Selling in the new economy

You're sitting at your desk, working like crazy, trying to catch up on things that you were supposed to look at a week ago. You're due to leave for another meeting in two minutes, (which you'll manage to stretch to 15), then you won't be able to get back to the office for at least three days. Who cares that you have just sent an e-mail to the guy who sits in the workstation next to you, when you could have simply stood up and spoken to him in person? Nobody worries about the fact that your desk phone is switched through to your mobile, your mobile is diverted to your pager and your boss, who has an office 10 metres down the hallway, keeps sending you text messages! And, like many of your colleagues, you've got 15 voicemails, 120 e-mails, an in-tray full of junk mail to get through, and everybody needs you yesterday. Sound like a typical day?

Welcome to the new economy, where globalisation, deregulation and commoditisation are our key drivers. Countries are now communicating and trading with each other much more so than ever before. The political and physical boundaries that kept us from working together in the past have almost disappeared.

So, what's the catalyst for these drivers? The answer is simple: the Internet - it changes everything. With the emergence of this technology-driven economy, we've changed our business strategies to give our clients, partners and suppliers better access to our organisations. We communicate change, strategy and direction to our teams and colleagues via e-mail. We communicate globally and digitally.

And this has affected the way we make our buying decisions. People can now know more about prospective clients and competitors than ever before.

So, what is it that motivates us to buy a product or service, an idea, concept or strategy? Recent research suggests that 30 to 40 per cent of our buying motivators are rational. Rational motivators include need, price and features of the product or service you're considering.

However, 60 to 70 per cent of that same buying decision is based on emotional, cultural or political motivators. Cultural or political motivators such as corporate direction, corporate citizenship, religion and creed are also major factors influencing our buying decisions.

And the new, digital economy has a major impact on these issues. We are no longer getting as much opportunity to sit down, face to face with clients and potential clients. More and more people are saying "e-mail me the proposal". It's hard to even speak to people in person any more. We often find ourselves playing voice-mail tag.

What does it take these days, therefore, to gain an advantage, persuade others, and compel them into action?

The answer is to connect with them on both a rational and emotional level. Connect with their heads and hearts. People are now so used to working within the digital economy that they will notice when you step outside its boundaries.

Go out of your way to get a face-to-face meeting. It's the only way to truly build up a strong relationship with a client or prospect, and the only way to find out their emotional and political motivators. You can't get a true impression of a person's position, motivators and values through half a dozen back-and-forth e-mails.

After your sales call, write a personalised thank you note on a striking piece of paper and send it to your client through the mail.

Next time you need to persuade, dodge the digital. Take the face-to-face opportunity to introduce more than purely the rational buying motivators. Go for the heart as well as the head. You'll get a better result.

Anna Raine is senior consultant at Rogen International. Reach her at anna.raine@rogen.com.au

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