Getting the edge in professional selling
Terence A. Hockenhull
THE INTERNET IS a fabulous resource and it disturbs me that so few salespeople appreciate its real value and benefits in conducting day to day business. So let’s look at some of the ways the Internet can be used to help a salesperson.
Knowing what competitors are doing is of great importance. A visit to a competitor’s Web site will provide a wealth of information about products, prices, and the company. Indeed, some companies even go as far as listing their customers’ names on their sites! (A good place to find prospects!) Promotions, advertising campaigns, future plans, recent news of completed projects or sales are easily found on Web sites.
When preparing to meet and sell to a customer, a visit to the client’s Web site will provide all sorts of relevant and useful information. Size of the company, location of offices, branches and manufacturing facilities will invariably be listed. Some companies publish their annual report; provide the names of executives and department heads, and discuss future plans all of which can be invaluable to a salesperson.
There are so many Web sites that provide helpful and informative articles. Just recently, I was involved in a sale of a new product range. The Web site of a US-based technical institute had a paper on the product’s application in tropical climates — exactly what I needed to put together an informative, interesting, and useful product presentation.
Rarely do we find it necessary to go through the time-consuming and costly process of printing, binding, and sending (by messenger or mail) proposals to clients. Most proposals and correspondence are sent directly to the addressee by e-mail. And, consider for a moment that e-mail is rarely intercepted by a secretary and therefore ends up on the desk of the person it was intended for. However, this is a fast closing window of opportunity. As more and more of us are plagued by junk e-mail, useless or unsolicited information, or long and tedious jokes sent by well-meaning friends, sooner the time may come when we allow a secretary to vet (and withhold) incoming mail in the same manner as general written correspondence.
Some weeks ago, I wrote an article tackling Internet sales. For the customer who knows what he wants to buy or is seeking to gather information in order to make the right choice, a Web site can also be invaluable. Companies who choose to sell and market their products online are beginning to feel the real benefits of a wired-world! Savings in time, money and manpower can be significant. Access to millions of customers can be achieved simply by having the right presence online.
Web sites with FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) can reduce the number of customer complaints and inquiries. They can provide forums to discuss problems (online chatrooms) or, through online help desks, allow companies to quickly, efficiently, and cheaply respond to customer complaints and inquiries.
Of course ordering online negates the need for expensive retail premises. Spare parts, consumables, books, magazines, computer software, music, and videos all lend themselves to being sold this way.
Our corporate headquarters are in Malaysia; we deal with clients from around the world. We save a fortune by making VOIP calls. Skype allows us to video conference, WhatsApp and Viber allow us to send handwritten notes, photographs, and files. We no longer have to pay expensive couriers to get documents sent for signatures and returned. The document can be e-mailed, printed, and signed, and then a one-way courier back to the source.
Let’s not forget smartphones that allow us access to all of this technology while on the road. No longer do I have to lug a heavy computer around with me; I can run my PowerPoint presentations directly from my phone, read my e-mails, conduct research, surf the Web and make cheap VOIP calls. Used in the right manner, the Internet provides great marketing and communication opportunities as well as significant savings in manpower, resources, cost and time.
Terence A. Hockenhull is a long-term resident of the Philippines. He is an accomplished sales consultant who currently holds an executive sales position with an Italian geotechnical company.