What happens in Vegas no longer stays in Vegas. It crosses seas and oceans to reach Tokyo and New Delhi or even Dubai. All in the span of a few seconds.
The Internet connects the world in a way that allows stories and experiences to cross thousands of miles in a fraction of a minute. If life itself has become so easy to share, what does it mean for brands that are separated from glory and disaster by just a simple tweet or status update?
Brands today are a lot more vocal and in tune with their audience. Engagement levels are at an all time high and almost every brand is trying to find that magic potion that will make their audience loyal for life. But it works both ways as consumers are more vocal too and do not shy away from showing their love(or hate). Facebook walls are the new consumer forums and even minor issues and disappointments quickly find their way to the company page on these networking sites.
All this makes it imperative to consider the role of the sales guy in the modern context. That ‘Mr. Know It All’ that we once relied on to know all there was to know about a product. Considering the modern day information download for any product comes from the internet and reviews can easily be found on the countless consumer blogs or social networking pages, does that mean the sales guy with his persistent yet suave selling style, is history?
Most brands have realised that they are selling to an audience that is more ‘aware’ than ever before. They are on the internet, they have done their research and they know exactly where to catch you. Promotions aren’t just about giving freebies and feature promises can’t merely be about stylized icons on the back of a carton box. Today’s audience is one that is quick to praise you and just as quick to pull you down if their expectations aren’t met. This makes the market place a much more competitive place than it was in the past but it also makes it much more open. It is easier to figure out what the consumer wants, they are saying it themselves. The only thing that a brand needs to do, and do well- is to be a good listener.
Which means that when a person comes to you to buy a new mobile phone or even a car, they probably already know quite a bit and you can’t fool them. Tell them about that new feature you introduced that’s not quite fixed yet, and they’ll ask you about it, considering they’ve read the reviews. Boast about the ‘unique feature that only your car has’ and they’re quick to point out that your competitor has the same thing even though it’s packaged differently. There is no space for incomplete value propositions or promises any more- if you claim it, you better prove it.
So does this mean that sales has died and gone to heaven? Has content and targeted marketing taken over the market place for good?
Far from it. We’re a long way off from the day when a person will willingly shell out thousands of dollars solely based on what they read on the internet. Especially for big purchases, you still rely on human interactions or assurances that only a salesperson can give you. There won’t be too many people who would buy a car solely based on the well laid out interactive website that its manufacturer has.
What the internet does on the other hand- is create a fair and open marketplace where every brand can compete on the same level. All the advertising budgets and great campaigns aside, promises made must be kept. If they aren’t, word will get out. It’s as simple as that.
Sales can never go out of context. But the last few years have seen a serious evolution in the role and definition of Sales. Sales isn’t about just quoting a bunch of features or handing out a brochure- it’s about creating that differentiating element that puts your brand apart from the rest. From the even playing field that the internet creates, sales is the next pit stop that can help a brand either alleviate itself or plummet to the bottom. Salespeople no longer need to be just good sellers with a knack for persuasion, they need to be champions of the brand.
Content is definitely here to stay. But all the clever content in the world will not get a person to shell out those big bucks. The internet and social media can help consumers build opinions- good or bad, it can help brands to forge an identity in the minds of their audience but at the end of the day a purchase will still depend on the well informed sales guy with the winning pitch.
Quoting a line that still makes sense after over a century- it’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times. The difference then, between making it or breaking it, lies in whether or not you choose to make it work for you.