For most entrepreneurs, ‘closing the deal’ is the mantra of the successful sales person. It is the difference between marketing and sales. A successful closer has the ability to influence the decision-making process of an individual in ways that basic marketing cannot achieve. Where marketing serves to open a conversation so that the decision making process can begin, closing the deal requires access to different stages of the decision-making hierarchy.
Rational Choice for Consumers
Psychologists and economists have been looking at the decision-making process for a long time. Economist Gary Becker postulated that people make decisions based on a rational cognitive formula. This Rational Choice Theory adopts the idea that people make choices based on a rational analysis of benefit and risk. Rational, in this theory, does not mean that the method of creating a decision is the best or that it will yield an optimum result. It simply states that there is a process of weighing the pros and the cons.
Using this model, social media tools must play the role of an online spreadsheet on which the customer can list out the good and bad reasons to make the purchase. According to research by the Marketing Leadership Council, in partnership with Google, around 60 percent of customer research is completed before a consumer contacts a sales professional. If this is true, then the salesperson is stepping into the decision-making process somewhere past the half-way point. Long-format social media tools like Facebook, or niche forums, give the salesperson the opportunity to make a rational case for his product. Since Facebook does not have a character limit and is open to some visual formatting, the salesperson can chose to make a long logical plea or a shorter bulleted analysis.
Laying out Benefits
Keep in mind that using social media is only as strong as the message being communicated. If a salesperson is using a rational approach, then the Facebook post needs to build up the benefits and remove the risks in such a way that the consumer buys in. Social media tools and landing page live chat tools can be used to connect with customers at the right time and in the right manner within the decision making.
Of course, most salespeople know that there is more to sales then simply laying out the benefits of the product. Customers generally get to a point in their decision-making process, the pause, and either continue or discontinue the purchasing decision based on a “good enough” mindset. Sales people need to deliver a product message within an arbitrary time frame. It makes more sense for sales people to spend less time on non-selling activities, and more time uncovering new prospects and turning them into customers.
Short format messages like Twitter allow the salesperson the opportunity to get a message in front of a prospect within a given timeframe. Even though it may feel like an arbitrary non-sell activity, these messages provide an important impact on the sales process. They cut off the “good enough” conversation by opening up additional possibilities. These types of sales messages often follow the format of “if X is not right then try Y” and the message is designed to drive the prospect back to the long format platform and engage in a rational decision process.
One social media tool built to draw customer response is NeedTagger. This is basically a search engine for Twitter. By carefully defining a search, the salesperson can target a prospect before giving up. This allows for product re-engagement and the opportunity for the salesperson to connect to a new level.
Turn Your Sales Team Social
Social media channels allow salespeople to build global relationships, increase productivity, and capture lead generation on a variety of levels, according to insights from Nimble. By capturing the client’s attention at an emotional level, the sales specialist puts into motion a series of hardwired responses. The image site Pinterest capitalizes on this phenomenon. The reason why the old adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ rings true is because an image can deliver an emotional message in a fraction of the time of a written statement. Where the Rational Model would make the purchase of a puppy a risky decision, an emotionally-fueled decision avoids that analysis. A photo of a cute puppy on Pinterest makes a prospective dog owner’s brain light up under an MRI.
Closing the sale means knowing when is the right time to tap into a customer’s inclination to make a buying decision. Using an integrated marketing approach in which all of the social media tools work together to hit all domains of the decision making experience is the best approach. There is no single tool that will force a decision. It is the message, and not the tool, that will close the deal.
Paul Reyes-Fournier has served as the chief financial officer for social service organizations, churches and schools. He created his own marketing firm, RF Media. Paul holds a B.S. in physics and an M.B.A.