What are the secrets that good salespeople know? The tricks of the sales trade, and the techniques learned through years of experience, are extremely valuable, and so it’s no surprise that they have been written about thousands of times, in articles and books going back more than a hundred years.
But while humans may not have fundamentally changed much over time, the “where” and “how” of sales looks very different in the 2020s than it did in the 1920s. The most significant and obvious change, of course, is the rise of the internet. In 2020, for example, online spending was more than 20% of total retail sales for the year. Sales interactions that once took place face to face first moved to the phone, then to the web, and salespeople have had to continually adapt along the way.
Through all the changes in format, however, certain sales principles have remained steady, and have proven their worth over time. Geoffrey James is a widely regarded expert in sales and author of the article “5 Basic Principles of Selling,” in which he distills his extensive experience as a professional speaker, blogger, and author into a short, focused look at the essential foundations of sales.
James specializes in covering B2B sales, though the principles he highlights are so straightforward they can really apply to just about any form of selling. Let’s take a look at how his essential sales concepts are relevant to the world of live chat.
James says that selling is “60 percent listening and 40 percent talking,” and it’s easy to see how this can apply to live chat interactions. All too often sales agents can forget that one of live chat’s most powerful functions is information gathering. Most chat widgets will be hooked directly into your customer database (or CRM), and that means that every bit of info your site visitor shares via chat can be used to build out their customer profile. Collect their contact information to establish them as a lead, then let them describe their situation and needs to you. With that data in your CRM, your sales team will be well positioned to convert that lead, even if you don’t close the deal during that first chat interaction.
In a traditional conversation it’s easy to judge whether you’re dominating the discussion, especially if you’re interacting in person and can rely on nonverbal cues to guide you. In chat you need to watch the back-and-forth flow of text messages, to make sure key information is being communicated without being overlooked.
Train your live chat sales agents to balance how much they “talk” in live chat interactions. They should be careful not to send too many separate messages at once without a reply, since that could lead to your potential customers feeling overwhelmed or missing crucial information. For example, listing out different features of your SaaS platform in a long series of chat messages could cause your site visitor to miss one of the features that matters most to them.
Being a “good listener” in live chat is a fundamental part of selling with this method of conversation. “Typing in Progress” indicators in a live chat widget can be helpful to guide your agents, and it’s best practice to avoid typing if your lead is in the middle of writing something, so they don’t cut themselves off. Be patient, wait for your customers to tell you what they need, and make sure you respond to everything they are trying to tell you.
According to Geoffrey James’s article, an effective sales message must contain “1) why your customers hire you, and 2) why you do what you do better than anyone else.” Businesses spend so much time building complex marketing structures and sales strategies it can be easy to lose sight of this powerful core element of selling. Focusing in on the fundamentals of what makes your company appealing to customers and what it is that you do best can be a powerful exercise for your business. You must be able to define your business in these key terms, or else you’re building everything you do in marketing and sales on a weak foundation.
If you don’t already have your “two-sentence sales pitch” established as a company, that’s something you need to do whether or not you use live chat. Once you have it written and refined, it can become a powerful tool to guide your sales activities. Using a live chat platform, you can save your sales pitch as a canned message to be deployed by different agents as appropriate, or you can even deliver the message via a chat bot that greets each new site visitor.
James puts his principle bluntly as: “Customers care about their business, not about you.” Though that may seem harsh, it’s true and important to remember. Sales communications should take place in terms that customers care about and understand, not internal company jargon. Selling points should be focused on customer needs, not necessarily the latest bells and whistles your development team has been producing. And sales agents should never lose sight of the fact that conversations should be about how your products and services can benefit a potential customer, period. That’s why the interaction is happening, after all.
With live chat, your sales team can easily reference CRM data about the lead they are currently talking to, which should contain key information gathered about that lead’s priorities, interests, and needs. Agents should use these facts to guide their conversation, providing the information the lead wants in the manner they want it. That last aspect of chat conversations shouldn’t be overlooked: how information is presented can be as important as the information itself.
Have you learned that a new lead only cares about a specific product category or feature that you offer? Then don’t waste their time talking about other things that might be a distraction from closing the deal. Do they like to speak casually in chat? Consider mirroring their tone to build rapport.
Everyone is aware that the world is more interconnected than ever before, and one of the consequences of that interactivity is that once-private interactions between businesses and customers are now frequently available to the general public. Customers talk about particularly good or bad experiences with companies on their social media accounts, and those experiences can spread beyond their immediate networks, appearing in searches when leads who are considering your business do their initial research about you.
Reviews on Yelp, the Google app store, and even employee-focused sites like Glassdoor can all shape your company’s online reputation, and a prominent negative review can be a burden on your business that you’ll struggle to overcome. If your salespeople are constantly fighting uphill against your company’s bad reputation, they are wasting time and energy in a way that’s going to significantly slow down your sales funnel.
By the time negative reviews are appearing in Google searches for your company you’re already in a bad spot. It’s much better to do proactive reputation management by providing the best possible customer service, working to increase customer loyalty and satisfaction so that your existing customers become advocates for your company, rather than detractors. Fortunately, live chat can help here too.
For better customer service, make it easy for customers to reach your live chat agents with their problems. Live chat generally offers a shorter wait time than phone customer support, which immediately solves one of the biggest frustrations customers have when interacting with companies. It’s easy to forget that customer service plays a major role in future sales for your company, but the public nature of business interactions and customer satisfaction these days makes that more true than ever before.
James says that “selling is all about relationship-building.” Before customers will buy from you, they must trust you and like you. While Principle 4 is all about managing the reputation that new customers will hear about before they ever speak to you, Principle 5 directs how you interact with leads once they’ve made contact with you.
Live chat is a powerful tool for building trust with new people, since conversational commerce removes many of the artificial barriers between businesses and customers, allowing natural conversations to flow back and forth. Make sure that your customers know they can reach out to you in real time for assistance, and train your live chat sales agents in the best practices for nurturing leads and converting via live chat. There are also a variety of chat bot techniques for building loyalty that you can employ in order to leverage the power of automation to improve customer satisfaction.
If you’re ready to start using tested sales principles to help your business in a whole new way, sign up for a free trial of Formilla today.
You can add the Formilla live chat platform to your existing business site and deploy a combination of live chat agents and helpful AI chat bots to begin applying proven sales techniques via conversational commerce today.