Whether your goal is to raise the skill level of your existing salesforce, or build and add members to your team, this article will have something you can utilize.

Back in the 20th Century, developing a sales team did not require the same work that it will take in 2020 and beyond. There was just so much less to know before the digital explosion.

Evaluate

Before directing your efforts to increase team performance, hire new people to fill any vacant holes. Or if you have a need to hire additional staff because your business is growing, evaluate the people you currently have on board. The Evaluation step is ideal for discovering the weak links in the sales process, allowing you to introduce new skills and build upon the ones in place.

Having an up-to-date development strategy is required when you’re hiring new talent or training existing people; the days of surviving with “order-takers” is over. To succeed, salespeople must embrace the new skills and do different types of work than they have in the past.

Skills for successful sales professionals are steadfast interpersonal and communication skills in both digital and face-to-face engagements. Some of these new duties may – or may not – seem relevant to you, but they are now the norm for the client. This transformation will involve redesigning the existing sales and marketing processes and then inventorying the abilities that are already available in-house and those that will become outside services.

The evaluation process identifies areas of opportunity such as Client Engagement, Omni-Channel Selling, and Building a Showroom Value Story that focuses on the showroom as a service rather than an outlet.

Advancing Client Engagement

The phrase “client engagement” has been well-worn over the last 10 years, and few will take the time to define it in detail. I’d like to express the nuances of what occurs in both digital and in-person client engagement, when and where the meeting happens, and why it is a necessary skill. Client engagement is more than a warm welcome, an offered beverage, and the desire to answer questions in the showroom. These baseline activities have moved from being solely a face-to-face activity to one that includes digital.

Digital engagement begins very early in the sales process, and the best time to initiate is during the client’s discovery phase, which nowadays happens online first. This means we don’t know who is “shopping” for our products and services in the past when clients simply walked in.

This change in the shopping process has caused the client to be bombarded with information that is both fact and conjecture. The showroom team must be able to give correct information and cut through the digital clutter — but if we wait for customers to walk through the door, it’s too late. Sales teams must be monitoring and using digital gateways to reach potential clients. The portal of choice – GOOGLE – brings us to the three most important platforms for reaching showroom clients: Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Each of these platforms is different and should have specific strategies applied to them, yet I see many showrooms using a spray-and-pray marketing campaign across all three with limited engagement.

Think of it this way, how much engagement do you get from a billboard? People drive by and maybe they see it or perhaps they don’t. One thing is for sure: you never know if they comment or like it. This archaic mentality has been the limiting factor in both the showroom’s and salesperson’s reach and client engagement in the digital world.

What does all this mean to the showroom in 2020? Drop the idea that passive digital impressions fueled by friends and employees – or worse, paid followers – is the best way to get customers in the store.

When people are in the digital discovery phase, they appreciate and even want the actions of a “live” showroom and interactive sales force available to help them. That means developing new mindsets, plus training and coaching the sales team to promote their expert status digitally.

Starting the Conversation

Digital marketing generates engagement. Create content designed around a procedure that touches clients’ hot button issues, drives interactions, and attracts people to your showroom. With all the product choices and “pricing transparency” online, we need to communicate something other than product and price. Demonstrate trust first and expert status next.

Look for ways to start a conversation. When a potential customer likes or comments on a post, ask them by name what it is that they like about the post or image. When people take time to engage by liking, or even better by commenting, we must think of them as a warm lead, no different than when they walk in the door.

There is a double benefit to this style of engagement; the person interacting gets an answer, and all the interested followers or lurkers get the same benefit.

Building and communicating trust takes time. Time to research, build content, post, engage, and measure. The goal of all social media is to interact with people who are there, not just place an ad and go. It is the social part that seems to be missing from most online marketing, and sales teams must be involved with the communication. These platforms are where potential clients go to interact with others, and part of that socializing involves learning more about areas of interest.

Omni-Channel Selling

The days are gone when the high-pressure closing technique or using a scarcity strategy yields results. Providing customers with buying options is now mainstream, and our sales teams are the fuel for that funnel. Many showrooms have not invested in the benefits of having a “wishlist” on their websites or an e-commerce solution. When talking with showrooms about this, the successful ones say they have seen an increase in wishlist/shopping cart activity when both the bricks and clicks strategies were used in harmony.

The staff of the 2020 showroom has three requirements with every in-person encounter: Educate the client, Close the sale or next appointment, and introduce “How to buy from us at home.” Too many well-intentioned salespeople will educate, but not close. They send the clients away hoping that they will come back and buy, but many are no longer returning to a showroom after making a buying decision because they buy when it is convenient. We can increase our sales victories by having our sales teams use a process that will keep customers in our showroom “world” both physically and digitally.

Try these actions to increase your omnichannel success. Develop the sales teams’ skills and understanding on how to use both a wishlist and shopping cart on your website. Train to introduce your digital showroom extension early in the physical visit and demonstrate how the selection and buying process works. The digital wishlist and cart are both an in-store tool and online resource — use it! Do not send customers away empty-handed. Give them promotional takeaway materials that are specially produced for you and that provide client benefits.

Expressing Showroom Value

We build our sales teams to be thoroughly knowledgeable about product categories and to have the skills and belief needed to communicate that knowledge in any medium. What is the value of working with a showroom versus an online resource? Two words: Trust and Convenience.

Trust is the big dog in the fight for customer dollars, and showrooms have the advantage over e-sellers when the client is in front of us. In fact, most clients are 70 percent on their way to the “Zero Moment of Truth” (i.e. the buying decision) when they walk in. If they were at 100 percent, they would have already bought online and you would never see them. This is why it is critical to build value in the showroom visit.

Tell a story that resonates with both your buyer’s personality and emotional hot buttons. I heard of a client who came into a showroom and left without buying only to return a week later, looking for a part for the item they purchased online. The client apologized for buying the item online, “but the price was amazing,” and only had this one little problem of a missing part that was critical to complete the installation.

Sadly after much effort by the salesperson, this client learned the missing item from his “amazing” deal was not available to buy as a stand-alone part, and he had to buy the item again if he wanted to complete the installation. To make matters worse, the online vendor that sold this great deal to the customer would not accept a return that was missing parts, leaving the client with no recourse. If the original purchase was made through the showroom (an authorized reseller), the service the client needed would have been no problem. This is a true story that you can rework to make it your own if you don’t have several already. I present it as a warning to the client, expressing how the showroom handles this type of problem. The proper execution of this activity puts a couple of checkmarks in the Trust column.

Create stories that express the value of the showroom and team. These stories must be woven into your physical and digital communities. Since convenience plays an ever more critical part in the process, salespeople must have another value story that highlights the ease of doing business. Convenience stories can be about the ability to buy 24/7 or that because they are working with a skilled professional, they can avoid living with mistakes.

The 21st Century buyer controls the process like never before. By fostering a culture of client engagement, creating an omnichannel selling style, and incorporating value stories, showrooms can win more.

As Always, Happy Selling!