Want to increase sales? Stop selling

Your phone rings and you don’t recognise the number. You wouldn’t normally answer it but this is the third time they’ve called in the last hour and the semi-constant vibration on your desk is starting to annoy both you and your colleagues.

“Hello this is Sandra from Shouldknowbetter Ltd” says the saccharine voice on the other end of the line “How are you today?”

Over the next fifteen minutes Sandra rhapsodises about the joys of Shouldknowbetter Ltd’s new TV channel and gushes about the company’s new broadband and Smart TV package. Despite making it clear that you’re not interested, Sandra won’t take no for an answer and eventually you’re forced to bluntly explain that you won’t be taking advantage of this offer and hang up.

Sound familiar? Companies are swapping our personal data like kids with trading cards and we’re receiving more unsolicited calls from brands than ever before. And unfortunately this type of hard sell communication isn’t limited to cold calls, our email inboxes are being swamped by painfully unsubtle sales materials and our doormats are littered with garish promotional flyers. My question is why? I’m yet to meet anyone who has taken action based on these messages so it’s beyond me why so many companies, even large established brands, persevere with these tactics?

And aside from failing to boost sales, these tactics are actually damaging the reputation of these companies’ brands. No one feels better about a brand after receiving an irritating call that interrupts their day and there is something underhand about a company that would be so intrusive. It’s not surprising that 9 out of 10 people don’t trust a company that cold calls them.

In my experience, there’s actually very little selling involved in the run up to many purchases today. Let’s say you’re buying a TV. It’s likely that you’ll pull up Google or Bing and take a look at what’s out there; perhaps you read a few reviews and visit a few websites to find out what the manufacturers have to say about their products. Or maybe you ask your friends what they have and drop into a shop to ask a few questions. The buyer journey is now a process of self-education. Buyers want to come to conclusions about products themselves, they don’t want to be bombarded with hyperbolic, most likely inaccurate, claims from brands.

This is precisely why customer relationship management (CRM) is so important for brands today. If you manage your prospective customers correctly, you can drive sales and, through sustained engagement, establish your brand as a trustworthy source of reliable information. By drip-feeding customers relevant, useful information you can guide them along the buyer journey until they’re confident that your product is right for them.

Every time you make a sale, it’s worth asking yourself – has the consumer bought something, or have they been sold something? Ideally, customer should never be sold to, at least not in traditional hard sell situations. Although this old fashioned technique may generate results in the short term, it won’t help you build a strong brand reputation in the long run. Isn’t it better to invest time and resources in engendering sustained engagement with a consumer, which is mutually beneficial, rather than risk your brand reputation for the sake of a sale that may never be repeated? I’ll let you answer that question; I have to answer my phone…

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