Last week, I was chatting by phone with a friend of mine who happens to be the CEO of a major player in the high-tech industry. We were talking about how, when and why he decides to get involved in the sales process. An hour or so into our talk, almost as a lark, I decided to ask him for his take on the current state of the economy and how the events of September 11 had affected his own business. His answer was concise, and it came quickly: "I believe it's a new world," he said, "and it's a new world economy which is going to take new world marketing. That's our working assumption for growing and succeeding from this point forward."
Then I asked: "OK, but what exactly does that mean? What is the new world sales model, as you see it?" The lively conversation following that question brought us to three key conclusions about what I have come to call "New World Selling." The conclusions are summarized briefly below. Warning: If you are uncomfortable with the notion that salespeople at all levels must now, more than ever, use technology to initiate, maintain and grow business relationships, you are likely to be disappointed with the following conclusions:
Conclusion No. 1: Technology can (and should) drive down the cost of the average sales call.
The cost of making a face-to-face sales call and presentation has been on the rise for the past 10 years and is now sitting somewhere around $800 per visit. That's if the contact works at a centrally organized business venture that you can drive to. Add in the inevitable complexities (multiple offices; far-flung locations; and 101 technical questions requiring not only your physical presence, but also that of some expert or other resource), and the costs run even higher. The airline and hotel industries may not want to hear it, but CEOs who sell (and the smart salespeople who model them) are going to be focusing more heavily on already available technology to move the buying process along. These technologies can and will increase efficiency and consistency while at the same time providing greater control of the cost-of-sales activities.
The face-to-face appointment isn't dead, of course, but it's increasingly expensive--and, in today's wired economy, increasingly irrelevant. The tragic events of September 2001 seem to me to be likely to add momentum to this trend. (Remember all those articles about businesspeople who found creative ways to work around flights they couldn't take and meetings they couldn't make?)
The technology I'm talking about is called "media-rich" e-presentations, and they're incredibly powerful (they should be)! The communications experts say that combining voice, pictures and text increases retention to a whopping 50 percent, and that's exactly what these tools do.
Conclusion No. 2: Technology can (and should) help smart organizations boost renewal rates and increase high-margin add-on sales from upselling.
Picture this: You're selling a product or service that requires renewal--a club membership, a maintenance contract, an insurance policy, whatever. To close this "renewal" sale, you must win your prospect's "top-of-mind awareness." The question is, How do you do that?
Sure, you can send a letter with a SASE that will get you the traditional 6 to 10 percent renewal rate. But nowadays, you have another choice. You can use technology to contact each renewal customer with an efficient, consistent and economical voice message that is sincere, well-focused and original--and drive your renewal rate up to 60 percent! Another one of my CEO friends has found a way to use a combination of e-mail, e-voice mail and good old-fashioned phone calls to pull people to a tailored, Web-based voice and visual slide presentation that viewers control. The result: a staggering contact-to-response ratio and a similarly unreal renewal percentage!
You can use the same basic tactics to upsell to your base of current customers who are not faced with a "renewal" purchase. You've got the new product or add-on services that you know can add-value, but you don't have a way to show them the value that serves the product justice. You don't want to use something as "common" and "typical" as marketing or sales brochures. Besides, you'll have to wait too long to get the piece developed. You can use today's New World Selling technology to develop, promote and deliver a top-notch presentation that talks the talk and walks the walk at the customer's convenience. This is a great way to "wow" your customers and get the orders coming in.
Conclusion No. 3: Technology can (and should) give prospects the feeling of being a favored "insider" at your company.
The new tech-driven sales model can shape your prospects' and customers' perceptions of your organization. It can deliver the message that your company is accessible, progressive, aware and serious about moving forward on your goals--which means that you can help them do something similar or even greater. Here's one example: Imagine that you want to approach a new prospect, but you don't just want the person to agree to an in-person meeting. You would like this person to get the "look and feel" of your organization by actually seeing it first-hand, by actually hearing the CEO or some other top player deliver a short presentation of your company's vision on your behalf. I am not suggesting a webcam propped in front of your CEO's desk and then hoisted on the shoulder of some cinematographer as he does a "factory tour." Nor am I talking about sending an hour-long "Introduction to our company" video for your prospect to avoid watching. I am talking about an existing technology that allows you to tailor a message to each and every one of your prospects with your voice, your CEO's voice or anyone else's. The vocal track matches a set of presentation slides that include pictures and text.
The message my buddy and I ended up talking about for nearly an hour is delivered by e-mail without an attachment. That means the fear of catching a nasty virus or getting past corporate "firewalls" is gone forever.
The New World Selling
Revolution in Sales Communications
To sell like a CEO, we have to be willing to shake up our assumptions. We have to be willing to ask questions like this: "What can I do right now to create an authentic, more compelling message?"
The New World Sales model I am talking about isn't just focused on technology; it's focused on an attitude toward technology. An attitude that says, in essence: "It's a new world--it's a new economy--and I am open to the possibility of finding new ways to sell."
Here's the point: With today's technology, you can make "sales calls" for about 10 percent of what it's costing you now, save enormous amounts of time, and provide your prospects with an easy way to watch your sales presentation in an accessible "insider" format. They can do it when they want to, as many times as they want to, and the result is that you watch revenues go up. That's the lesson my CEO friend and I have taken from the first-hand experience of using this technology.
If that's not enough, how about knowing precisely when your prospect and/or customer watched it, how long they watched it and where they stopped watching it? Still not enough? How about giving them the opportunity to ask you a question? Finally, how would you like to send a "Thanks for taking the time to watch the first two minutes, but you missed the best part and here it is" message? And bingo, they're watching the rest of your presentation.
Anthony Parinello is the author of the bestselling book Selling to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer. For additional information on his speeches, Sales Success Kits and newest book, CEOs who Sell, call (800) 777-VITO or visit www.sellingtovito.com.