Saving Face to Face

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Selling in the current landscape

“Say less…while selling more.” In his bestselling book, “20 Days to the Top: How the PRECISE Selling Formula Will Make You Your Company’s Top Sales Performer in Twenty Days or Less,” renowned sales thought leader Brian Sullivan stressed that sometimes less is more. Regardless of what the current sales landscape dictates, Sullivan believes that in the end, the key to effective sales is knowing what your customers really want, and then giving it to them in the most practical, ethical way possible.

And sure, while the pandemic may have redirected how salespeople sell, Sullivan says the most effective strategy remains getting in front of who you are selling. Is he oversimplifying the process? Maybe. But try some math: If you need to get in front of five new clients this month, you will need at least 15 formal presentations (live or virtual). That means you need to reach out to 45 prospects. If the numbers don’t add up, you add more prospect proposals.

“Personally, I can honestly say I have spoken and looked in the eyes of more prospects and clients over the past two years more than at any point in my career.”
— Brian Sullivan, Founder, PRECISE Selling

“There were three types of companies and salespeople I have worked with during the pandemic,” says, Sullivan, founder of PRECISE Selling. “Some were in retreat mode, which means they were so fearful of being perceived as being insensitive to the crisis that they limited their interaction with clients. Others were in a ‘wait and see’ mode, which meant their client interactions existed, but not at the pre-pandemic levels. And others went into full attack mode. They attacked their clients’ pandemic-infused issues and helped them find answers to their problems; they found ways to make their clients and prospects either smarter or happier.”

In short, a salesperson’s job is to be there for his prospects. And in a time when the face-to-face sales approach is slowly working itself back into play, salespeople still have to make a play. Is communication more difficult? Sullivan says it doesn’t matter. For example, he recalls a client company he began working with at the start of the pandemic. After three separate two-day seminars, a handful of webinars and some individual one-on-one coaching, the VP of Sales realized they had never met face to face. “You know,” the client said on a Zoom call, “we never actually met in person.”

Sullivan realized in that moment, that done right, virtual meetings can produce almost as good an interaction as visiting somebody live. “Personally, I can honestly say I have spoken and looked in the eyes of more prospects and clients over the past two years more than at any point in my career.”

A new day dawning

In her more than 30 years as a corporate marketer, Joanne Gore has just about seen it all. From working with scrappy start-ups and established enterprises, she has helped software, hardware, print and manufacturing companies around the world generate awareness, engagement and growth.

And like Sullivan, Gore says technology’s impact on the engagement process cannot be lauded enough. “Technology came to the masses during the pandemic. And we lapped it up because we needed that human interaction, albeit virtual. Over the past two years, I developed relationships, both personal and professional, that would never have happened had it not been for the global reach of social media and video-conferencing.”

Gore, president of the full-service B2B marketing agency Joanne Gore Communications Inc. and CMO of Taktiful, says that online relationships were nurtured prior to the pandemic, making it all the sweeter. “I learned a new way to sell during the pandemic and I don’t plan to go back. As far as I’m concerned, if you are a B2B company, you need to build your personal brand and begin using social selling strategies to find and nurture prospects, clients, partners and influencers.”

In today’s technologically charged landscape, you have less than five seconds to grab someone’s attention. And those five seconds can take forever. Scrolling. Swiping. Tapping. Gore says brands must find a way to stand out. “Now, more than ever, it’s critical to know who you help, how you help, and why that matters. Everyone in your company, from the floor sweeper to the CEO, needs to be able to answer those three simple questions. And the answers need to be the same. Having a messaging playbook makes it super simple to create campaigns, presentations, website content, sales scripts, training/onboarding guides. The list is endless. Armed with one, you can pinpoint your quickest time to money and laser-target your lead gen efforts.”

“Communicating the right story to the right people over the right channel, that’s the issue. That’s where brands get tripped up.”
— Joanne Gore, CMO, Taktifu

Gore says the smart brands are the ones that have added the power of print in the buyer’s journey. “If you can make it more touch-worthy, that’s even better. Print helps improve the conversion rate, brand recall and retention in your prospect’s journey. I don’t think communication is the issue here. Communicating the right story to the right people over the right channel, that’s the issue. That’s where brands get tripped up.”

Imagine you are a printer that just purchased a new embellishment press. What do you do next? Where are you going to make the most amount of money in the least amount of time, from the most amount of people? Most printers will sell that press the way it was sold to them. They will talk about foils and run times and sheet size. “The client doesn’t want to hear that,” Gore says. “They want to hear things like: When you see it, you want to touch it. And when you touch it, you’re more likely to buy it.”

This is where the sales and marketing process intersect. Today, more than ever, the two strategies are co-dependent. Automation platforms like CRM (customer relationship management), MAP (marketing automation platform), W2P/eCommerce, Print MIS/ERP (information and resource management) automatically feed each other prospect, customer and business information 24/7/365. Managing these teams requires a blend of old-school face-to-face engagement strategies and online digital strategies to fuel business demand.

“It’s really hard to get it right,” Gore says. “Despite all the data and all the insights, sometimes your best efforts flop. But we learn from what works and what doesn’t. We then can focus our efforts on creating experiences that lead to business. It’s about having clarity on what makes for an ideal prospect—a prospect who you are most likely to convert into a customer. Where do you find them? How do you approach them? When is the right time to add them to the sales funnel? Answering these questions becomes the foundation of your company’s sales DNA.”

Your 8-step plan to building the perfect communications engagement

  1. Be prepared and have a call/meeting objective, i.e., what do you want the prospect/client to do/say as a result of your call
  2. Build respect and trust and do not sound like a product-pushing salesperson
  3. Think and write out the questions you will ask beforehand
  4. Focus your presentation on what they said was important to them and not on what you think should be important to them
  5. Use success stories and anecdotes to bring your presentation to life
  6. Think through and write out the top three objections you might hear and practice what you are going to say when you hear them from a client
  7. If the prospect likes what you are presenting, do not let the sale hang out there; guide the conversation to the next step in the sales process
  8. Ask for referrals

Source: Brian Sullivan, PRECISE Selling