From Sales 1.0 to Sales 2.0: If I Knew Then What I Know Now

7699891Fourteen years ago, sales manager Ralph Barsi went door to door selling websites and online advertising to local businesses. Today, he manages a team of inside salespeople that don’t spend any time selling door to door. 

A lot has changed in fourteen years, and Ralph explains what he would tell his past self if he could travel back in time.

There’s an effective sales video out there, by author and speaker Art Sobczak, where Art places a call, 27 years ago, to himself. On the call, he informs his younger self, “the sales part hasn’t changed much, but the technology has.”

Art’s exercise reminded me of late 1999, when I was 5 years into my sales career. If I knew then what I know now, I’d have some tips to share, too.At the time, I was an Account Executive for an online city guide, selling websites and Web advertising. In addition to call campaigns driven from the Yellow Pages and local business journals, I sold door-to-door, evangelizing the power of “going online.”

One afternoon, on Piedmont Avenue, a quaint strip of retail storefronts in Oakland, California, I walked into a small bath and kitchenware shop. A big smile on my face, briefcase in hand (I know), I greeted the shop owner and spewed everything there was to know about going online, having a website, and marketing on the Web.

The owner was very engaged, and asked me to walk with him while I talked. Just 20 seconds later, the two of us were standing on the sidewalk outside the shop. “Great pitch, young man.  Good luck!” He had walked me right out of the store!  Doh! What went wrong?!  LOTS o’ stuff.

If I knew then what I know now, I’d tell myself:

Make It About Them, Not About You
How did he currently advertise his store? How often would he update the ad(s)? What did the ad(s) say? What were other retail stores like his advertising online? What return were they receiving? How much had their sales increased as a result?

Put yourself in your prospects’ shoes. Learn their world as much as you can through research and engaging, open-ended questions (Avoid ‘yes-no’ questions). If I had walked into the shop knowing answers to these questions ahead of time, do you think it would’ve been a warmer reception?

Know Your Numbers
What percentage of businesses like his was even online? What did their websites look like? How were they driving (and retaining) web traffic?

Technology in 1999 was making a big surge in business. Over a 4 year span (‘95-’99), the number of websites increased over 50x – but many small businesses weren’t yet online.  Statistics like these would have better informed the shop owner.

Engage Them with Something Relevant
Was the owner part of a retail business association?  Did I know anyone that shopped in his store? Did one of his neighboring merchants refer me to him?

Relationships-connections-referrals are a top source, if not THE top source, of business for salespeople. If I had dropped a familiar name or two, or if a colleague of his referred me to the shop owner, maybe our walk out the front door would’ve taken longer. Better yet, maybe he would’ve become one of my customers!

If only! Well, the good news is we can all learn from our experiences, and apply the lessons to today. Technology’s growth has continued to move up and to the right, enabling salespeople to leverage social media, mobile technology, CRM intelligence, and real-time news to glean what’s most relevant to prospects.

And when the day arrives where you can phone your old self up, ideally, you’ll want to tell yourself, “You’re doing it all the right way!  Keep on keepin’ on!”