Recently I came across Gartner research on effective sales interactions guide (available here), I decided to write my thoughts on sales and elaborate on the subject that sales, marketing and company strategy is continuously evolving.
There are plenty of articles and for sure we have heard that business is an ongoing process that changes and we have to adjust our practices in order to remain in the business also tomorrow. Or in other words, the one will survive who is changing as said by famous Latvian writer Rainis. However I hear a lot from CEOs of SMEs who are in business of selling that they know their customers, they know what customer wants and that they have their best practices in place. In many cases practices means having not so impressive sales presentation, lousy company web site (that was updated couple years ago) and vague online presence – having Twitter or Facebook account without an administration. In these cases it seems that knowledge of customer is based on the prejudice and own beliefs of the world out there that it is not necessary true.
The truth is that in times when inter-connectivity is essence of business, pace of business as well as business efficiency is constantly increased however expenditures are decreased, old selling methods just are less efficient. Even more, practices are changing more rapidly as innovation and changes become part of our daily lives. Ability to check prices, to have online tenders and freely access information in general allows anyone from anywhere to connect to any business out there that has a presence on the Internet. It is especially true if we speak about European Union or US market where free movement of goods and travelling is as one of the ‘fundamental rights’.
It is important to understand that even though everything is digital, there are benefits that also bring disadvantages. For example, if I read a reference via corporate website I will instantly think that company has selected only positive references. In that case, the review will not generate sales by itself. More likely I will go online to look for other independent reviews as well as do my own study on the product or service. Going into the details and focusing on the reviews before buying decision is made is because most of buyers and end consumers have become more price conscious. Most of the buyers have learned lessons of economic crises that are still felt in some smaller markets and definitely within European Union today. So still it is important from sales perspective to have experts that can consult during the sales process and what is more importantly, after sales. After sales experience is what generates the most valuable feedback about the chosen product because this is the time when you generate your own experience. It means that it is not probably the best idea to have a fixed go-to-market strategy that is focusing on some fixed understanding about potential buyer. Rather sales strategy should be adjusted and tailored on the go each and every time within the frame of long term company strategy. And sales process just does not end by the sale of the product but after sales process is as important.
Professional and expert sales force today is more important than ever before. Internal processes of any business should be adjusted in a way that marketing, sales and long term strategy is developed and steered as a single machine that can be adjusted on the go. Understanding that there is no single right sales strategy for every buyer should be accepted within companies. For SME segment it most likely mean that usually dominant position of single leader and opinion should be replaced by a team work thus increasing role of each and every function within the company. Companies must make sure that there is positive after sales experience that would lead to positive reviews and recommendations afterwards.