The sales process and customer relations---two important areas of marketing for small and medium size companies are coming under increased examination.
The Internet and other information sources have widened the information footprint available to potential purchases. At the same time, sales staffs have become leaner and more focused on targeted audiences. Concurrently, customer service functions have become more critical to long term client loyalty. All of these factors mean that the sales process is more critically focused on the total process.
These requirements make it imperative that firms utilize best sales approaches to insure the highest return on marketing dollars.
Many sales management experts stress the need for salespeople to utilize the consultative approach to gaining customers.
Jeff Thull argues that a form of diagnostic selling will be more effective in this changing environment.
Thull believes that in business-to-business selling it is important for the salesperson to build personal creditability, engage higher management in the process and win sales building a compelling case for the product or service.
In his new book, Exceptional Selling, How The Best Connect And Win In High Stakes Sales, Thull provides examples.
B-to-B selling often involves multiple sales calls and responses to many levels of the target company. He, like many others, argues that a sales process should be with the client, not to him and her.
Because of the vast amount of information available, many business already have an idea about what the product or service is about. The Exceptional Salesperson finds out what is already known and determines what information is needed.
Often, this requires the salesperson to talk at several levels within the target company and to determine how much misinformation is already present.
The key to sales is to listen to the client's needs and find a solution with that client that fits those needs.
Then too, customer service and management are playing a bigger role in making the relationship work.
Senior management needs to be aware of what is happening in the process of fulfilling the order.
Too many companies fail to make CRM a part of the process to complete a sale.
The changing information footprint is forcing companies to react to customer misinformation rather than what is really occurring.
A former manager at AT&T described recently how he was part of a unit that was asked to fix really bad customer relations.
What he determined was that bad customer relations happen over time and that if senior management was aware earlier of the problems, they could have been handled easier and with a greater potential to keep the customer.
Small and medium-size firms, with more shallow management structures, can benefit from an approach that puts an emphasis on attending to customer needs right on the firing line.
This approach requires that customer service and the sales force have greater flexibility in making decisions. This is a scary proposition for many companies.
The alternative, Thull and others postulate, is lost sales.