Stop selling, start helping

If people like you, they’ll listen to you. If they trust you, they’ll do business with you.

Zig Ziglar

In the iconic 1947 Christmas film Miracle on 34th Street, Edmund Gwenn plays the character Kris Kringle working as Santa Clause at Macy’s. He causes a stir when he tells a customer that a product is available at Macy’s chief competitor, Gimbels. Today’s customer would already know that. However, one thing the film correctly represents, in my opinion, is the trust that that referral instills in Macy’s brand. The net result is that it draws more customers to their Manhattan store. It’s an example of just how helpful you should be in today’s online market.

Digital Marketing Has Changed Sales

The customer will sell to themselves, thank you very much. They don’t need or want you extolling the virtues of your product. After all, nothing that you say has to be taken at face value anymore. Validation is at the customer’s fingertips. A salesperson simply exists to answer questions, and the answers need to appear to be devoid of bias.

And so it goes with digital marketing. The paradigm shift has been towards educating and advising versus bragging and selling. Therefore, all of your messaging streams, including your website, social media, emails and advertising, should focus on helping the customer solve their problem by themselves. You’re just here to help – if they need it.

Don’t fire the sales staff

Just know that they’ll be doing less of the heavy lifting when it comes to informing prospects. In another life, they’d have been responsible for providing the customer with everything they needed in order to make a decision. Now that task has largely transferred to the shoulders of the digital marketing team. Your marketers and copywriters will provide much of the information in the form of educational and helpful articles, pages and posts on your website and social media, as well as advertising. The sales staff will direct the prospect to the right information, rather than regurgitating it.

Research rules the day

Research will now propel your prospects through their entire buying journey, and you have little or no control over the exact path they’ll follow. That differs from a time when salespeople pulled prospects through a carefully crafted script. Today’s consumer will click, scroll, watch and read to their hearts’ content until they are satisfied they are making the right decision. A huge percentage of them will have shortlisted you before talking to you. Your job is simply to provide them with as much factual, unbiased information as possible. Remember, they can verify practically anything any time anywhere.

Trust No Longer Requires a Handshake

My father used to extol the days in which he made six- and seven-figure deals on only his word and a handshake. But handshake or no, meeting in person was often a must to secure someone’s trust. Now, being able to rely on what your digital media says is usually enough to unite buyer and seller. Due in large measure to our digitally connected world, sales-related business travel in the US and UK was on the decline in 2019 pre-pandemic (McKinsey). Corporate travel is expected to recover much more slowly than leisure travel in the coming years. In other words, your customers probably aren’t going to be clamoring to see you.

Prospects, Customers, Teachers

Your prospect should do most of the talking these days. By the time they’ve reached out to you, they may know as much about the marketplace as you do. Let them teach you. You can often collect gobs of information about your competition from people who’ve just done deep dive research into solving their problem. I’ve stopped trying to be the most knowledgable person on the sales call. Your customer knows more about their situation than you do. Help them guide you to the sale.

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