Sep
11

Proactive Sales Strategies

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Finally the last section in the series that started by calling the Web Host Industry Immature. This final installation deals with sales. It was inevitable really.

We started by detailing product management then went into marketing, now we are going to take a look at sales, but not any sort of sales. We will look at the guidelines involved in making your sales force pro-active.

Although pro-active is one of those cliche words like paradigm or synergy (can’t stand either one really), I think we can demonstrate that its probably the best means of describing what we are looking for. Therefore:

Definitions
The definition of pro-active is controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than waiting to respond to it after it happens. Therefore having a proactive sales strategy is to make sales by going out and meeting the potential customer, by however means (face to face, phone, email, Second Life, what have you).

The Internet makes life for the sales department easy. With magazine and TV ads, customers simple read or watch and the best you can get is to have the potential customer think about you and hopefully they think favorably when the time to buy. With the Internet, potential customers can interact with ads and go straight to you and buy. In this manner you don’t really have to sell, you can just let the customers slowly trickle in and you are making money. Swap out banners and such now and then to keep them fresh and your done.

Or are you?
If all you want to do is wait on the customers to come in, by all means do so. But to be truly successful you have to meet your customer. If you don’t your competitors will, which will hurt your bottom line. So if you want to have things stay the way they are then stop reading, the rest of us shall press on.

Do Not Pitch Your Company or Service
Instead of the standard sales pitch, i.e. going over the millions of virtues of your company, product, service, pet dog, etc. You should instead use direct questions to focus in on what the potential customer needs. By pitching your company you rattle off a list of features and hope your prospect is paying enough attention to grasp the few features they need.

Instead, find out what they need and go from there. If they have a need that your service can fulfill then explain how.

Do Your Homework
It never ceases to amaze me how many in sales do not do their homework. At the last HostingCon, I over heard the representative of a Web Host Information site solicit a Web Host for advertising. First thing the Web Host asked was, what is your Google Ranking. Baffled the salesman faltered and the sale was lost.

Always do your homework. You should know your site and services backwards and forwards. Key points NEED to be memorized. If you are chosen to go to a conference it doesn’t matter if you are a salesman, engineer, VP, manager, or the janitor, you need to know your company.

You also need to know your competition. Every strength and weakness they have you should know.

You need to know your customer. What motivates them? What are their needs? Who do they go to when it comes to getting their needs resolved? Would they be willing to try an alternative service provider (you for example)? These are questions you need to bring up as you talk to your prospect.

Do Not Disparage Your Competition
This is an area that truly irritates me. NEVER disparage your competition. It shows a lack of professionalism. By making fun of your competition to a customer you signal them that your service isn’t good enough to go toe to toe and that in order to compete you need to sink to name calling. In fact, you should do the opposite… see next point.

Be Truthful About Your Service
I bring up Progressive Auto Insurance a lot and for good reason. Their ad campaign is brilliant. They are truthful about their service to the point of swinging a few customers here and there to their competition. But those few customers lost are well worth the huge gains they get for brand loyalty.

Let us assume, your customers are smart. Let’s also assume that one way or another they will find out the truth of your service. Would you rather be up-front and tell them yourself or would you rather them find out, get angry, leave and never come back? In the first scenario you may not gain them as a customer. In the second scenario you loose their business and, if they are mad enough, you might end up having one motivated angry client who may start spamming forums and social sites telling the world how bad you are.

So instead, during your sales pitch be factual, be truthful, and maybe even compliment your competitors when it comes to those things they excel at. The honesty will be a welcome relief. Consumers get spammed by advertising in the tens of thousands each day, honesty will set you apart from the mob.

Next time we will continue on our discussion of sales practices and discuss various ways of getting in touch with the customer. Until then happy hosting!

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Categories : The Art of War

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