Just as social networking has helped individuals stay in touch, businesses can use Web 2.0 applications – such as LinkedIn, YouTube, or Facebook – to connect with their customers.
Now, Sales 2.0 can foster increased customer interaction and satisfaction, which in turn can generate sales leads.
The old ways included lots of travelling, meeting prospects, enduring dull presentations and meetings, and making a sale only to forget the customer almost immediately. This is resource-intensive and can be frustrating too.
Let me try to show you what I mean. At the meeting stage – we conduct 80 per cent of our sales generation through online meetings – tools such as WebEx, GoToMeeting, Glance, or the open source Dimdim can allow you to hold presentations and share a screen remotely.
Such applications’ ability to contribute to the evolution of the sales process should not be underestimated.
In a meeting with a prospect, we use a mind mapping and problem resolution tool for customer exploration and to help understand their pain points.
Mind mapping software takes unstructured information from various sources and organises it into a map formed of headings and sub-headings.
This demonstrates how topics are linked, quickly providing an overview of any given situation and allowing easy navigation from one subject or document to another via hyperlink.
It is much better to engage with the customer fully at the earliest stage possible, and with this type of software, all the information appears on a map that can be explored, rather than a list.
The non-linear and interactive approach helps open up discussion and create an in-depth view of how our offering applies to the prospect’s specific needs. It can be updated as you go.
We believe the interaction helps customers feel confident that we understand what they want.
Effective problem diagnosis means effective buy-in. Sales 2.0 tools can cut the time it takes customers to sign on the dotted line and we think they improve our win rate.
It may come as a surprise to companies still using the traditional routes of airport - hotel – meeting – proposal - follow-up - that others are regularly closing significant deals without ever meeting face-to-face.
Online communication tools also help qualify leads. Salespeople can travel to a customer with some idea of how interested the customer may be.
Going on-site knowing that an opportunity is already progressing and qualified can help justify a costly risk.
Post-deal, you can use Web 2.0 relationship building tools. Businesses can use communications from forums and the like as a marketing tool and source of feedback on products and processes.
Once prospects become our customers, we add them to a ‘club’ where we provide newsfeeds and knowledge bases, but also ongoing individual consultancy – for example with online monthly status meetings and regular product briefings.
Sales 2.0 can reduce the time spent on account management while enabling staff to serve clients better, add more prospects and reduce costs.
Customers may generate opportunities among themselves, through coming into contact via your forums.
They may influence your business for the better – we brought functionality to our own products based on customer feedback that we would never have received otherwise.
Enthusiastic mentions also help identify customers willing to participate in case studies or testimonial programmes.
We have found that since the information on our online outlets is constantly updated, with topical discussions through community interaction, we have increased visibility in search engine results. This drives traffic and sales enquiries to our business.
Martin Bowman is sales director at Gael
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