questions;

    • concise—short enough to maintain interest and still accomplish its objective;

    • physically energetic—focused eye contact, appropriate gestures and a smile on your face;

    • vocally enthusiastic—delivered with strong volume and inflection, yet at a pace comfortable for the listeners;

    • confident—projecting that you believe in what you’re saying and want them to as well, but never sounding cocky; and

    • practiced—but not memorized, so it sounds spontaneous and natural.

    Next, Make Sure It’s a ‘3-E’ Elevator Speech.

    First: Effective—saying the right things to the right people for the right reasons.

    Second: Efficient—saying those right things in the right way, with vocal and physical energy.

    Third: Engaging—making the message compelling, interesting and memorable.

    Now, Make it an ‘Escalator Speech.’ Once you’ve elevated your speech and made the new and improved version work for you, take it to the top floor by converting it into an ‘Escalator Speech.’ Assume you’re going down on the escalator as someone passes by you going up on the other one. You only have a few seconds to communicate. So, your Escalator Speech is an even more concise version of your Elevator Speech.

    My Escalator Speech is ‘I empower business leaders to communicate confidently.’ Short, simple and likely to generate some questions when the other person turns around and follows me back down.

    I recently responded to a reader who liked my take on this topic and offered his own sample: ‘I’m a communication skills expert.’ While it’s short and concise, it’s still all about him, not them. And the term ‘expert’ has some ego-centric baggage connected with it, which can be a turnoff for some people.

    RELATED: Read more from Phil Stella.

    I asked him about the results someone achieves after working with him and suggested he build his statement around that. It could be ‘I empower (or ‘energize’—either verb is better than the wimpy ‘help’) people (but, better to define his target market here, such as ‘sales professionals,’ ‘entrepreneurs’ or ‘executives’) to communicate with more power (or ‘success’ or ‘impact,’ etc.). So, with some polish and practice, it became ‘I energize executives to present with more impact.’ Crafting something that concise is a lot of work, I admit, but it’s well worth the time and effort if you want to make it to the top floor.

    So, while I still hate typically lame Elevator Speeches, I do love concise and interesting Escalator Speeches…and so should you.

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com,440-449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.  

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  • Next up: Work Continues on the State Transportation Budget

    Work Continues on the State Transportation Budget

    Work continues on the state’s transportation budget–House Bill 62–since passage of a House and Senate version of the bill. The House version calls for a 10.7 cents per gallon gas tax, compared to the Governor’s original 18 cents proposal and appropriates $200 million over the biennium through federal flex funding for public transit. The Senate’s proposal reduces the gas tax proposal to 6 cents per gallon. It also funds public transit by increasing state general revenue funding from $6.5 million per year to $55 million per year. This would allow a higher amount of federal “flex” funding to be used for roads and bridges projects. It would also increase the state match transit authorities could leverage for competitive federal grants.

    House Bill 62 will be reconciled through a conference committee where the House and Senate leadership along with the Administration will work towards a final bill. GCP’s advocacy team, through efforts with the Fix Our Roads Coalition and the Ohio Metro Chambers Coalition, continues to advocate for strong investments in the state’s public transportation and infrastructure system. GCP calls for a balance between the House and Senate proposal for public transit to support the needs of rural and urban transit authorities. GCP is also advocating for a gas tax proposal that will appropriately fund current maintenance and safety needs as well as support major new construction projects. 

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  • Next up: You Lost Me Before "Hello": How to Avoid Embarrassing Yourself at a Networking Event

    You Lost Me Before "Hello": How to Avoid Embarrassing Yourself at a Networking Event

    It’s true what they say – you never get a second chance to create a great first impression.  Psychologists believe we only have between 15- 30 seconds (or sometimes even less time) to make an impression on others.

    It’s true what they say – you never get a second chance to create a great first impression.  Psychologists believe we only have between 15- 30 seconds (or sometimes even less time) to make an impression on others.

    Here are three mistakes we see at catering events for companies and organizations that can create the wrong first impression.  You need to stay away from these, or you could lose a client or prospect even before you say “Hello."

    1. Relying too much on technology. It’s a wonderful tool, but sometimes the smartphone is the crutch that could make or break you. By keeping it on the table during dinner (or during a meeting) and answering it, you have created a perception that whatever is happening on your phone is more important than your current person to person conversation.  It may be, but do NOT let your guests perceive that.

    2. Acting like you’re still in college (even if you still are!). Those were good ol' days, but we need to keep them and those immature behaviors in the past.  An open bar at a corporate event is not an invitation to “triple-fist” your beverages.  Just because you can order as much as you like doesn’t mean that you should.  It doesn’t make you or your company look good in the eyes of a client or prospect.  Remember – “perception is 9/10th of the law.”

    3. Not knowing that there is a difference between eating and dining. All of us know how to eat, but do you know how to dine?  Ordering food that is messy or difficult to eat, having poor table manners and conversation, treating the staff and guests rudely – all these add up to a poor dining experience for both you and those around you.

    Understanding and avoiding these three pitfalls can play a vital role in the success of your career, your personal brand, and your business.

    Hear more “stories from the trenches” on how poor behavior & etiquette choices can make you less valuable than your competition at my seminar at the 2014 Small Business Convention – Thursday, Oct. 25 at 3 p.m.!

    If you would like more information about our Training Programs and seminars, check out our website- www.RobertJTraining.com or call us at (330) 724-2211.

    About Bob

    Robert J. (Bob) Pacanovsky has been observing people at events, meetings, galas for a number of years now and “oh” the stories he could tell!  Instead, he has decided to talk to people on how important their own personal brand is today and how they can polish that brand by showing Professional Etiquette skills.  That is why he added his second company – Robert J. – Training & Design, a company specializing in first impressions and personal branding through etiquette and service.

    Bob has spoken to numerous companies, colleges and organizations, including the national Catersource/Event Solutions conference in Las Vegas and the 2013 Small Business Convention.

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  • Next up: Your Book Means Business: How Self-Publishing Leads to Success

    Your Book Means Business: How Self-Publishing Leads to Success

    It’s true, everyone has story. Yet how many of those stories, experiences and life lessons have the privilege of coming to life in book form - either in printed form or in the electronic version. If you have been thinking about becoming an author, here are a few reasons for you to kick it into gear and get started.

    It’s true, everyone has story. Yet how many of those stories, experiences and life lessons have the privilege of coming to life in book form - either in printed form or in the electronic version. If you have been thinking about becoming an author, here are a few reasons for you to kick it into gear and get started.

    Whether you are making your living as a salesperson, a CEO or a speaker, having a book gives you credibility. Although it seems like “everyone” is writing books these days, the reality is that only about .01 percent of the people who say they are going to write a book actually do it. Also, having a book differentiates you from your non-author competitors.  Think about it, wouldn’t you rather do business with someone who literally “wrote the book” on the product or service you’re going to purchase versus someone who just “talks the talk?”

    As a published subject matter expert, you position yourself as a credible resource in your field and you shortcut the process that may otherwise take you years to build. You command a certain amount of respect because you have identified yourself as a doer instead of a dreamer.  You are a person who gets things done.  Your proficiency in your field leads to attracting more clients and gives you additional opportunities to get your name known through PR sources such as radio shows, TV, webinars and teleseminars. Because you are the AUTHORity on your subject, your clients may not ask you to discount your valuable services.

    A book gives you the opportunity to be many places at once.  After all, you never know who is going to pass your book along to a critical prospect or other person who can make a significant difference in your career and in your wallet. People have access to you 24/7 through your book. They get to know you and what you are all about. By reading your manuscript, they know a whole lot about you without ever having to meet you in person.

    You make a difference by having a book.  You will never tire of hearing from others how your words positively impacted their lives. The things that you take for granted may be the exact ideas that someone else needs to read in order to take their life, relationships and/or career to the next level.

    So now that you’ve decided it’s finally time to become an author, you may be thinking that you need to go the conventional route.  If you think you need to hold out for a traditional publishing company to discover you, here are a few of the advantages of self-publishing.

    1. Higher royalty rates: a traditional publisher may give you 15-20 percent of net revenues for all of your hard work. When you compare this to 35-70% royalties through companies like Amazon and Kindle, it makes financial sense. Don’t think that it’s ok to make less money because the traditional publishers are going to market your book for you - they are not. It will be up to you to get the word out, so why not make the money in the process?
    2. Self-publishing is an accepted practice.  Because of the ease and number of self-publishing venues available, as well as the distribution channels, more authors are choosing to go the direct route. As long as you create a quality product, you have just as good of a chance to sell it as you would through the traditional route.
    3. It’s quick.  You don’t have to wait 1.5 years or longer to hold your “baby book” in your hands for the first time. Many print-on-demand outlets can get your completed book to you in less than a week.  Mind you, there is work to do to write, edit, and design a quality book, but at least you don’t have to wait until a traditional publisher gets around to your book.

    These are just a few of the ideas that will be covered in the Author/Authority session at the 2014 COSE Small Business Convention.  Bring your questions and lots of paper to write down all of the resources you need to become a best-selling author in as little as ninety days.

    About Lisa

    Chief Appreciation Strategist Lisa Ryan is an award-winning speaking and best-selling author of seven books.  She works with organizations to keep their top talent and best customers from becoming someone else’s.  She also co-stars in two films including the award-winning, “The Keeper of the Keys” with Jack Canfield of "Chicken Soup for the Soul." Visit www.grategy.com to learn more.

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