Where I grew up in Brooklyn NY back in the 60's things were different then they are today. We had a milk man, A soda man, a fruit man, there was even a fish man who carted around fresh fish on ice. Insurance salesman, brush salesman and people who went door to door selling pot, pans and knives would frequent the area. As a child I looked forward to these visitors, dressed in suit and tie, knocking on the door and throwing a sales pitch. It was part comical, part interesting and for me it was exciting. I remember my mother hitting those salespeople with all the objections she could think of. I remember watching the salesperson countering with the finesse of a linguistic expert that had the best answers for every question or concern. He delivered them expertly, with just the right voice inflection and timing. Each one of these sales people exuded confidence. They were proud of their profession, and in my youth I secretly rooted for them because they were also the underdog.
When I reached the age of 11, I remember handing out flyers for the local butcher. It was my first paying job. I guess a got a couple of dollars for an afternoon's work. I was out with an older boy who was seasoned at distributing these sales sheets. We stood under the elevated trains on McDonald ave and Avenue X. The F train stopped every 15 minutes or so, at rush hour. Our job was to get rid of as many flyers as we could with the passing of each train. The first mass of people came down the steps, as I stood there flyer in hand saying nothing, I waited for people to take my flyer. the older boy that was with me started his pitch, He mentioned all of the wonderful offers from the meat market we were working for. I said nothing looking sympathetic. the other boy got rid of 10 flyers to my one. This went on for the second and third train. Then I caught on. I realized that I needed to be a salesman. I started selling these flyers and eventually I got rid of all of them rivaling the older boy. My smile was ear to ear. I was hooked and a salesman was born.
Since this isn't a biography I'll give you a very brief summary of my sales experience. By the age of 13 I started working part time and every business I worked for I figured a way to sell something additional everywhere I went. The side selling always amounted to more than the wage I was making. If I worked in a dog grooming shop I managed to sell the customers services from dog walking to home grooming and whatever else they needed. When I worked in the supermarket I would sell clothing and watches out of the back room. I started to sell various items door to door as I worked my way through college. Later I would start up small businesses that involved selling from food vending wagons to carpet cleaning, I became a stock broker, then a financial advisor. I sold insurance, merchant services, advertising, Print services, technology, computers and ISP service, websites and internet marketing and many more items. I've always made a living and I've always had fun. Most important of all, I only sold what I believed in. Life has been a great ride, and sales has taken me to places that I never would have imagined. I have met with half of the fortune 500 companies. I've worked for First Data, Prudential Securities, a few technology companies and I've built managed and sold over 25 separate business entities. I've been to about 45 states in the process and I have enjoyed every minute of it. Part of the fun was the challenge of making the sale. Knowing that you had something that people needed but didn't think they did. Convincing them that your product or service was a necessity for them was the challenge. Succeeding at this was my drive. Later I taught people how to do what I did. I have trained close to 500 people to make a living at sales. Most of the people that had the patience to perfect their profession have done very well over the years.
Over the last 5 years something has happened to consumers and the way they reacr to sales people. The internet has given them instant access to information. Search engines have made everyone a supposed "instant expert" at everything. The average consumer reads a couple of articles online, and decides whether they need something or not. People don't want to be sold anymore. They want to look something up on the internet, do the research and browse a few companies. They will call a few of them and let the sale people educate them some more, then make a decision behind closed doors. The salespeople of yesteryear have had a hard time adapting to this paradigm shift. It has left many companies obsolete. The hard driving salesman is out. The educator is in. People love to be taught. They hate to be sold. Most sales people will not accept this. In this scenario, like in nature you must adapt or die. Companies today need to spend more on marketing and less on sales. It pains me to say this with the background that I have, but it is imperative.
Traditional marketing is dead. The old hefty telephone book and the newspaper are relics. People don't read past the covers of magazines. Print advertising is dying a horrible lingering death. The future in marketing consists of concentrated coordinatedg effort on television, local channels for small business accompanied by internet advertising. The internet ads should be a combination of organic and paid adsin conjunction with television or radio ads. People watch television while cruising the internet. They may be watching a show with one hand on their laptops. The average consumer will see something interesting on an ad and search it on the net. If something makes sense to them they'll start to research it. Lets say it's a type of running shoe. They see an ad from Nike, cruise over to Nike's homepage, read about the actual shoe, compare it to a few different manufacturers. They may watch a video on running, and find out that the type of running they do favors a different shoe. If you are a shoe store where are you in this mix of education. If your answer is I'm not involved your dead. You may not know it yet but you are. This is a sad fact. Part of the downturn in this economy is the slow reaction of small business to adapt to the internet. Many have added a website but they're still part of the sales factor. Small business need to be involved in the education portion of the sale. Anyone can buy anything on the internet. If your a small business price can't be your strong point. Education and service to niche markets has to be.
Todays small business has to adapt to what the consumer needs. As small business, we can do very well on the internet, but we need to be found, educate the consumer, and service them better than the big box stores. The World of Sales has changed. Are you changing with the times? Start reading about new internet marketing techniques. Learn, change and grow in this new shift from sales to enlightenment. Most of the web marketing out there is measurable as ROI. As an Internet marketer you have the ability to change and adapt to shifting conditions on a dime. If something isn't working you don't have to wonder. You can look at your website statistics, learn from them and change course to profitability, instead of languishing and guessing.
Some of the tools available for this new world is having a website that answers consumers questions. It should allow them to interact with you. People should be able to see these interactions so they can feel comfortable with how you do business. If this scares you it should, because the internet is much more transparent than a brick and mortar business. This doesn't sit well with a lot of old school business owners. I am sorry to tell you that as much as you dislike it, this change is permanent. as a result your customer service will improve out of necessity. In order to adapt to your customers needs, your website should be dynamic, which means you can change content on the fly. dynamic websites let you have the ability to write a blog or newsletter, have a calendar of events, offer seminars and workshops, add media, like pictures, videos, music clips, documents, e-books and anything else you think your consumer might want. Add a page of testimonials and success stories.Collect email addresses on your website and in your place of business. Create different lists by type of customer, interests, birthday, frequency, etc. Only send information the customer might be interest in. Don't be as sales oriented as you used to be. Be more service oriented. The sales will come as a result. Your website need to be found on the search engines. the least expensive way to do this is through organic growth. Make sure your content is written for the consumer. the search engines are looking for what your customers would look for. you can't fool the search engines. Make sure the keywords on your site match the content on the site. Make sure your content has the right keywords for your industry and your business. Use the Google Keywords tool in Google AdWords to help you accomplish this. there are more article on this blog to help you with it. while you are being found by the search engines you may want to advertise your business with pay per click advertising. You can find out more on this site about this type of advertising too. remember that all of your printed material should have your website address on them. any advertising you do in print, television radio, billboards should coordinate with your internet marketing.
Don't forget social networking. websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace can't be ignored. set up a profile on each of these. If the interment is not your forte let one of your employees that you trust do it for you. Get your happy customers to mention you on these channels. the golden rule for social networking is that it's not what you say about yourself, but what others say about you that counts. You can toot your own horn but your customers telling their friend how great you are is much more effective, because it's not selling, It's telling.
Hopefully the information in this article has pened your eyes to the new world of sales. I think you will find that if you utilize the information here you will increase sales while lowering the cost of your Salesforce. The salespeople you currently have, will be able to sell to customers that are already interested in what you're offering. This can shorten the sales pipeline, reduce costs ad increase revenue. There is less of a need for hard driving salespeople anymore. There are very few dedicated salespeople left. Most have adapted to this new paradigm shift. If you notice most new sales people want to be order takers. Because of the attitude of most consumers the newer generation has already modified their behavior to cooperate with the new consumer mindset. Working in this new world of sale and technology can change the way you do business for the better. It's more Zen-like. You can go with the natural flow. You will have happier customers and an easier life. Embrace these changes and you'll be glad you did. I found it a hard pill to swallow in the beginning, but the end result is worthwhile.