“Fanny packs were huge in the 80s and they’re making a comeback now.”
As someone who prefers listening to podcasts and audiobooks when I’m behind the wheel, it was rare for me to be listening to the views and opinions of radio DJs. However, this particular DJ made me crack a smile and then got me thinking.
Comebacks. Trends. Nostalgia.
From the countless dramas, soap operas, and sitcoms returning from their rerun slumbers to teenagers sporting high-waisted and tapered jeans that were reserved for the “mom and dad crowd” during my own adolescence, blasts from the past are hitting us hard and fast. We’re seeing our favorite 90s music groups reuniting for reunion tours and hearing the cries of Friends fans demanding that their favourite groups of once 20-somethings return to that familiar New York coffee shop.
And now, as this morning’s DJ informed me, we’re in for another fanny pack attack.
So what does this have to do with sales?
It’s my belief that in a world where Amazon is swallowing up brick-and-mortar retailers like an Amazonian Anaconda and service with a smile is, well, isn’t, we’re reaching a point where there’s a longing for service in the sales process.
And before any diehard Amazon fans pipe up with the fact that they love that they can order 2 bags of dog food, a pair of slippers, the latest Donald Trump satirical novel, and their favourite English chocolate bars for next-day delivery and all without having to speak to or see another human being, let me stop you right there.
I get it.
Online shopping is great. I personally cherish my beloved Prime Membership and have delighted in having some miracle cream from Australia that my sister-in-law recommended arrive on my doorstep in just a couple short days.
The ease, the convenience, the ever-expanding global marketplace - all great things.
But in my world, the world of business-to-business sales, there’s an increasing nostalgia for a good ol’ fashioned sales process.
What do I mean by this?
We have more information at our fingertips than ever before, but what I personally witness and experience is that it’s seldom being used in the sales process. What does this look like? Sales representatives are making calls, sending emails or LinkedIn messages, and hosting meetings without conducting research on their prospect beforehand.
I can’t tell you how frustrating it is when I offer to dedicate time out of my busy schedule, only to have the sales representative ask me the most basic questions about my business, which they could have easily briefed themselves on if they had taken 10 minutes to review my website and LinkedIn profile.
On the flip side, on the rare occasion a prepared sales representative asks me well researched questions and/or for clarification around something they read about my business, I’m not only grateful, but impressed by the value they put on our time together.
Sandwiched between social media posts about how thrilled we are that Will and Grace are up to their old shenanigan are messages about gratitude - reminders, mantras, and articles, all about the spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional benefits of practicing that attitude of gratitude.
So how should gratitude show up in the sales process? My belief is that it should show up every step of the way. From a thank you note card sent after an initial meeting to appreciation acknowledgements being sent on holidays, milestones and anniversaries, acts of gratitude towards those who choose to give you their time, and hopefully, to do business with you should be practiced regularly. This should go, too, for anyone who refers you additional business.
Appropriate Communication Mediums
Social media messaging.
Okay, so perhaps we can strike carrier pigeon off the list - but there’s clearly no shortage of ways we can communicate with our prospects and clients.
So how do you choose which to use?
Most sales representatives I come into contact with choose their preferred way.
However, as Marcus Buckingham teaches us in his book “First, Break All The Rules”, sometimes it’s best to forget the golden rule of treating others as you’d like to be treated. Instead, treat your prospects and clients how they’d like to be treated and communicate with them how they’d like to be communicated with. Not sure what their preferences are? Simply ask. I love it when sales representatives say to me, “Shannon, what’s the best way to get in touch with you after our call today. Phone? Email? Text?” Sadly, this rarely gets asked. And I speak with a lot of sales representatives.
Instead, treat your prospects and clients how they’d like to be treated and communicate with them how they’d like to be communicated with.
Even worse, when I was recently scoping out CRM options for a client, I was running into issues setting up some automated workflows with one particular CRM system. After going back and forth with a support agent via live chat, I requested a telephone or zoom call to walk through my issues. The response?
“Unfortunately there is no phone support available. At “Company X” support, we like to make things simple and efficient. That’s why we use in-app messaging and emails to answer our customer's questions. We’ve found our users are much happier and get solutions a lot quicker this way... “
The irony of the fact that I waited, watching the little typing icon dance across our chat box for more than 1 minutes to answer a question that would have taken 10 - 20 seconds over the telephone, wasn’t lost on me.
The point here is that whenever possible, you should be offering your clients and prospects the opportunity to communicate with you when and how is most convenient for them - not the other way around.
I know I’m not alone in my desire, my nostalgia, for good, wholesome service to be brought back into the sales process. I coach sales teams how to do this; how to work these elements into their sales process and then how to hold them accountable to it. We’re bringing back service with a smile, one sales team at a time.
Now excuse me while I ask Alexa whether Hootie and the Blowfish will be hitting up Vancouver on their 44 city reunion tour.
SBMO Consulting is a Sales and Marketing Consulting Firm that helps organizations achieve sales results by focusing on the customer experience. Contact us today for a complimentary consult.