Monday, July 23, 2012

How Can Social Media Be Used In Engagement Marketing

Taken in the simplest term, a sale is the transaction between a seller, a buyer, and a product or service sold. Broken down into two slightly-more advanced categories, there can be sales when the buyer seeks out the seller to get something he needs or wants, and sales where the salesperson has to elicit the interest of the buyer. This second category, where the seller must find their customers, can further be dissected. There is the type of sale where the salesperson asserts himself to the buyer and pushes the sale, and there is the salesperson who encourages the potential buyer to engage with the product or service, and make a connection with the salesperson, and ultimately, the company or the brand.
It is this final definition that is commonly known as engagement sales, or engagement marketing. This is probably the most advanced, and positive form of a sales transaction, because nothing is being pushed and no expectations are merely looking to be satisfied. Instead, there is a network between buyer, seller, and brand that reinforces one another, with companies reacting and responding to what consumers want, thereby organically improving their products or services.
Today, one cannot begin to think of a progressive sales strategy without taking into account social media. Social media is giving individuals incredible new powers to research, discuss, and engage with brands and products in novel ways that really empower the consumer. And it is no surprise that social media is perfectly suited to engagement sales, as communication is central to being engaged.
Begin a brand Twitter account. Have individual employees at the company have their own Twitter accounts as well, giving a human face to the company. Have Twitter events like question and answer periods ("AMA"s or 'ask me anything'). Have contests and where people can win products. Use crowd sourcing for customer feedback.
Create a fan page for your brand or product. Hold events and promote them on Facebook. Encourage users to ask questions or begin discussions on the homepage, where threads can be easily-followed. Have customers upload photos or other media demonstrating their engagement with products or with the brand.
This is another great tool for crowd-sourcing and AMAs, so long as the company is sincere about where they are coming from, for Reddit users (or Redditors) are very quick to suss out any corporate meddling. Reddit is also a great site for getting passive, uncensored feedback.
This picture-sharing site lets users and brands share their experience on-the-go in a visually-stunning platform. Its mobile capabilities are perfectly-integrated with Facebook (who now owns it) as well as Twitter.
Integration: this final point is critical for sales management today. Not only does a brand want all of their platforms integrated together to create a fun and networked consumer experience, but this level of integration should be at the heart of the engagement between buyer and seller. Social media can be the glue bringing together these real, virtual, and global interactions not just for the quick sale, but for the long term engagement.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Debunking Negotiating Tactics

In business-to-business sales, deals are hardly ever reached simply and quickly, with one side setting their terms and prices and the other side simply agreeing or declining. Business to business sales are, in this respect, nothing like your everyday commercial retail sale. More often than not, there is a lot of back and forth negotiating before a deal is agreed upon.
There are many sales gurus who give seminars or publish books that are full of negotiating strategies and techniques. Some of them are as complex as creating imaginary competitors to make your deal seem more sought after. Others could be as banal as instructing you how to arrange your furniture for a negotiating meeting, placing the other party on lower chairs or facing the windows so the sun shines into their eyes. While there definitely are some interesting and productive methods for managing a negotiation, many of these tactics are based around some sort of trickery or diversion that takes the focus away from the pure and simple act of both parties agreeing upon a good business deal.
Negotiations should be about good business. Two parties reaching an agreement about a mutually-beneficial business transaction should not need to employ tactical maneuvers. Good sales management should make their sales team f`miliar with some tactics, but more for the purpose of recognizing them and not to use them. Here are three examples of typical negotiating tactics and why they ultimately don't amount to good business:
Take It or Leave It
This is the tactic of setting strict and definite terms that the other part must accept or there is no deal. This bully-style negotiation is seen as aggressive and could reflect poorly on you and your company, jeopardizing future business and your reputation. Also, a refusal to compromise might work against you in future negotiations when you do not have the upper hand.
Shift the Importance
Pretending something is extremely important to you when it isn't, and conversely, taking an extremely important item and acting like you don't need it. This is supposed to achieve the effect of getting what you want for less, while letting the other party think they have a decisive item in their command. This is tricky because you might get what you asked for, meaning, what you only pretended to want.
One More Thing
After long and arduous negotiations, this tactic is a way to slip in final terms at the last minute, pretending they are of little significance, in hopes the other party will agree just to finish the deal. This can exasperate the other party. It can also clue them in to your bluff and make them realize the importance of this last detail, thereby giving them a major advantage and running the risk that they will be able to re-define the terms for this much-needed item.
Negotiating strategy, like sales strategy, should focus on good research of the other party, exchange of reliable information, and finally, sincere confidence in your ability to hold up your side of the deal with top satisfactory results.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Damage Prevention and Control: How to Handle Bad Sales

The goal of a sale is the sale itself. If this seems like an easy formula, almost redundant, then that is because it is an over-simplification. Focusing on the sale itself is short-sighted and irresponsible. Perhaps a better way to look at things is, rather than focusing on the goal of the sale, focus on the goal of the sales team.
Making a sale is far less profitable, and thus far less rewarding, then establishing a good relationship with a client. If salespeople who do and say whatever they feel actually get that signature and close the deal, then the sale ends there and the relationship ends with it. In sales, sincerity is everything. This is more than business ethics, it is just good business. Sincere sales practices do result in more contracts, and more profit, through repeat business with the same client, to referrals, and to overall positive brand reputation.
This is not to say that sincerity is a guarantee for a successful sale. Products may arrive damaged, or simply fail to perform as promised. Services might not meet customer expectations. Finally, miscommunications during the sales pitch, negotiating, and contract finalization could also result in bad sales.
And while the salesperson should never resort to making excuses based on bad communication, there are several other methods of good sales strategy that could control or prevent these problems.
Prevention - avoid mistakes before they can happen
- Get to know your clients. Learn about their operations. This will help customize your sales pitch and anticipate any problems they may have. 
- Keep records of all your dealings with the client. Follow up phone conversations with email reiterations to have a paper trail. This will catch any miscommunication early. 
- If possible, supply your clients with samples and tests for them to try out in advance. 
Follow up soon after delivery of product or rendering of services. Don't wait until a client contacts you about a problem. 
- Be honest if you don't think you can provide exactly what the client wants. Work together to make compromises or find new solutions. 
- Do not make promises you are unsure you can keep. Make sure you keep all relevant staff, like manufacturing, in the loop. Sales is not an independent body but part of your company's team.

Control - maintain order after something goes wrong
- Assume all responsibility in analyzing the problem. If the problem is with the client, don't blame them. 
- Prioritize rectifying problems before pushing new sales. 
- Consider discounting or other incentives to make up for any losses caused by a bad product or service. 
- Keep extensive records of all problems and solutions for future reference.

Anyone can make a single mistake. But making the same mistake over and over is no longer a mistake, it is bad sales management. Reputations outlast contracts. So next time you push that pen and paper across the table, be aware that making the deal is just one small part of great and responsible sales practice.