Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sales Aren’t Just Cold Calls Anymore

I’m sure everybody has heard this statement before: Sales is King. We’ve heard this all our lives because, well, what would you have if you didn’t have any sales? Not a Business. When I say sales aren’t just cold calls anymore, it’s because most sales don’t happen over the phone, through a stranger, for a product you haven’t even heard of. Sales rarely even occur over hotlines anymore. When was the last time you perused a catalog and placed an order by phone? Okay, maybe I had to call someone to check on a backordered item for Christmas- but you get the point.
As a startup, Interstack has realized a few ways to achieve results with sales:

1. Sales still happen over dinner and a beer

            Let’s say you would like to add an account to your portfolio. You have researched the perspective company and any potential problems they have, or ways you can help them grow. You have looked up the contacts page for this company and have decided on which person is the best to speak with in regards to doing business. You do your research on them via LinkedIn, possibly their Facebook to get a hold of their interests outside of work, and Google them. Learn as much about this person as possible before contacting them. This way, when you introduce yourself and your company (cold call, email, LinkedIn, networking event, etc) you can address this person as an expert in their field and ask them to meet over a beer (which in case you didn’t know, you pay for).
Play a game of golf or take them to dinner, have a few beers and build good rapport with them. You are not having a business meeting. You are courting them.
If you wanted to date a beautiful woman, would you lay down the contract of your conditions of when to take her to bed?
You compliment her, learn her interests, buy her dinner, and when the time is right, you ask her for her hand in marriage. Or something like that…
Managers are still people who want to do business with good people. At the end of the day, you represent your company. Treat your customers how you want to be treated.

2. One word- Ecommerce

            Online sales don’t exactly involve a 2nd party. It’s more like a few clicks of a button and *boom*, your overpriced textbooks are on your way to your house. Super!
It’s hard to know which websites are trustworthy these days. Usually, when you see something that sounds too good to be true, it really is just that.. I recall my friend going to a sketchy website I’d never heard of that sells hard-to-find items, such as expensive electronics, and would display certain items depending on the time of day & location (You can only assume what they advertise after midnight).
As my friend eagerly awaited the arrival of his $100 iPod from China- he was only to be let down by a nicely wrapped package of… a rock. Yes, a rock. A rock wrapped up in a white cloth in a shiny box. And yes, I did have a nice laugh at his expense.
This might sound like a tale for consumers only. “Caveat emptor,” as Mike Brady used to say. 
Have quality products and make good on your promises to provide a great experience.
Do not enable pop-ups or cheap advertisements to get in the way of your customer’s experience. Also, make sure your company’s search algorithm works exactly as you planned, in order for people to find you. You don’t want people going to a competitors website- you want them to find you.
Another thing, make sure your website has a personal touch. The design should be visually appealing and accessible. Take Seattle ecommerce giant, Amazon, for example. You can see recommendations based on your past purchases and with a few clicks of a button, you can have the first season of Bonanza on dvd you’ve always wanted.
Don’t forget to include your company’s contact information and return policy or maybe present pictures of your staff.  Be accountable for your company. Your website can be too good to be true if you put a little effort into it.

3. Know Someone

            There’s a reason why this bullet is the last. It’s the most important.
No, I’m not talking about nepotism- although that never hurt anybody. Just ask the Waltons! Just like hiring processes: most people do business with someone they know. Referrals are HUGE. Where would our company be if we didn’t know someone, who knew someone, who knew someone, etc.? It’s not surprising how quick business takes off when you have a coffee date with a friend of a friend. They may just be doing it as a favor with no expectations. That can easily be turned around when you begin to talk about the things you have in common and how you each met your friend. But also, they will be more likely to trust someone who has great recommendations. 

To summarize: sales is more than following a script and repeating it to strangers hoping for a bite. It’s about creating relationships and building rapport. Have a trustworthy and accessible website for the best user experience. And ultimately, sales happen with people you trust. Knowing someone and having great recommendations will put you and your business at the top. 

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