Thanks in large measure to a dismal economy and slow recovery and thanks in part to a new generation of buyers, the world of selling is evolving, changing and morphing.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of B2B tele-sales. The telephone is poised to take the lead role in the method that products are sold. Here are 10 observations or predictions:
1. The Demise of the Field Sales Rep
Face to face sales is declining. And it has been declining for the last 15 or 20 years. The reason? The need for face-to-face contact is not nearly as significant as it once was. A new breed of buyer AND seller brought up on a bread and butter diet of cell phones, smart phones, text messaging, e-mail, social media and web surging has entered the marketplace. The net result is a generation of decision makers and buyers who are more interested in speed, information and instant accessibility rather than in ‘touchy feely’ one-on-one meetings.
2. The Rise of Tele-Sales
If face-to-face selling is declining then B2B tele-selling is doing just the opposite. Tele-selling caters to the demands of this new generation and marketplace and the telephone will continue to rise in predominance as the prime selling medium. Tele-Selling has always provided 2-way interactive dialogue but it lacked the ‘tangibility’ that face-to-face selling provided. That’s changing. Supported by sophisticated web sites, tele-conferencing, web-conferencing, video conferencing, e-mail and the like, the telephone has been synergized. Speed of access, 2-way communication, and reduced cost of contact have all contributed to the growth of tele-sales.
3. The Increase of Competition
More and more companies will jump on the tele-sales band wagon in an effort to take advantage of these changes in the marketplace. Businesses will either introduce brand new tele-sales initiatives or they will expand the activities of their current tele-sales programs. Either way, more companies will be targeting the same markets. Your prospects and clients will have more choice. This could mean bad news as more competitors take a shot at your share. But the good news is that most of these new ‘pretenders’ to the tele-sales throne will be woefully unprepared and their own worst enemies. This means that a strong tele-sales strategy supported by high quality, well trained and well compensated reps, and managed and by elite tele-sales managers and executives will dominate the selling landscape.
4. The Maturation of Tele-Sales
Tele-selling applications will continue to shift and evolve from transactional to more complex selling situations. Higher ticket products and services will be sold to multiple decision makers by TAMs (tele-account managers) seated at a desk, supported by the internet, e-mail and CRM systems that will help manage the process. Sales pitches will give way to needs focused and questions based selling. Gone will be the ‘telemarketing’ mentality, replaced by the consultative tele-sales mentality.
5. The Growth of Personal Relationships
Tele-Account Managers will nurture and develop relationships with existing clients and prospects at both a business and a PERSONAL level. Savvy tele-sales firms will actively develop written account plans designed specifically to develop and enhance not only the business side of selling personal side of selling as well. Companies will seek strategies and tactics to create value, likeability and trust on a 1:1 basis that will work in harmony with business applications.
6. The Evolution and Integration of E-Mail
E-mail contact and communication will rise dramatically in the selling process. It will be equally as important as dialling and 2-way live discussion. A new set of skills and techniques must be developed, trained, coached and integrated into telephone contact. Tele-sales reps and account managers will need to be much more effective communicators with the written word. They will have to be persuasive marketer as much as sellers. Many firms will struggle with this concept as they cling stubbornly to the ‘the more you dial the luckier you get’ mentality.
7. The New Breed of Tele-Sales Rep
A whole new breed of tele-sales rep will enter the world of selling. This ‘uber’ rep will have a more formal education; they will be young, tech savvy, sophisticated and ambitious. Recruitment practices will change to identify individuals who can communicate by phone and by e-mail. Compensation and incentive programs will improve dramatically to attract better quality tele-sales reps. Training will rise significantly in order to provide reps with skills and abilities to sell complex products and services. Career paths will re-emerge and turnover will significantly diminish.
8. The Coaching Solution
Call quality, call success, and revenue results will be directly related to the degree that proactive coaching is implemented on a continuous and ongoing basis. Tele-sales firms/programs and departments will recognize that active coaching and development of their tele-sales reps will be the key method of achieving the “next level” of tele-sales success. Coaching will be the means to differentiate their selling efforts from the multitude of competitors. The emphasis will be on grooming tele-sales reps who can sell smarter, better and faster. Companies will discover that hands-on coaching is the ONLY activity that can significantly change, alter and improve selling behaviour.
9. Social Media is Still Maturing
In B2B tele-sales, social media will continue to develop but the jury is still out on the role it might ultimately place. Certainly in simple, transactional situations social media, used wisely, may drive prospects to call an inside sales rep. Used wisely, it is a means to stay in touch with an existing client. However, it is difficult to see the role of social media in more complex selling situations. Whatever the case may be, social media will play a support role.
10. The Scarcity of Tele-Sales Managers and Executives
The single biggest challenge in the tele-sales marketplace over the short term is the scarcity of an experienced tele-sales managers and executives. Geared more towards managing the ‘numbers’ and transactional sales applications, there are precious few managers/executives capable of developing, implementing and coaching more sophisticated and complex telephone selling programs. If companies are to use the telephone to leverage the changes in the selling marketplace, they will require skilled tele-sales managers and executives to lead the charge. In the absence of external resources, companies must internally develop their tele-sales management team. Associations can help. Consultants and other outside experts are a must.
Are you prepared to take advantage of these changes in the marketplace? Most companies are not. Analyze your tele-sales vision, your reps and managers, and your processes. What needs to be done? Figure it out now and don’t get caught short. Do something!