Accounting firm associates, agency account executives, law firm rainmakers, real estate sales representatives, pharmaceutical sales representatives, software sales professionals, and insurance producers all have one glaring thing in common – long sales cycles. In my recent discussions and interviews with professionals from all the above walks of life, it has been clear to me that the sales cycle challenge is one that needs some good resolution.
On top of the fact that these industries’ sales processes are long, there is also the obstacle of saturation in digital marketing. There are literally millions of competitors locally, regionally, nationally, and globally that are all pushing to shorten their sales cycle. Some invest heavily in direct marketing, some through industry conferences, some in paid search marketing, some in meal and travel expenses and the list goes on. In that there is also one common advantage – each sales professional is a unique personality.
A properly developed and utilized online personal branding program can work to shorten your sales cycle. Learn the top three ways you can shorten your sales cycle:
1. Identify Your Winning Position and Exploit It
Your “personal brand” cannot work for you unless you first identify what it is that equals your winning formula. To do this, you need a review. Answer these questions:
- What type of clients are drawn to me and why?
- What do I know better than my colleagues, competitors?
- Where do I spend the majority of my time developing new business?
- What are my top strengths?
- What do people love about me?
- How do I sell? Do I tell stories? Do I like to dig into facts? Am I great at uncovering the return on investment (ROI)?
From this, you will start to understand where you should focus your personal brand and develop a winning position. Exploiting this position through effective online personal branding style and communication will help to shorten the sales cycle because it will start to develop a relationship with your target, where they can see what you do without you having to push or worse, wait for them to reply.
2. Identify Your Best Online Personal Branding Machine and Make It a Daily Practice
Once you have identified such critical personal branding success metrics as your thought-leadership position, your target audience online behaviors, and your selling style, you need to identify your online selling machine. This is where social selling, social sales, or social business comes into play. You can utilize such areas as your own branded blog, your LinkedIn profile, your Twitter profile, your Google Plus profile, and your YouTube channel to deliver a daily online personal brand. This requires a social media strategy and commitment to delivery and management.
So that you can get started in building your machine, answer these questions:
- How do you currently communicate online?
- How do you prefer to communicate?
- How does your target audience make buying decisions? What information do they need and in what frequency?
- Where do you currently network online?
- Do you need the help of a writer?
- Do you need the help of a designer?
- Do you need a video person?
Social media channels and tools provide opportunities for you to amass a targeted online audience and the potential to shorten your sales cycle by creating relationships online.
3. Identify Your Sales Location and Focus, Then Commit to Relationship Development
In the world of SEO, we know that focusing locally first can help to drive results more quickly than going global or focusing on broad terms. The same holds true in the world of driving influence and sales in a local or targeted area versus a broad approach. This is why, as I am sure the sales professionals of large sales organizations such as Eli Lilly, Oracle, IBM, Aon, Northwest Mutual, etc. structure their sales teams in local areas or by specific vertical focus.
In the practice of personal brand development and delivery, the strength of the thought-leadership position is paramount to its success. This is why you will need to identify and build a strong position relative to your location and focus. You will be able to become an expert rather than the next salesperson in your industry for your target audience. If you are in a position to call the shots in terms of where you gain new clients, then a location focus can support community build.
A great way to shorten your sales cycle with a location focus is to join and participate in LinkedIn Groups in location and by target industry focus where you can demonstrate deep experience and help to nurture a community. Other ways you can support your personal brand online and drive more sales in a shorter time frame include starting and growing a G+ community based on your focus area or running a tweet chat doing the same.
When your prospects start to visibly see that you can provide education to support their needs and answer all their questions, they will hold you in a higher regard. Once you are seen as a thought-leader as opposed to a salesperson, prospects will undoubtedly stop playing the many games we as sales trainers know as “power-shifting.” Once the games are eradicated, the sales process can be shortened.