Before the internet, reps used to operate in a static environment. They had their reliable source of leads thanks to an entry in the Yellow Pages, they had a defined geographical territory, they advertised once a week in the local paper and they knew their competitors personally because they saw them each week at the local pub.
The internet changed this comfortable paradigm. It opened up potential markets to anyone who has a computer, telescoped distances so that a rep in Melbourne can make a sale in Rockhampton as quickly as the local rep, and it’s made it impossible for reps to know all their competitors personally.
Sales reps must now be in constant learning mode. Learning about new information technologies, new apps, new networking sites to help generate leads – there’s no respite from the fast pace of modern business. But there are tools to help sales reps do their jobs, and lower their stress levels! Here are three of them.
1. Internet services come and go, but the ones that really make a difference solve a problem in a new way. LinkedIn is one of those services that has survived because it takes the idea of networking online to a new level. Founded in 2002, LinkedIn boasts some 20 million members through its professional networking system. The beauty of LinkedIn is that it works on the ‘recommend a friend’ model. Members are encouraged to draw associates into LinkedIn, where they can make new connections. Using LinkedIn, sales reps can promote themselves and their products, build relationships with customers, and contact potential customers from anywhere there is access to the internet.
2. The contract or agreement is still at the heart of sales, and the sales rep who can send and receive faxes from anywhere stays ahead of the game. This used to involve driving around the neighbourhood searching for a post office or newsagent that had a fax machine. Now, sales reps can fax documents from their smartphones, thanks to the flexibility of online fax services.
For example, the mBox system uses email to fax, which means fax documents are sent to the recipient’s fax number via your email. There’s free cloud storage for faxes in case you need to resend later, and large files of up to 1GB can be easily shared. Best of all, you can take a photo of a document with your phone’s camera and fax it directly from your phone. You can even photograph your signature and add it to documents before you send.
3. Video conferencing is now so popular that many companies use it routinely to communicate with interstate branches instead of the phone. Video conferencing means client body language and their appearance can be evaluated, just as if everyone were meeting in person. For a sales rep this is vital information, since the art of sales involves being able to read the client and knowing when to increase pressure and when to back off.
Despite the frantic pace it dictates, and the anxiety that arises when competitors emerge from nowhere, the internet has revitalised sales. It’s now possible for smart reps to find sales prospects that would have remained untapped before broadband connectivity. Digital tools mean sales reps willing to use them can achieve much more than was possible in the past.