Connecting One-on-One Over the Web

For anyone who's a sales veteran, odds are you remember the days before the first contact management system (CMS). You remember and have ingrained the concept of selling as an in-person, one-to-one meeting and then recording what happened. Today contact management and CRM help you to reach out to prospects and send letters, faxes and e-mail communications. For most, this level of convenience was a welcome leap beyond the trusty Rolodex. But on many levels, it took sales far from its roots in personalization.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> CRM is great, but it mainly just helps to track and record what happened in the various stages of the sales cycle. And what salespeople are finding now is that they need the ability to sell to more, and to more customers, over the Web in a way that is authentic and impactful&#x2014;more personal than what a CRM can deliver. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> The good news is that new sales tools allow sales reps to do just that. The Web, of all things, is launching a comeback after a long hiatis to the forgotten one-on-one sales and marketing. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>1. Get social.</b> Social media tools, including blogs and online communities, allow us to connect a lot more personally than traditional communication tools. You should be following your customers on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. Invite them to be your friend. Sounds a bit juvenile for some, but relationships are being made on these social networks, especially with the incoming workforce. If you're marketing to Gen Y, you had better get on this bandwagon fast. Socializing on the Internet will allow you to develop personal relationships with many more prospects than you ever could before. All companies and individual sales reps should have some sort of social Web strategy.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>2. Ditch the static presentation.</b> Do yourself a favor and slowly walk away from the ever-generic "slide deck." If you're asking your prospects to download and watch the same bulleted, text-heavy, graph-filled presentation, you are not distinguishing yourself from your competitors and you’re boring your prospects. In the same regard, if you are a marketing firm that develops professional presentations for your clients, please encourage them to think beyond the static bullets, logos and graphs. By now, you and your clients should be using rich-media, videos, audio files and all the other cool things the Web has to offer to engage the end-user. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>3. Put Yourself inside the presentation. </b>The most exciting element is not the presentation itself, it's the presenter. Most computers now come with cameras built-in. Take a moment to record a personalized "Hello" to your audience. If you have a customer that you reach out to frequently, it takes little effort to engage them with a short clip of you, personally introducing what you're trying to sell. There's a reason why face-to-face selling yields a higher ROI&#x2014;it works. Online conferencing tools are great for letting customers see you and hear you live. In a time when companies are cutting budgets on travel, this is a very nice option.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>4. Use the Metrics.</b> It's hard to tell what people think of your presentation, even when you ask. Today it is possible to create content that allows you to communicate effective sales pitches and then track exactly what you prospects are doing with those pitches, see what content they are looking at, and which products they are interested in. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> The future for sales and marketing lies in utilizing the power of the Web, the power of rich media, and communications to sell to more prospects that you ever could before in a way that is still personal and feels one-on-one. To some degree the Web took us to a one-on-many approach, and now it's taking us back to personalization on a big scale. It's about making every bit of content we deliver more impactful, more engaging and more social. It's about maximizing the tools that are already available. It’s about interactivity, rich media and metrics. The new way of selling is to make every person you’re reaching feel like you are talking just to them. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <i>Pat Sullivan is CEO of Flypaper Studio, Inc., has been honored as one of the "80 Most Influential People in Sales and Marketing History," by </i>Sales & Marketing Management<i> magazine, and has twice been honored with the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.</i>