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January 18. 2014 1:27AM

Christopher Thompson's Closing the Deal: 5 trends impacting 2014 sales


 

Selling has evolved drastically over the last 10 or so years, and it's critical for everyone involved in selling to pay close attention to the trends impacting their customers as well as the industries to which they sell.

It's no secret that in order to be successful in sales and business, you have to stay educated on what is happening and be able to adjust your approach and focus accordingly.

Since I began my career, not only have sales approaches changed, but the way customers buy has also evolved. Gone are the days when you can succeed simply by perfecting your pitch and knowing your products inside and out. It's interesting to see the evolution of selling, and there is only one guarantee - change will continue to happen.

So for now, let's take a look at a few trends and interesting evolutions that are occurring and what you can expect in 2014.

Educated buyers

Technology and the vast amount of information available to everyone have allowed buyers to gather information and do their own research throughout the sales process.

The car shopping experience is probably the best example. Think about buying a new car and the amount of research you can do online before you ever walk into a dealership. It's possible you will know as much as, or maybe more, about the car you are interested in than the salesperson. And that's a major factor for sales people to consider. Buyers are more educated than ever.

Customer needs vary

Sales training has historically consisted of teaching people how to uncover the needs of their prospects and customers.

Of course this is important, but do you ever consider the needs customers have that they may not know about? Think of Apple. Apple is well-known for creating needs that people never realized they had. This is an element of selling that has definitely changed a lot and something for every sales professional to spend time learning about and getting proficient at.

Decision making

If you sell to businesses, there will always be numerous people responsible for making buying decisions.

Research from CEB (executiveboard.com) shows that on average, 5.4 people are involved in a buying decision. So if you think the single contact you are working with is calling all the shots, you're way off.

CEB's research also shows that the more people that are involved in a purchasing decision, the less likely they are to buy. That's bad news.

Social media

We all know social media continues to play a major role in selling efforts.

Linkedin has become an extremely powerful tool to research companies, identify contacts and, most importantly, make connections with prospects.

But don't forget, that also means people can check you out. Expect customers and prospects to do their own research on you through the various social media platforms. Keep that in mind and take your personal online brand seriously.

Decision makers know your tricks

People responsible for making buying decisions usually know the best time to buy. And guess what? It's probably your fault.

If your company tends to discount heavily during month, quarter or year end, your customers will pick up on that.

Along with timing, decision makers know how to negotiate and play the sales game.

Keep this in mind, and be aware of the buying behavior you can influence.


Christopher Thompson (cthompson@catch22solutions.com) writes Closing the Deal weekly for the Sunday News.


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