Wizened (I didn’t say old) sales reps can be a little stubborn when it comes to using technology and the Web to grow sales and customer relationships. Sound familiar? The problem is, you’ll get left behind if you can’t adapt to today’s digital, social and mobile-based selling methods.
Sales methods have flipped upside down over the past several years. Sales reps now use cheap and reliable Web conferencing from their PCs, social media for researching companies and prospects and login to CRM apps and other selling tools from their mobile phones. New marketing systems help optimize campaigns and lead generation activities to uncover the golden prospects faster.
Related: 12 Benefits of Hiring Older Workers
Successful salespeople don’t have to do as much cold calling, with more information gleaned from the Web on who wants their product and how likely they are to buy. The convenience of digital communications, which many prospects seem to prefer, means that sales reps can share knowledge in ways that are less intrusive and oftentimes more meaningful.
But wait, you’ve got a 20 or 30-year track record of chatting up executives on the phone and on the golf course and navigating tricky organizational charts to win favor with a promising prospect. You hate tweeting, Skype is awkward and LinkedIn is practically a foreign language.
Have faith. There’s a middle ground for sales pros who began working before smartphones and Google Apps and don’t want to be glued to their screens all day. Think about playing Angry Birds instead of chess. Chess is a steady, calculated game for cerebral tacticians. Angry Birds is mastered through trial and error: Finding what works and what doesn’t, but doing it quickly and moving on. Marketers and salespeople today must constantly adapt to new trends with mobile and Web business. While you have to maintain a strategic plan, you also must be prepared to experiment.
Below are some ways to get started on Angry Birds selling tactics. As well, why not grab coffee with some of your “younger, tech savvy” colleagues and ask for their advice on how to reach customers today? In return, they’ll probably love learning from you, because while they may have better tech acumen, they typically don’t have your business acumen.
1. Use social media to your advantage. Selling without the help of social media is to the Angry Bird akin to the torture of using the ancient microfiche machine in the local library: why, why, why? What was creepy a few years ago is now common practice: researching a prospect’s interests and background before a meeting by perusing their social profiles and the results of a Google name search. Start a meeting by cleverly bringing up this newfound knowledge: an interest in the prospect’s college sport or mention of a favorite city to visit, which just happens to be the prospect’s hometown. One can go overboard, of course: Don’t mention that Facebook party photo. Yet taking the time to learn a bit about a new contact and their affiliations shows that you care more than just making the sale.
2. Try new things, frequently. Our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers became great salespeople by knocking on doors and picking up the phone. Their best clients were local shop owners and coaches of their kids’ high school sports teams. Today you might never meet an actual customer and they may live all over the world and speak different languages. Some prefer to text, others respond best to a Twitter message while still others won’t bite until they see a video demo of your product or service. Effective salespeople today must understand all the business communication methods and determine what works best with different prospects or categories of prospects. Try something, note the results, revise it, and try again. Consider that most people will never respond to a cold email.
3. Make data your best friend. Use apps that alert you when a prospect is visiting your website and know who’s on Twitter looking for a solution you sell. You should know if a lead has been at the product pricing page three times in the past week, and when a customer has changed jobs or been promoted, using tools like InsideView or LinkedIn. Stay on top of the competition’s latest moves and wins using tools like TackMaven. Using this data, the old-school salesperson is aptly prepared when a prospect is ready to talk. They know when to approach a potential customer based on buying signals from the Internet. Tools can tell them if prospects are not only opening emails but reading them. This means they’ve got a far better idea about what works, what doesn’t, and which customers are the best ones to target today.
Even an old stubborn dog can learn the newest tricks. The good news is, today’s digital, mobile and social technologies can enhance your ability to do what you’ve always done well: understand and relate to your customers and their business and bring them what they need and what they don’t even realize they need.
The Angry Bird generation has plenty to teach the chess players, yet this learning goes both ways. The old guard has likely had more traditional sales training, focusing on tenets such as how to write a professional letter (or email), how to get organized for success, how to keep someone on the phone and tricks for pleasant persistence and convincing follow-ups.
Old-school reps understand that sales is hard work, plain and simple. It requires patience and diligence, no matter what resources one has at their disposal. Combining those insights that can only come from years of experience with today’s digital selling know-how, and you’ll never again hear the phrase “you’re too old for the job.”
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