If 2015 has been the year of social selling, 2016 will be the year of the phone. Wait, hold the phone! Isn't the telephone nothing new?! Of course it’s not. In fact, phones have been around for more than a century and have always shown themselves to be the most effective tool in sales.
Yet the telephone took a back seat in 2015 because sales reps increasingly used social media like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other channels in their selling activities. Now, social selling certainly has a place in sales, as it can be helpful in uncovering basic information about prospects and customers (i.e., previous employment, interests, revenues, etc.).
But here's the thing: If sales reps aren’t on the phone talking with customers, they aren’t advancing the sales process.
Sales and marketing writer Preston Clark explored this notion in a great piece, “ The Rise of the Silent Sales Floor,” in which he discussed how the "soundless" sales floor makes CEOs nervous because: “They aren’t hearing the confrontation, the tension, the hard conversations that literally must happen in order to get the biggest, baddest deals across the finish line…The really big, complex, disruptive deals…those aren’t closing on the silent floor.”
The reality is that successful sales processes must involve phone conversations, even if those conversations can be uncomfortable. When you limit yourself to email and social channels, you just don’t get the crisp, targeted communications possible in a phone conversation.
The telephone is especially relevant and still the best way to do business if you’re selling high-value products and services; and it’s the differentiator in the digital era. That won’t change. The biggest change in sales is that we can now use the phone in conjunction with analytics to drive more desired results. And in 2016, the focus will be on identifying those activities that get results, and understanding how to measure and subsequently multiply them.
I have written before about the power of integrating analytics and call-recording with the telephone and how that route remains the central key to selling success -- giving managers the much-needed intel they need into the activities of their reps.
This notion rings true in hiring processes, as well. The economy is still finding its way back to better times, and thus managers aren’t equipped with endless funds to add sales reps at their leisure. They have to be diligent and know they’re hiring the right person for the job. Otherwise, they’re wasting valuable time and money on training reps who might ultimately not work out. Then it’s back to square one.
In 2016, sales managers will hire based on the behaviors of successful sales reps, and subsequently train new reps to that standard.
Consider that the cost to hire and replace a rep is roughly $27,000. Activity-tracking exposes best practices as well as underperformance, allowing organizations to minimize costs by making personnel decisions before that time and money are wasted. The ability to introduce new employees into a proven, standards-based training program reduces ramp-up time and increases the probability of rep success.
For example, if analytics shows you that successful reps make a minimum of 50 calls a day, then requiring new hires to make a similar number of calls based on the aforementioned behaviors sets the team up for early success.
Measuring new hires to a set, proven standard, by using data from analytics and call-recording for support, will help you determine in, say, a 60-to-90 day window, whether or not the rep will work out.
The coming year, 2016, will be a great one for sales. Integrated technology will continue to be a critical component to selling strategies, but in the sales world, technology is only as good as a part of a set of processes to help reps do their jobs.
So, identifying and measuring what behaviors get results will help you ensure that you’re getting the best of out of your reps while closing the big deals.
You should start now.