In the era of Facebook, Google, Twitter and Yelp (an extensive product review site), buyers have as much control over the flow of information they receive as salespeople have available to them. The process of buying was once a one-way interaction between an informed seller and a curious buyer, but it has now become a conversation between equals, and the revolution in buying behavior is still ongoing.
Recently in Forbes Magazine, a study to find out just what was changing about buyer behavior, and why, was outlined. OgilvyOne did research among 1,000 sales professionals in the U.S., U.K., Brazil and China and found some interesting results.
What we learned is that social media has had an enormous impact on buying behavior with 49 percent of sellers seeing social media as important to their success. In fact, among the most successful salespeople that were surveyed, over two-thirds believe social media is integral to their sales success.
But unfortunately the study also shows that most companies are not adapting to social media fast enough. Sixty-eight percent of sales professionals say they believed that the selling process is changing faster than their own organizations are adapting to it. Companies are not providing solid training to sales professionals in social media: how to use it to sell, what kind of impact it will have in their sales experience, and why it is important for them to be knowledgeable about it. In fact, many are actively discouraging the use of social media despite the fact that customers are buying that way. Nearly half of sales professionals surveyed believe their companies are afraid of letting employees use social media.
Many U.S. companies claim to have a social media strategy, but only 9 percent of U.S. salespeople say their company trains or educates them on the use of social media for sales. This stands in stark contrast to Brazil where 25 percent of salespeople surveyed receive training on social media usage. China leads the way as thirty-eight percent of the salespeople surveyed were using personal blogs in their selling process while only 3 percent of U.S. salespeople do the same.
If salespeople are to continue providing solutions to their customers, selling has to evolve at the same pace as buying. There are several things that salespeople can do in order to remain the ideal partner to an interested customer, and those ideas vary due to product, industry and customer demographic. The one thing that unites all of these new ideas is keeping the customer at the center of your attention and focus. This new world of distributed information doesn’t loosen the focus on the buyer. If anything, it sharpens it.
What are some initiatives that you have seen succeed and/or fail? Do you agree or disagree that social media is becoming a crucial part of a salesperson’s job?