The Importance of Building Sales Relationships in the Connected Era

Image 2Working in sales used to be a simpler process. It was fairly straight-forward – you advertised in whatever broadcast mediums made the most sense for your business, you took calls based on those ads, or you used cold calling tactics to contact people who you thought would be interested based on your own research. Simple. But times have changed, and the communications process, itself, has evolved.

Nowadays people expect more than just a one-off transaction – they want to be part of the process. People want more than just your best offer; they want to know they’re getting the best offering in the market. And what’s more, with the internet available in every pocket, people know more about every transaction than they did before. Everything is easily discoverable with the swipe of a finger.

In this new world of communication, it’s not enough to be just a salesperson anymore. You have to be a trusted advisor; an expert, someone who’s invested in the sales relationship. Here are some of the ways that modern businesses can do just that.

Data-riffic

Market research has always been a key element of every sales strategy. Customer surveys, online feedback forms, general demographics – there’s a wide range of ways to obtain data insights into your target audience. But in the modern world of social media, the availability and opportunity of data is greater than it’s ever been.

I’ll put this to you simply: social media is the greatest audience insight tool we have ever had access to.

A full 90 percent of the world’s data has been created in the last two years. That means all but 10 percent of the content we can analyse for insights and information didn’t even exist two years ago. There’s no way to understand what that level of data means or how much it can change for your business processes, because we’ve simply not had anything like it before, but one thing is clear, there is much potential in those social media hills of information.

So how do you find it? There’s a range of ways to utilise social media data and extract information relevant to your business. The first is through social listening – using a tool like Hootsuite you can track social media channels for brand and keyword mentions, ensuring you’re alerted to any conversations relevant to your business. You can use a tool like BuzzSumo to track specific terms and names across social media, helping you find the most shared content amongst your online communities. You can use a tool like Topsy to track down keyword mentions across Twitter and get an idea of the conversation.

The Human Touch

One of the key things to remember in the modern communications and interactive process is the role that social media now plays in the wider scheme, and that role is big. But what’s most important in considering this is keeping in mind the key term itself “social media”. You see, it’s not “media” itself, its “social”, and this is a critical element that all brands need to keep in mind – and that many forget in the process.

The key to the rise of social media is empowerment – social media networks empower everyone with a voice, a platform from which to share their thoughts, their day-to-day concerns, to have their say on the global conversation. Everyone on social media has a chance to put forward their perspective – the brands that win in that environment are the ones who hear these perspectives and react.

This is an important element to consider in all communications practices – social media has provided each individual with a voice, and in the modern marketing world, the brand that facilitates that, that can speak to that person on an individual level, is a brand they can relate to. Gone are the days when your aim was to broadcast to as many people as possible in the hopes of converting as many interested parties as you could within that wide scope. These days it’s all about personalisation, about utilising the data we have available to reach people based on their interests, their personal likes and preferences. This is how social media and Google AdWords targeting already works, you reach people based on their online actions and indicators.

Such is the level of personalisation, consumers are coming to expect. If more and more marketers are utilising smarter advertising techniques to find them and market to them, specifically, based on their interests, why shouldn’t they expect others to follow suit?

Consumer expectation is increasing. Already there are stats showing that consumers expect responses on social media within an hour, even if they don’t directly contact the brand they’re discussing. The more you’re listening in and responding to those concerns, the better, and the more personalised you can make the transactional experience, the more you’re aligning with those increased expectations for a relationship, not just a transaction.

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Word of Mouth

The sales relationship is the next level of marketing and communications outreach. As we become more connected, more linked to other people via social media and online networks, word of mouth is being amplified considerably. It used to be that if you had a good or bad experience with a brand, you’d tell your friends, family and you’d be lucky to have that message spread through a cumulative radius of, say, thirty people. Word of mouth, which has always been the most trusted form of marketing, was not as big a factor in times past because of the limitations of communication and geography. But online connectivity has changed that.

Consider this – the average Facebook user has around 200 friends. Everything a user posts has the potential to reach a proportion of those friends. It also has the potential to be amplified even further if any of their connections comment on or share the posts.  And the chain goes on – social media is a veritable word of mouth engine, and in that sense, building a sales relationship is of crucial importance. Providing a memorable customer experience is of crucial importance – the more you can become a trusted advisor, someone who your customers can refer to as a source of knowledge and information, and refer others to for the same, the better off you’ll be.

Utilising the opportunities of online communications to build better relationships with your audience should be considered a key factor in reinforcing any modern sales strategy. The more you can work on building an ongoing relationship, as opposed to facilitating a transaction, the more you’re supporting improved word of mouth sharing, and that sharing, in the connected world, is powerful.

The bottom line is modern consumers want more. They want to connect, they want to be part of something, as opposed to being sold something, and many psychological studies have shown experiences bring people more happiness than possessions. In the past, this wasn’t possible, we couldn’t be connected to brands in the way we can now. But in the modern era, it’s all about connection. People can inform themselves, via online research, on what’s the best price, what are the best features, what they can expect. But they can’t quantify community. In this sense, it’s relationships that reign supreme, conversations that win out over basic transactions.

The modern consumer is always connected, always typing another message into their phone to update their connections on the latest happenings. Those very interactions are where they’re at – you can either meet them there and be part of that process or you can broadcast on the billboards above, to be viewed by the passing planes and clouds.