Paul Thompson - Commercial Director

“Salesperson” – there was a time when this conjured up images of, dare I say it, cocky young men in shiny suits and the latest souped-up Ford. Often working door-to-door selling anything from hoovers to the re-tarmacking of your driveway or, in the corporate world, the latest photocopier, these salespeople were equipped with oodles of confidence and the gift of the gab. But this is 2022 and times have changed. There’s no place for highly flammable suits, and perma-grin confidence will only work when backed up with an arsenal of highly honed skills.

Change in the sales landscape has occurred over time as technology has become increasingly ubiquitous in every aspect of our lives, but the impact of Covid-19 further drove these changes like nothing that came before.

I’ve worked in sales environments for more years than my appearance would lead you to believe, and I’ve always remained committed to staying abreast, if not ahead, of the latest trends in sales.  So, what does that mean for sales in 2022?  Let me share some thoughts and observations.

The first thing to acknowledge is that selling today is far less likely to be face to face compared to what it was in the past.  Indeed, it’s entirely possible that a sale is secured without a physical meeting ever taking place.  Whilst some dyed in the wool salespeople of old would deem this as detrimental to sales success, research from LinkedIn would suggest otherwise with 45% of purchasers in fact finding the remote buying journey easier.

Quickly following this first realisation is the fact that if purchasers are able and willing to navigate the purchasing journey independently, then salespeople need to radically adapt to demonstrate the value that they can still add.  It is those who successfully embrace technology whilst continuing to remember a few sales fundamentals that will reap the rewards.

“The world is changing. It’s never going back to the way that it was. We will sell in a virtual world much more often. We’ll communicate in a digital world with our customers. For the sales profession, it’s time to evolve.”

Anne Sheeshan, Director at Vodafone Business UK.

Don’t forget that first impressions still count.  This may not be conveyed via a beaming smile and cheeky compliment as soon as the door is opened but failing to invest time and effort into the opening sales pitch is a recipe for disaster.  

That opening pitch is likely to be delivered via an email and in the same way you’d prepare before a face-to-face meeting, preparation is key to success in the digital, virtual world too.  Get this right and it sets the tone for the rest of the sales journey; get it wrong and you may as well kiss goodbye to that sales opportunity.

One size doesn’t fit all so don’t expect a bland, blanket, non-personalised email to hit the spot: it won’t!  On average, less than a quarter (24% – according to Hubspot) of sales emails get opened, so invest beforehand to give yours the best chance.  

To start with, segment your target list into groups with commonly shared needs or problems.  Being able to identify pinch points and propose a solution to them demonstrates that you’ve not only done your homework, but that you’ve applied it and that you’re on their side.  Despite how the sales environment has evolved in so many ways, I remain a firm fan of PESTEL analysis where political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal factors are all taken into consideration. 

Then take this intelligence and use it to tailor your initial pitch.  Including your prospect’s name in the subject line of that first email and supplementing it with a suggestion that you’re offering something that they need, will increase the chances of that first email receiving an opening click!

Moving forward, don’t be afraid to embed your insights into your pitch.  If what you’re selling is going to boost the prospect’s revenues, then be specific and include projections of that impact.  The investment of your time to carry out meaningful research that demonstrates that you not only know what you’re selling, but that you know the impact that it’ll have on the prospect’s business will pay dividends.  Supplement this, where appropriate, with case studies that showcase the positive impact that your product, service, or solution has had on similar businesses – a purchaser is far more likely to continue their journey with you when they can relate to a similar organisation who has benefitted from what you’re offering.  Think of it in the same way you would consult product reviews for an item of clothing you’re buying online, or a holiday destination. 

The virtual marketplace is crowded; there are no two ways about it.  Customers have a raft of potential sellers to engage with so make your customer service second to none.  Data from Hubspot suggests that 68% of customers are willing to invest more in a product or service where the customer service is known to be unrivalled. 

At this stage, there’s still no guarantee that the prospect will bite, but if they’re left with a positive impression from your initial pitch and they’re reassured of your overall commitment to them, then they’re far more likely to remember you in the future.  Those prospects move on to new roles and a decision not to proceed in a previous organisation wont necessarily play out the same way in their new role.  First impressions not only count, they last as well!

So, whilst the shiny suit may have long since been relegated to the charity shop, the Ford Mondeo has departed to the scrapheap in the sky and the knock, knock, knock of the sales approach of yesteryear has been replaced by the ping of a new email in the prospect’s inbox, there’s much that remains intact.  It all starts with personalisation, relevance and stand-out – don’t forget that!