Collaborative Selling

Sales and Marketing

Selling is key to every business if it is to prosper.

Most people do not like to be sold to but do like to buy.  How can you support your Sales and Marketing activities so that people will want to buy from you?

This is a start of a series of articles and blogs that I will be writing over the next few months.  This first post looks at what I call Collaborative Selling.  Business Social Media is helping businesses to create other avenues of connecting, collaborating, creating and communicating with your supply chain, customers and clients.

Buying and Selling collaboratively could be to everyone’s mutual benefit.

What do you think?  Read on and let me know.



Business concept. Handsome bearded male team leader having a presentation on digital whiteboard

What is Unique about Selling Collaboratively

For some time there has been the phrase of “consultative selling”, especially in the professional services and technology sectors.   This phrase, consultative selling is/was positioned as being more “friendly” although some still see it as paid business development.  However, consultative selling is certainly more about finding out what the potential customer really wants, rather than trying to sell them something that they don’t want or need.

To take this further and to seize the advantage facilitated by innovative technology, we have moved onto selling collaboratively.  Is this a better approach?  With business social media powering ahead and established cloud based collaborative solutions now available, selling collaboratively is a reality.

There are countless books, videos, seminars, gurus, and webinars to name a few on how we can improve our Selling capability.  There are many aspects to the whole Sales process itself, which is why there are so many avenues of information on the subject.  In today’s world people have become more able to say “No”.  Although in the UK, we still find it hard to say NO, (unless the salesperson is a really pushy, rude and not very pleasant) then we might say No!

Saying No

This word, although only two letters is one of the most powerful words and probably the word that most people do not want to hear – as it is a word of rejection, it is negative, you haven’t got the answer you wanted.  Because of this people who are selling (and we are all selling something at some time) find it difficult to decide once they have made the their “Sales” pitch, how do you follow up without being too eager, or pushy or if you wait too long will they think that you do not care, not interested or lazy, until you get yourself into such a state of indecision, you do nothing – which is even worse!

I have mentioned before in previous articles the continuing transformation of culture and people’s behaviour regarding the way that they communicate, especially with the abundance of technology at everyone’s disposal.  One of the outcomes is that this continual innovation of technology has provided a buffering or a “cyber wall” between people, both in business and socially.  Business people typically use email and in our social lives, texting.  People seem to hide behind the technology.  Is this a good?  Not really – we need to be able to have the confidence to communicate in a way that is positive, active and adds value whether in business and or socially.

No Sales, no money

Here in the UK, “selling” as a job, has not always had a good standing as a profession.  Yet whatever business you are in, without Sales, nothing happens until the Sale is made!  No orders, no money coming in, no money to pay salaries and we all know what that means!

Social media as a trend has and will continue to have an enormous effect on our lives.  In business this is happening at an alarming rate and it’s not just Business to Consumer, it’s Business to Business as well. Business Social Media communication is not a fashion trend, it is a fundamental shift in how we all communicate, both socially and in importantly, within business.

As I have said before, this business social networking is a way to “humanise your business” in terms of its sales and marketing, customer service and support, when using technology.  It is clear to me when there are various tools out there like Twitter, Blogs, LinkedIn and You Tube, the ability for Businesses and Customers to consume information, write about it, vote on it, send it on to other people, who in turn do the same in a viral way is quite amazing – and it is virtually FREE to do – the only real cost being your time.  One of the earlier disadvantages (that’s if is/was really a disadvantage) is how do you accurately measure the ROI?  Well if you search on You Tube for “Social Media ROI socialnomics”, you can see from the video people and corporations are managing to measure and get their ROI in very positive way.

Social Media Marketing

Most of you will be receiving Tweets, email messages, Videos, webinars, and podcasts to name a few, which if you select is hopefully both interesting, informative and adds value to what want.  This is social media and I include business social media when I say this, but interestingly it seeks you out, the customer, allowing you to engage and start to collaborating real time.

Taking this to a more specific business situation, I just recently created a presentation using a product called SharpCloud. For those of you who are familiar with SharpCloud you will know how visual and collaborative it is.  The recent addition of being able to create a presentation within your SharpCloud Story (Marketing Content, Sales Presentation, Strategy, Technology Roadmap and the like) allows you to deliver a social but thoughtful and helpful introduction to your Story.

When people first go to your online Story, you are able to guide them through Views of your Story, in a way that makes sense, whilst also allowing the viewer to pause the presentation, so that they can explore your story, write a comment, vote on an Item and continue the presentation by pressing the Play button again.  This becomes a journey of discovery for the viewer, which becomes more interesting, interactive as well as an enjoyable “business social” experience

Death by PowerPoint

So “Death by PowerPoint” is no longer an issue.

Being able to make your “sales presentation” via tools like SharpCloud, in the linear way that you would do so with PowerPoint is a familiar experience for most viewers.  However, one of the main benefits is when the potential customer and client asks that question, say about costs, that you do not have in that PowerPoint deck, then it’s a missed opportunity.  Well in SharpCloud, you can quickly click to a view that visually shows the information to answer the question.

You could also link to media content such as videos, other presentations, documents, sales brochures, testimonials, etc within the story that is either part of SharpCloud or hosted on You Tube, or some other content platform that could be internal or external.  Once you have answered the question, you can carry on with the presentation.

They ask, you answer

So now that we are able to make a “Sales” presentation and not worry about what slides to include or create or have ready for a “just in case” question, lets come back to how we can continue this Sales process?

As with other social technologies the key element is the ability to collaborate.  The ability for you and your customers to remain connected to be able to communicate and collaborate in a business social way is a major advantage, when compared to the more traditional approaches.  I am not saying we forget these approaches, but when combined with a collaborative selling approach, over time this will have a major positive affect on you, your client, your brand and your business and organisations future success.  It is highly likely that your competitors are not doing this!

The fact you can mutually learn and provide feedback back to one another, (sales person & client/customer) and be able to bring this knowledge and information back into your respective company and organisation not only improves the sales engagement but facilitates in reducing the sales cycle time.  From a marketing perspective being able to deliver a consistent message and get direct feedback on whether the marketing content they are creating and delivering to the Client via the Sales person is relevant and working is significant.

Finally, being able to capture the needs/wants from clients and prospective customers and provide solutions that deliver mutual value for both parties, is what Collaborative Selling is all about.

This “Collaborative Selling” will help to influence outcomes in a positive way, by creating a “real time umbilical cord” relating to decision making, personal experience, costs, as well as fostering and nurturing both the sales person and customers relationship, into a trusting and collaborative one.

Cost of Collaborative Selling

One last point which is relevant to us all, is costs.

Using business social networking to deliver Collaborative Selling is a relatively low cost proposition, with free social media marketing channels, coupled with commercial products such as SharpCloud, cannot be over looked when comparing to the traditional corporate ways of Sales and Marketing.   By getting traction with your market, developing relationships and increasing your brand awareness on a global scale using collaborative technologies, means that businesses and organisations have to give serious thought and consideration of how they stay engaged with their clients and customers, through a highly competitive sales process.

Eventually we will all have to do it, small or large otherwise those who do will win and the others will lose.

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