Throughout my career as a copier sales rep, I was always frustrated by the perspective that copier sales reps were not viewed upon positively like other professionals — accountants, engineers, financial planners, marketers – and instead they were viewed as lone wolves, undisciplined rebels, spoiled brats, used car sales reps, who functioned independently of the rest of the organization.

I believe most of my own success inside the office equipment world was deeply rooted inside one word… TRANSFORMATION. Those close to me know every three to four years as a sales rep I would completely transform my sales approach, my sales methodologies and business acumen in order to stay one step ahead of my competitors. I acknowledged continual education, self-learning, seeking mentors and asking for advice was the norm in order to achieve my personal set of goals.

It is time for transformation inside most sales departments. Sales reps are contending with an increasingly competitive marketplace, an ever-expanding range of products and services, new channels of customer engagement and an expanding list of competitors. The power has shifted from sellers to buyers, who are better informed, better educated and always connected to a world of opinion, advice and information, all thanks to Google, mobile and social technologies. Now the customer controls the conversation. As sales professionals we now must adopt a 21st century approach to the sales profession.

As much as technology continues to change, the sales process and tools we use as sales reps have seen massive changes. In my opinion, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and all the B2B social platforms have forever impacted the sales profession like no other piece of technology or software over the past 25 years. Whether you believe it or not meet your new best sales friends… Google, Twitter and LinkedIn.

The 21st century sales team needs to rethink its selling process and align it to that of the buying process. In order to do this, there must be a fundamental and renewed focus on driving tighter alignment between people, process and available technologies.

I say take the old school foundations deeply rooted inside most sales departments and modernize them to align with today’s modern buyer’s journey. Integrate a “social” sales playbook infusing social networks to engage, educate and promote others as part of the traditional sales process.

Why has this happened – The Changing of the Buying Process

Over the past 10-12 years, we have seen a dramatic transformation in the buyer’s journey. More dramatic changes have occurred in recent years. Buyers are in control of when and how they access information during the sales process.

Attention to all sales departments… If the executive buyer is 69% of the way through their journey before they contact a sales rep, then as sales professionals we must place and position ourselves in the world they are now living in. Adapting to social selling platforms such as LinkedIn allows sales professionals to gain the attention of the new buyer in a competitive market. Social selling is the method in which sales reps identify prospects, nurture them, share relevant information and generate a sales pipeline. This pipeline I like to refer to as the relationship funnel.

With the buying world rapidly changing, sales reps MUST position themselves to be able to tell their story in a digital world.

Here are a few things to give thought to…. according to OgilvyOne from The Future of Selling, “The buying process is changing faster than sales organizations are responding”

According to Forbes, “78% of salespeople using social media outsell their peers” 

Sales reps must adapt to modern techniques to help build their sales funnels. The concept of developing warm calls through being social and engaging prospects with relevant information is a critical step in building net new business opportunities to help solve business problems.

I stress, LinkedIn and all other social platforms is a tool not the “magic pill.” Sales departments must transform as well. Adopt and adapt is critical in creating a new mindset and skill-set to maneuver through the ever-changing sales journey.

Integrate “SOCIAL” into the sales process

Effective use of LinkedIn before, during and after the sales process is critical in growing new business opportunities. Here are some simple ideas to help you stay focused:

  • Before the Sales Process: Build your relationship funnel, communicate and engage with your connections, start to become a resource to take from online conversations to offline conversations which result in sales meetings.
  • During the Sales Process: Connect with key stakeholders, decision makers and influencers; engage with industry resources to stay top of mind and relevant.
  • After the Sales Process: Go deep and wide within accounts to expand and nurture relationships, set the stage to cross-sell your services, grow your referral base. Most importantly, build a social fortress around your current clients.

Let’s all keep an open-mind and accept the fact selling today has changed. Adapt and adopt will be the key to future success as a sales professional.

What does this mean for management?

First of all, we must not lose sight of what it means to practice. Where would professional athletes be today without their managers and coaches incorporating practices to perfect their skill sets?

Sales managers must foster a culture of practice as well. Sales reps must not lose sight of:

  • How to prospect and set appointments in order to generate new business opportunities
  • How to overcome objections when speaking with executives
  • How to create differentiation to set themselves apart from the competition
  • How to think like a business person
  • How to develop their business acumen
  • How to tell their story in a digital business world

Building your sales core around prospecting and the phone will greatly aide in your ability to kick start conversations online, build relationships online, position yourself as a subject matter expert online and how you drive these to offline meetings in order to drive sales revenue; will be the keys to sales success in today’s modern business world.

I appreciate getting the opportunity to share my LinkedIn stories. Integrating the use of LinkedIn was my “game-changer” in the highly competitive copier world. With great pride I transform and coach copier sales professionals to grow net new business by helping them tell their story and communicate on LinkedIn. My commitment is to help independent office technology dealers thrive in a changing marketplace. You can follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter, as well as at the Social Sales Academy.