Is it better to measure production or permission? Traditional wisdom says production, but one should realize by now that this site isn’t based on traditional thinking. The argument will likely be: “How do you measure PERMISSION?”
My first real job was serving tables in a nice restaurant when I was 18. The middle-aged lady who trained me shared one piece of advice that I’ll never forget: “Don’t count your tips until the end of the shift.” As a brand new waiter with no industry experience, I accepted her wisdom as part of the training process. Now, 30 years later, a deeper meaning has surfaced.
The second a customer is seated at a table, they have given permission to be served. Interactions will occur throughout their visit that either enhance or diminish the value of their dining experience. For the server, the value perceived by the customer is reflected in their tip. Even more interesting is the fact that some customers have favorite servers: Ones that they’ll sit in the bar for two hours just to ensure they get the next table in their section. To those customers, the face of the business (brand) is their favorite server, and that server has as much control over that brand’s image as any article, ad or review the brand makes available.
This unspoken partnership in brand perception should not be taken for granted or violated by either party. EVER.
The core if the traditional sales process has always been relationships. Through the initial interruptions an introduction was made that allowed a conversation to begin. Perhaps a cup of coffee was offered so that both parties could establish a controlled pace to the meeting. (Out of coffee, out of time.) Weather, occupation, family, vacations, cars, sports, and hobbies were common subjects used to break the ice. After 15 minutes of pleasantries and small talk were exchanged, it was time to get down to business, and it was the sales professional who called the shots from that point on. It was, after all, HIS office and the customer DID give permission just by showing up.
Is that how it is today? There are certainly times that a customer MUST be present for a sales interaction. Choosing carpet and art for your home isn’t something you’d likely do specifically on the Internet. You can’t test drive a car online, either, although you can purchase one that way. So how has the Internet changed the sales process and how do we fix the pieces of the system that are broken?
First we need to agree on what’s broken, and quite frankly, they’re the two parts that no one wants to admit are the problem. If you don’t believe what I’m about to say, I have to wonder how closely you pay attention when your customers talk. Are you ready?
1. Interruptive marketing strategies. People don’t have time or patience to do it your way any more. What proof so you need? Do you have a DVR? How about a land line phone? Are you on the do-not-call list? If you are and it’s for the reason most other people are, what else needs to be said here?
2. The closing process. It used to be said in the car sales world that the dealer had to overcome 37 “No’s” to get a “yes”. In whose world is that fun?
If you’re a sales professional who actively engages in these two steps IN THIS MANNER, I have two very simple questions: 1. What is your true motivation? And 2. Would your customers give EXACTLY the same response about you if given an opportunity to reflect on all of your interactions?
If the acronym were updated to be relevant in today’s environment, it would possibly look like this:
Social, Marketable, Accessible, Reliable, Truthful
Social: friendly, transparent, funny, conversational, interactive, sharing and caring.
Marketable: “It” factor: What do you do better or differently than anyone else?
Accessible: How easy are you to find and how responsive are you to those who find you?
Reliable: Do what you say you’re going to do within the parameters agreed upon with the customer EVERY time. This also requires seamless integration with your parent brand (if applicable).
Truthful: Be the same person in real life as you are online. People can see right through hidden motives. That’s why they research you in advance.
To fit into the new age models, most of the traditional systems have to change. The choice is only to resist or adapt.
Is algorithmic prediction of buying habits considered permission or is the question even on the table? Applicable and relevant or not, pop-up ads randomly and strategically placed in front of consumers when using their own computer is an interruption in my world. On the other hand, Amazon suggesting additional products and services related to a search topic doesn’t cross the line because the search was initiated by the user. This certainly seems like splitting hairs, but the argument is relevant to the SPAM discussion.
The sales world is changing FAST. The customer is in control. The internet is becoming the expert, the presenter of the features and benefits of a brand’s products. Ten times the amount of research can be done in one-fourth the time on Google versus the public library, and it’s far less confrontational than sitting across an office desk. Many consumers even identify and overcome their own objections thanks to the i-Pad they’re using in their living room. How significant are those closing seminars now?
The argument isn’t that professionals should neglect continuing education or abandon product knowledge. The point is that they should take a step back and evaluate the situation. Salespeople have long been programmed to diligently prospect new business, set interview appointments, demonstrate products, validate interest, overcome objections, close the deal, and follow-up/ask for referrals. There is no doubt that the traditional system will always be an important component to business success.
The quandary is this: If a brand representative will not be present for some or all of the process, how will their role need to evolve to fit into the new reality?