Looking back over my 27-year career, I can say without a doubt, Google and search changed sales forever, and I am so glad!
My first sales job was in 1989. I was sent to classes like “How to cold call,” and “Getting past the gatekeepers.” I spent hours each day making calls to try and set appointments so I could go out and educate prospects on our services. We were taught it was a numbers game and if you made enough calls each day, you would make a certain number of appointments and close a certain number of sales. It worked. I became one of our top sales people. But change was coming.
The first change came in September 1994, when the consumer was given the equivalence of fire! Google was founded and search was born. It didn’t take long before the balance of power shifted to the new, empowered consumer. They could search for information and be fully prepared before they even came in contact with a sales person. They didn’t need someone to tell them what a product or service did. They had already Googled it. Soon they could scan and compare products and prices. They could place orders without ever needing to contact sales.
Consumers began to behave differently. They’ve stopped answering their phones. They no longer make the time to meet with sales people. They build online relationships faster and trust their friends and social networks to give them straight answers.
Social media was the other game changer. When someone searches for information, often the answers that appear in search results are from social media sites. The comments of the community and the posts from the brands on social media will rise to the top of search, many times higher than the company website.
As much as you might despise review sites like Yelp, or Trip Advisor, consumers love them. Consumers value and depend upon the feedback from other consumers to make their purchasing decisions. You will have to stop ignoring these sites and learn to change the way you do business. If you have employees, you will need to train everyone to know that customers are social and every interaction will be tweeted about, Yelped, Instagrammed or put on YouTube! Today we are not just being watched by Big Brother; today it is every one of Big Brothers friends, cousins and neighbors who have mobile phones.
The increased use of mobile phones is the third thing that has changed sales forever. Some of us remember the beginning of mobile devices in the mainstream. The busy professional carried their brick phone or had their car phone to make calls on the go, but in June 2007, the world saw the first iPhone and suddenly everyone was carrying a mobile device. Even Grandma and Grandpa now carry a device that connects them to the world like nothing they had ever experienced. Consumers watch video reviews of products, ask Google or SIRI for information and it is delivered in seconds.
So what are you to do? If you were starting in sales today, you would focus on content creation instead of getting past the gatekeeper; how to listen and engage with potential consumers instead of probing and closing. You would build your websites to allow searchers on their mobile devices find your key information without having to stretch or scroll too much. You would create video content to allow your consumers to meet you on their device before you ever know their name.
Businesses today must learn to begin building and nurturing relationships where the consumer is…online…on social media sites…on their mobile devices. That doesn’t mean we never meet face-to-face, it simply means we won’t get that opportunity until we start on their turf. Digital marketing is about building brand awareness, trust, and arming a brand’s fans with information to allow them to educate themselves while we are building those relationships.
We must learn to create content on our websites, blogs, and social media accounts that will match with what consumers are searching for when they “Google” their questions or when they ask SIRI.
If we will start thinking like our customers, we will start finding new ways to connect and provide helpful information. We will stop trying to interrupt their workday with our sales calls and make sure our content is there when they go looking.