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March 30, 2011

Continuing the Sales Conversation After The Pitch

Once you have made the sales presentation, there is always the dilemma of how to stay in contact and keep the lines of communication open, whilst still trying to add value to the wholes process. Collaborative selling is certainly a process which can be mutually beneficial to both parties concerned. The potential benefits of reducing risks, getting great quality and service, making sure the correct solutions or products are delivered at a price that is fair and equitable, with no misunderstanding is clearly in everyone’s interest. To achieve this there needs to be an easy and sociable way to communicate but within the context of a business environment. With the increase in availability of collaboration tools this article looks at how collaborative selling can be delivered, along with the potential benefits to be gained.

There are countless books, videos, seminars, gurus, and webinars to name but a few, on how we can improve our Selling capability. There are many aspects to the whole Sales process itself, which is why there are so many avenues of information on the subject. In today’s world, people have become more able to say “No”. Although in the UK, we still find it hard to say NO, (unless the salesperson is really pushy, rude and not very pleasant) only then, we might say No! This word, although only two letters is one of the most powerful words and probably the word that most people do not want to hear – as it is a word of rejection, it is negative, you haven’t got the answer you wanted. Because of this, people who are selling (and we are all selling something at some time) find it difficult to decide once they have made their “Sales” pitch, how do you follow up without being too eager, or too pushy.

Alternatively if you wait too long will they think that you do not care, not interested or lazy, until you get yourself into such a state of indecision, you do nothing – which is even worse!

Technology innovation will continue to impact and change our culture, behaviors, and the way that we will communicate with one another. One of the outcomes is that this continual innovation of technology has provided a buffering or a “cyber wall” between people, both in business and socially. Socially people are texting, while in business they use email. Technology has become a virtual wall for people to hide behind. Is this a good? Time will tell – but we need to be able to have the confidence to communicate in a way that is positive, active and adds value whether in business and or socially.

In the UK, “selling” as a job, has not always had a good standing as a profession. Yet whatever business you are in, without Sales, nothing happens until the Sale is made! No orders, no money coming in, no money to pay salaries and we all know what that means!

Our lives both in business and privately will be changed dramatically by social media. In business this is happening at an alarming rate and it’s not just Business to Consumer, it’s Business to Business as well. Business Social Media communication is not a fashion trend, it is a fundamental shift in how we all communicate, both socially and in importantly, within business.

As I have said before, this “Business Social Networking” is a way to “humanize your business” in terms of its sales and marketing, customer service and support, when using technology. It is clear to me when there are various tools out there like Twitter, Blogs, LinkedIn and You Tube, the ability for Businesses and Customers to consume information, write about it, vote on it, send it on to other people, who in turn do the same in a viral way is quite amazing – and it is virtually FREE to do – the only real cost being your time. One of the earlier disadvantages (that’s if is/was really a disadvantage) is how do you accurately measure the ROI? Well if you search on YouTube for “Social Media ROI socialnomics”, you can see from the video people and corporations are managing to measure and get their ROI in very positive way.

Most of you will be receiving Tweets, email messages, Videos, webinars, and podcasts to name a few, which if you select carefully is hopefully interesting, informative and adds value to what you want. This is social media and I include business social media when I say this, but interestingly it seeks you out, the customer, allowing you to engage and start collaborating real time. Taking this to a more specific business situation, I just recently created a presentation using a product called sharpcloud. One tool that is very visual and collaborative and has been on the market for sometime. The recent addition of being able to create a presentation within your sharpcloud Story (Marketing Content, Sales Presentation, Strategy, Technology Roadmap and the like) allows you to deliver a social but thoughtful and helpful introduction to your Story. When people first go to your online Story, you are able to guide them through Views of your Story, in a way that makes sense, whilst also allowing the viewer to pause the presentation, so that they can explore your story, write a comment, vote on an Item and continue the presentation by pressing the Play button again. This becomes a journey of discovery for the viewer, which becomes more interesting, interactive as well as an enjoyable “business social” experience

So “Death by PowerPoint” is no longer an issue. Being able to make your “sales presentation” via tools like sharpcloud, in the linear way that you would do so with PowerPoint is a familiar experience for most viewers.

However, one of the main benefits is when the potential customer or client asks that question, say about costs, that you do not have in that PowerPoint deck, then it’s a missed opportunity. Well in sharpcloud, you can quickly click to a view that visually shows the information to answer the question. You could also link to media content such as videos, other presentations, documents, sales brochures, testimonials, etc within the story that is either part of sharpcloud or hosted on You Tube, or some other content platform. Once you have answered the question, you can carry on with the presentation.

So now that we are able to make a “Sales” presentation and not worry about what slides to include or create, or have ready for a “just in case” question, lets come back to how we can continue this Sales process. As with other social technologies the key element is the ability to collaborate.

The ability for you and your customers to remain connected and be able to communicate and collaborate in a business social way, is a major advantage when compared to the more traditional approaches. I am not saying we forget about these approaches, but when combined with a collaborative selling approach, over time this will have a major positive effect on you, your client, your brand and your business and organizations future success. It is highly likely that your competitors are not even thinking about this let alone doing it!

The fact you can mutually learn and provide feedback back to one another, (sales/presenter & client/audience) and be able to bring this knowledge and information back into your respective company and organization not only improves the sales engagement, but facilitates in reducing the sales cycle time. A major benefit for the marketing group is being able to gain insight directly from clients with regards to the relevancy of the marketing content that they have generated and what they need to focus on in the future. Collaborative Selling is mutually beneficial to all parties involved in the process by being able to remove/reduce the risk and deliver clarity and certainty with regards to products and or services.

This “Collaborative Selling” will help to influence outcomes in a positive way, by creating a “real time umbilical cord” relating to decision making, personal experience, costs, as well as fostering and nurturing both the sales person and customers relationship, into a trusting and collaborative one.

One last point, which is relevant to all of us is costs.

Using business social networking to deliver Collaborative Selling is a relatively low cost proposition, with free social media marketing channels, coupled with commercial products such as sharpcloud, cannot be over looked when comparing to the traditional corporate ways of Sales and Marketing. By getting traction with your market, developing relationships and increasing your brand awareness on a global scale using collaborative technologies, means businesses and organizations have to give serious thought and consideration of how they stay engaged and keep the conversation alive with their clients and customers, during a highly competitive sales process.

Eventually we will all have to do it, small or large otherwise those who do, will win!

Jason Hier is an expert in using sharpcloud to help businesses deliver highly effective sales presentations in a very visual and collaborative way. By being able to keep the conversation alive after the initial sales presentation positions both supplier & customer into a unique position to collaborate & innovate – developing the optimal solution. Get a FREE 1/2 day consultation today