What’s on Your (Sales) Radar Screen?2 Dec, 2015 By: Troy Harrison, Salesforce Solutions
“It’s nothing, don’t worry about it.” Those words, uttered by one Air Force lieutenant, literally changed the course of history. The lieutenant was the command officer in charge of the brand-new radar station on Oahu, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941. The technology of radar was new and somewhat untrusted, and the officer assumed that the large blip on the screen was an expected incoming flight of B-17 bombers, rather than what we all know it was on that fateful day.
I hear similar words uttered all the time – by salespeople, by sales managers, and even executives – who, when confronted with change, say, “It’s nothing, don’t worry about it” or other words that justify doing business the way they’ve always done it. Like the officer on Oahu, they ignore changes that will have a great impact on their lives and/or business.
Typically, the words “we’ve always done it this way” is an indicator of a company, a sales force, or a salesperson who is falling behind. So, let me help provide a “radar screen” for some early warning signs that may be needed.
What new buying channels are available to your customers today? The Internet has become not only an available buying channel, but a preferred one. For many salespeople, the “milk route” model of selling was the way to go. I did it, too, back in the mid-90s when I was selling industrial components. You’d simply visit your customers, they’d have the week’s order ready, and you’d go on to the next one. Now, many of those same salespeople are showing up and the customer has already ordered – and they don’t know what to do. If that’s you, it’s time to change your paradigm – stop being an order taker and become a relationship manager.
How do your customers access information today? Again, the obvious answer is “the Internet.” I write for trade magazines and find that I get as much feedback now from people who are reading the trade association’s website as are reading the paper magazine. Whatever you want to read – whatever how-to is available, you can access it on the Net. There’s a deeper level, however, than just the Internet. Do your customers use social media? I always ask, “Raise your hand if you consulted Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn before making a major purchase in the last year.” Very few hands go up. However, those same people, when asked, “Raise your hand if you consulted those sites to learn how to do something that was important to you,” nearly all raise their hands. The conclusion – how-to articles draw attention on social media; straight selling does not.
How do your customers’ customers learn about them? No, I didn’t stutter. Take it to the next level. You can benefit your customers immeasurably by helping them grow, and you can also learn critical information by understanding what your customers’ customers say. Are your customers in a “reviewable” industry? If you’re selling to virtually any service industry (restaurants, hotels, dry cleaners, etc.), then yes, they are. Do you understand how the reviews work, how your customers are searchable on the sites, and where they rank? If not, why not? To stay relevant in today’s world, you’re going to have to find other ways of building a relationship with your customers than simply transactions of product for money. Being a partner in helping them build their business, and understanding the various ways and means that they build their business, is one great way.
Is your profession or industry viable? If there’s any part of sales that’s been devastated by new technology, it’s the travel agent business. Yep, once upon a time, we’d call our travel agent and tell him where we wanted to go and the tickets would magically appear. Now, in the time that it took me to write this paragraph, you can (and most people do) book it yourself. Sometimes you need to take a step back, give your business a strong look-see, and ask yourself about its viability. It’s easy to look at new technologies, methods, and changes in the ways of doing business with suspicion. I do it too; I’m often a skeptic. At the same time, understanding where the validity lies, and what the technology does, is essential to keeping current and staying relevant in a profession such as ours, where changes are now measured by the years.
I read a profile on the Lieutenant that gave the “don’t worry about it” command at Pearl Harbor. He lived well into his eighties, and as you can imagine, that command haunted him for the rest of his life. Trust me – if you ignore what’s happening on your own radar screen, on whatever level, it may haunt you, too.
Troy Harrison is author of “Sell Like You Mean It!” and the recent “The Pocket Sales Manager.” He is a speaker, consultant, and sales navigator, helping companies build more profitable & productive sales forces with cutting-edge sales training and methodologies. For info or his eZine call 913-645-3603 or email Troy@TroyHarrison.com or visit www.TroyHarrison.com