Genius.com, former CMO of online meeting tool WebEx and author of Sales 2.0 for Dummies, David Thompson knows a thing or two about the customer psyche. Thompson spoke to ReadWriteWeb and explained why today's landscape makes it the toughest in history to make a sale. And for once, it's got nothing to do with the down economy.There's a reason why vanity URLs, personalized profile pages and recommendation systems are so popular. To a customer or site visitor, there's nothing more interesting than themselves. As the CEO of web tracking and sales conversion site
He explained that in the past, sales people often made products like B2B software sound complicated in order for companies to add a perceived value and drive up prices.
Says Thompson, "The web has tipped the scales in favor of the buyer. You can get on the phone with a sales rep and rather than being confused by product features, you've done all the research and your position as a buyer is strong. Today, a sales person has to assume transparency."
In order to close deals, sales people need to know as much as they possibly can about a potential customer. Genius.com works with companies to generate leads through web analytics, visitor profiling and contact / point-of-sales services. Some of the company's clients include British Telecom, Ticket Leap and Jigsaw. The company builds profiles of site visitors and translates them into customer leads.
Says Thompson, "While B2B and consumer-facing e-commerce are just starting to use the same type of analytics, the two are very different in that 50% of all sales are made via phone call, webinar or in-person meeting."
Thompson explains that few vendors above the $10,000 spend mark are willing to make purchases via a wholly automated system. He explains that startups targeting ad buyers, higher-end subscription sales and health-related consumers should take note. Some services simply can't be streamlined to the point of complete automation.
Thompson believes that using social tools to understand customers on a personal level is exactly how trust is established and sales are made. Rather than trying to mystify customers with product features, sales people are often required to connect on an emotional and personal level. It makes sense. Would you rather buy a product from a web form and real-time sales bot or from a sales person whose family might benefit from the commission?
While it's counter intuitive, Thompson suggests that maybe the way startups can stand out and offer customers added value is by removing some of the automation process. Services like EHarmony and Experts Exchange do a great job of streamlining with a personal touch. Meanwhile, companies like Zendesk offer startups a chance to access on-demand services from real people at affordable rates.