Expert Insights for Selling in the Digital Age

Here’s an axiom from Dale Carnegie that any salesperson can relate to:

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”

When it comes to sales, certain attributes remain timeless. Resilience being a case in point. Similarly, high-performing salespeople are almost always relationship-focused. In serving the client rather than their metrics, they create loyalty and a lucrative pipeline.

Equally, the digital age has brought about huge change in the way people buy. Clients today may have completed up to 70% of the buying process before engaging with a single human being. To be successful, salespeople must also be agile.

Dale Carnegie Director, Graham Perkins, is one of the organisation’s top performing sales achievers globally. With an unshakeable commitment to relationships and client ROI and with impeccable consultation skills, Graham has a loyal client base across a range of sectors.

In this article he shares the attributes, tools and mindset that are essential for salespeople to be successful in the digital age, and what it truly means to be a ‘trusted advisor’.

Clients are more empowered, informed and knowledgeable than ever. Has the internet rendered the term salesperson somewhat outdated?

I think the challenge with the title ‘salesperson’ is perception. This is exacerbated when approaching a prospect in a hard-selling, unprofessional way. Today, clients want a trusted advisor who partners and supports objectives. I think the term ‘salesperson’ doesn’t do the role justice and should be around ‘trusted advisor’. This helps us get through the door and keep it open by adding genuine value.

How does digital transformation change our approach? 

Digital transformation has had a huge impact. People have access to data online, they can research products and services, look at competitors, look at pricing; the list goes on.

Historically, salespeople used to have the mentality of just making cold calls to get a result. Today that’s not the case. I’m a great believer in picking up the phone but there’s no reason the call should be stone cold. We can get so much client and prospect information from the internet and social media. Research and diligence will differentiate us from many competitors, as it shows we care about their business.

I’m a LinkedIn advocate, having seen huge client wins when using this in a relationship-focused way. A whopping 80% of business relationships begin on LinkedIn. If you’re not on it and adding value to your network, then you’re missing out.

While developing 100s of sales people, I’ve noticed the human touch sometimes hides behind ‘social selling’. People still need to elevate themselves with their clients to build credibility and the most impactful way is face-to-face. Combining the digital and human element is, in my view, the most powerful way to build pipeline and drive sales.

Tip. Call your prospect’s organisation and ask for permission to send them an email and choose the right messaging. Appropriate email and LinkedIn use makes phone calls way more credible.

What are the key attributes in mastering ‘relationship-selling’ and keeping that pipeline healthy?

Relationships are fundamental. If we don’t develop rapport and a strong relationship, nothing will typically happen, and if it does, it will purely be price-led. Dale Carnegie Training undertook research and found that 71% of buyers would rather buy based on trust than price. Being likeable matters.

Relationship isn’t quite enough though. We also need to challenge client thinking, create insight and build trust before making recommendations. Top salespeople have a high EQ, and apply an empathetic approach. They care. Rather than manipulate or influence the client or prospect to buy the wrong thing, these salespeople make sure they understand, match and exceed the need. This builds trust and long-term partnerships. So, keep nurturing the relationship and add value.

Finally, ask for a referral. Happy clients are almost always glad to help, and, constantly build your network to keep that pipeline healthy.

What are key mindset and character attributes in sales?

 We need to be resilient; Brexit and the political backdrop are creating huge uncertainty. These things can negatively impact mindset. Bounce-back-ability – if you’re going through a bad run, a positive mindset is the route to victory. We need to learn to draw a line in the sand and say ‘let’s go again’ – we need the desire to achieve results.

Always remember to be client-focused, be about ‘them’ not ‘me’. Also, remember this; when you close that initial sale, that’s when the selling starts. Don’t think ‘one and done’, think ‘partnership’ and help them think differently. If we create insight, we create ‘wow’, and we stand out.

How can sales leaders empower their people to stay confident, motivated, and deliver results?

Recognition is key. Sometimes people only get recognition for results they achieve and not the activity and hard work that goes on in the background. Celebrating small victories is impactful. Never neglect an opportunity to say a couple of good words to motivate your team. Help people to understand  the ‘why’ and not just the ‘what’. This creates a motivating sense of purpose.

Coach and mentor. Salespeople love to talk through successes and challenges. Make time to focus on them as individuals; set objectives that motivate them to achieve personal success, which in turn will drive performance.

Foster a collaborative team approach and vibrant culture. Create a place where people want to work and a team who work collaboratively, share their ideas, thoughts and practices to benefit the whole team.

Graham Perkins has over 10 years’ experience with Dale Carnegie in business development, as a coach, trainer, and is amongst the most successful consultants across a global network of over 90 countries.

He’s a trusted advisor to major brands, specialising in sales, leadership and management development, personal effectiveness, presentations, communications, and customer service.

Resources to help with selling in the digital age:

Closing the Sale by Building Customer Relationships

Why Long-Term Loyalty is Built on Trusted Relationships