Whether you are a salesperson or company, your prospects are changing. Finding and connecting with prospects is more difficult today than ever before. And once you do connect with a prospect, the chances are they know far more about the issues they want or need to address and the potential solutions to those issues than the prospects you've dealt with in the past.
It used to be salespeople were the dispensers of knowledge and solutions. Not too long ago most prospects needed salespeople to help them analyze their needs and to then propose viable solutions to those needs.
Everyday more and more of our prospects are turning to the ever growing number of resources on the internet to research their problems and issues, their wants and needs. With the explosion of websites, article sites, blogs, forums, webinars, and other resources immediately available to anyone willing to take a few minutes to do a keyword search, salespeople are no longer the lynchpin of knowledge and solution.
Salespeople are increasingly engaging prospects at a later and later stage of the purchasing process-often so late in the process that their only task is to give a price since the prospect has already diagnosed the issue, researched the various solutions, determined the most appropriate solution for their situation, and now only need a potential product or service provider to quote a price.
This movement away from using salespeople early in their purchasing process creates a huge problem for companies and salespeople-how to recognize and capture a prospect early in their solution search.
Steven Woods in Digital Body Language: Deciphering Customer Intentions in an Online World (2009: New Year Publishing) argues that just as it used to be critical for a salesperson to be able to read a prospect's body language in order to be able to successfully move them to make a positive decision to purchase, it is now equally critical-and possible-to read a prospect's "digital" body language via their use and movements through the company's internet resources.
Digital Body Language is aimed at the marketing function of companies with relatively sophisticated marketing departments engaged in business-to-business complex sales. For Woods, the activities that allow one to read the body language of a company's electronic visitor are very much a pre-sales handoff activity. This, however, doesn't mean that smaller companies, salespeople, and individual professionals can't pick up some good ideas of how to understand where in the buying cycle the visitors to their website, blog, podcast, or other resource are.
Woods argues that by understanding and analyzing where the visitors to the company's website or blog come from, how long they stay, what they engage while they are there, and what they go afterwards can help the marketing department formulate a campaign to eventually move the prospect from investigator who is researching issues and options to being handed off to the sales department for final follow-up and consummating the purchase.
Each movement a prospect makes signals their individual involvement within the purchase, where in the process they are, what type of information the company can follow-up with that will interest them, and when to turn the lead over to sales.
Reading digital body language requires a set of data mined from both your electronic and non-electronic resources, as well as "a marketing team prepared to implement numerous processes that deliver the right communication at the right time to the right prospect." No easy task and one that Woods says require "the entire organization to make significant changes to marketing." Traditional marketing concepts and functions still apply, Woods says, but now take a back seat to understanding and responding to prospect's online behavior.
Digital Body Language is a thought provoking look at how prospects are buying in today's market and how marketing-and ultimately sales-must respond. As more prospects move to self-education, analysis, and solution creation, a new understanding of the prospect must emerge. And since it seems that every day brings an additional resource that allows prospects more control over their purchases, those companies who learn how to "read" their prospects and engage them with the information they are seeking in a manner they will respond to will be the companies who manage to maintain their margins and grow their business-even in a market where more and more "complex" products and services are moving into the realm of commodities to be bought at the lowest possible price.
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