The new psychology of sales

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Everything goes in cycles, or so they tell us. According to many, the strongest resemblance to today’s strange economy can be seen in the depression of 1929.  I’m not so sure about that though.  Although there are some similarities when it comes to the financial world, I think that today we’re also seeing a resemblance to the industrial revolution.

The reason I say that is because the industrial revolution was a time when ‘work’ and ‘business’ changed dramatically and forever. Things could never return to the way they were before.  Just as today, we’re seeing massive job losses, cut backs and re-thinking of business best practices, so then too the world saw an unprecedented shift in the way things were being done.

The industrial revolution was hated and feared by the working class - the main reason being that many saw it as the death of their livelihood.  Manual labor replaced by machines.  Slow, expensive production replaced by machines that could churn out widgets without lunch breaks and demands for better pay and benefits.

Today, we’re seeing something very similar occurring. Work is no longer the way it was.  Job security has long been not so secure, but of late, jobs are more scarce and less assured than they’ve been for decades.

Businesses across the board, both B2B and B2C are seeing a shift in the way sales are made. Sales cycles are longer and there’s a reluctance to part with money for even critical items.  There has been a significant change in the collective psyche. It is taking a lot more effort to persuade buyers and a lot more added value has be demonstrated.

So, how does one deal with this from a marketing perspective? We’re seeing that many of the traditional marketing practices are just not working as well as they used to.  Does this mean that we should drop them in favor of alternate methods?

As far as I can see from the broad range of clients with whom I work, it’s not so much a matter of traditional ways not working, as a matter of being able to have a clear plan and focus and sticking to this, understanding that there really are no silver bullets.

The basic psychology of sales is pretty simple and the fundamentals haven’t really changed – just the application and the ‘story’ need to be altered in order to gain maximum effect.

The fundamentals are:

  • identifying what your market wants
  • matching what you’re offering to what your market wants
  • communicating this offer to your market frequently and consistently
  • prompting your market to respond and giving them an easy way to do so
  • delivering what you promise
  • exceeding your market’s expectations in terms of customer service, value and quality

The most notable changes are:

  • it’s more necessary now than ever before to get reliable market intelligence regarding how your market’s needs have changed in the light of this economy.  In some industries, we’re seeing a shift from buying, or manufacturing and storing inventory for resale  to just-in-time production and ordering.  This means that you, as a vendor, need to be able to deliver in this fashion, quickly, reliably and most of all, cost-effectively.
  • there may be more opportunity for new entrepreneurs to provide services to companies that have laid off full time staff – and in this instance, knowledge of the specific company will stand you in very good stead
  • regular and frequent communication with your market  is still crucial – management and business owners today have less time, less patience and less inclination to wade through rhetoric to uncover your fabulous, but understated offer – so your offers need to be laser focused, clearly articulated and opportune.
  • relationships are of even greater importance.  Higher levels of risk in terms of the economy and general world conditions mean that buyers will instinctively move closer to the few suppliers they feel they can trust – up to a point.  This does not give you, as a trusted supplier, carte blanche in pricing or other currently very sensitive areas.

It’s more crucial now than it has been in living memory to be able to articulate powerfully, so this is something on which those responsible for marketing really have to focus.  Once again, powerful articulation can only be made when you have a good, in-depth understanding of the mind of your market.

By the same token, it’s even more critical to work with a professional to ensure that your articulation is the best it can be.  You don’t want to waste time, money or effort on sending out regular communications that fall flat because they are worded so badly that your market responds with apathy and indifference to your offer.

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