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Sell anywhere — Tips for selling digitally

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Within the world of retail, businesses are typically divided into two categories: brick-and-mortar or ecommerce. However, with the rapid changes occurring within the retail sector due to evolving consumer habits, the lines between these types of businesses are beginning to blur. Small businesses in particular are realizing the increasing importance of being able to sell anywhere, as well as the ability to accept fully online payments.

If you’re a small business owner and you’re not sure where to start, don’t stress. We’re here to help.

Sell anywhere: How to sell products digitally

At this point in the retail world, having a website is a foregone conclusion. The burgeoning expectation now, though, is that businesses are expected to offer products online as well.

Whether it be a traditional ecommerce transaction (pay online, shipped to the customer) or pay online and pick up in person, consumers are increasingly expecting flexibility in their transactions.

It’s important that your business is able to meet these expectations.

If the thought of overhauling your business model is making you feel anxious, we’ll show you how to easily and seamlessly sell your products anywhere your customers (and you) are. 

  • Get your website up to speed.
  • Clearly display your products or services.
  • Offer multiple shipping or pickup options.
  • Make your payment options diverse and obvious. 
  • Be where your customers are.

Ready? Let’s jump into it.

1. Get your website up to speed

Selling products through your website requires an attractive and fast-loading site. It’s difficult to overcome the impression that potential customers initially have when visiting your site. Website visitors only need half a second to form an opinion of the website they are visiting.

If you already have a website, you’ll want to ensure that your website design is modern, mobile-friendly, and easy to use. For a deep-dive on this process, you can read an in-depth website redesign case study here.

Editor’s note: If you don’t have a website, or you’d prefer an easier way to create a beautiful and responsive website, GoDaddy’s Websites + Marketing has you covered.

In addition to the design of your website, it’s also important that your site loads quickly.

If users are leaving your site before your site even loads, that’s bad news.

Overly large images and graphics are the primary culprits for slow loading speeds. To ensure that your site loads quickly, make sure that you’re keeping images as small as possible. There are numerous free image compression tools online that can help you slim down your image sizes for optimal loading speeds.

Related: How to get a perfect Google PageSpeed score

2. Clearly display your products or services

Visitors are viewing your website to get a better idea about you and your business, so make it easy for them to see your products and services.

Example of a product page listing for a furniture store

Additionally, you’ll want to be sure to include winning product descriptions that will encourage your viewers to complete their purchases.

Product description example for two yellow chairs

Product description example for two yellow chairs

Related: How to write product descriptions to increase sales

3. Offer multiple shipping or pickup options

Depending on the type of business that you have, it’s helpful to offer a range of shipping and/or pickup options for your customers. If you primarily do business at a physical location, having pickup or curbside delivery options will likely be your best-performing options.

If you’re offering a service instead, then you may be able to consider in-person or virtual options (depending on the types of services that you offer).

If you’re not sure where to start on shipping options, this guide can get you moving in the right direction.

4. Make your payment options diverse and obvious

Not offering a wide range of payment options can be a big turn-off for many visitors. As younger generations begin to enter the market, the preferences for types of payments are steadily shifting. Mobile pay, for example, is increasingly being expected as an option by Gen Z.

If you are selling products or services on a website, then the payment options you can offer will range from the traditional ecommerce offerings of debit/credit cards and PayPal to the newer buy-now-pay-later services offered through AfterPay or Klarna.

However, selling services in person — away from a website — will change your options when collecting payment on the go. You have the option of mobile peer-to-peer payment options through a mobile app, requesting payment through a generated URL, or collecting payment via debit/credit card through the use of a mobile payment terminal. There is, of course, the option of cash, but cash is rapidly plummeting as a payment of choice for many buyers.

Wherever and however you choose to sell your products, be sure that you clearly display the payment options that you accept. Uncertainty can turn buyers away, so try to avoid discouraging buyers from completing their purchases.

Editor’s note: Looking for a fully integrated payment processing solution for wherever sales might happen? From in-person mobile transactions to online purchases, GoDaddy Payments can help you out.

5. Be where your customers are

When it comes to selling products, it’s important to be aware of your market. If your products or services are hyperlocal, then it may suit your business better to offer those products locally, such as at a farmer’s market or local convention. In those circumstances, it’s imperative that you have a simple, secure way to accept payments. A point-of-sale (POS) device or mobile payment option would be perfect in that scenario.

If your products or services aren’t limited to a single region, then an ecommerce website would serve your business better. Ecommerce nowadays includes social media, so you’ll want to consider integrating social media marketplaces into your ecommerce strategy.

Know where your customers are and be there to meet their needs. Every business is unique, so it’s important to fully consider your sales priorities and requirements.

Summing it up

Hopefully we’ve given you some ideas to help you get your business rolling.

Websites are an expectation of businesses nowadays, and while ecommerce is certainly great, it’s important to consider the rapidly evolving business landscape when it comes to how businesses are selling.

The economy continues to shift quickly, so having multiple routes for doing business — whether in-person, over the phone, or online — will help your business remain successful.



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5 Ways to Control Your Inventory So It Doesn’t Control You

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Managing inventory is a task that can make or break your small business. With too much inventory, profits suffer and storerooms overflow. With too little, items get back-ordered, customers get frustrated and business is lost. And striking a balance is hard, especially with disruptions to the global supply chain in the last few years causing delayed deliveries.

While you can’t control the supply chain, you can take steps to prevent common problems like product shortages and excess stock. Here’s how.

1. Stick to the story

Donna Daniel owns and operates three connected small businesses in Claremont, California: The Grove Clothing, The Grove Home and The Outdoor Store, which sell women’s clothing, home goods and unisex adventure-themed gear, respectively. To run all three of her stores, Daniel needs to keep an impressive variety and quantity of inventory in stock — and ensure it moves quickly to make room for seasonal items and new shipments.

To keep her inventory cohesive within each store, she arranges it in themed displays — or what she calls “stories” — which tie together dozens of different items to appeal to a color, season or activity.

“I don’t buy anything outside of the stories,” she says, which helps her collect data on sales and seasonal trends, and keeps her stock to what’s most likely to sell.

She keeps most of her inventory on the shop floor, with stock in each store’s backroom and larger items in a nearby storage unit. In the backrooms and warehouse, she stores items according to product type and size — not by story — so employees can easily restock displays and substitute a similar item if necessary.

2. Double down on your reliable inventory

“Just-in-time inventory is much more difficult to do today,” says Mark Baxa, president and CEO of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, a global trade association for supply chain professionals. Baxa adds that since the supply chain is less stable than it was pre-pandemic, businesses may need to lean on their most reliable products and vendors.

Courtney Cowan, owner and founder of Los Angeles bakery Milk Jar Cookies, keeps supply needs and consumer demand stable with a very consistent product line. Her 16-flavor menu has “changed very little” in the bakery’s nine-year history, though she leaves room for a rare seasonal standout to join the rotation. Since her store pre-mixes and preserves dough in a deep freezer, she can ensure that her bestsellers are always in stock.

Though some businesses may prefer a bit more variety, in uncertain times — over-ordering on go-to products with a dependable profit margin can help fill the gaps and keep sales steady.

3. Keep products moving

Longtime retailers know that while running out of inventory is bad, having too much can be worse. “Too much backstock eats up all your capital,” Daniel says. She prevents this from happening by planning ahead and using sales sections to make room for new merchandise.

Daniel reorders seasonal inventory as far as a year ahead by using recent sales reports as a baseline. But with this commitment to hundreds of new products arriving every month, she makes sure that items don’t sit on shelves for more than a few weeks.

“I do not like merchandise hanging around,” she says, explaining that if an item isn’t clearing out quickly enough, she’ll move it to the sales rack and discount it until it’s gone.

Though selling an item for a fraction of its original price may seem painful, it may be worth doing to keep inventory moving and keep customers coming back for new products.

4. Get to know your supply chain

Especially in periods of supply chain disruption, getting to know your vendors can make a big difference in your day-to-day operations. “Hold your supplier base accountable,” Baxa says. He suggests finding the “shortest path” possible, including finding local and sustainable suppliers, to help ensure consistent, reliable supply.

Daniel follows the same principle, sourcing her inventory from mostly local vendors so she can pick up items instead of shipping. She weighs several factors, including production time, available quantity and shelf life to figure out how much to order and how often.

Cowan’s inventory is perishable, so she needs her wholesale ingredients to arrive on a tight schedule. Her bakery receives truck deliveries directly from the restaurant supplier Sysco and wholesale store Costco, which keeps her supply chain close to home.

“We keep it as centralized as possible,” Cowan says. For special ingredients like nuts and candy, she places advance orders with small online vendors.

Clear communication with vendors can help business owners figure out limitations, plan ahead and mitigate risk.

5. Use a point-of-sale system with inventory management tools

For the past five years, Daniel has been using Lightspeed, a POS system with standout inventory management tools. The software can track her inventory across all three of her stores, and it generates reports that help her analyze seasonal sales data and follow her businesses’ growth.

This data is essential for her to plan reorder points and determine which items will reliably sell. Especially with a small staff and multiple locations, an all-in-one POS system can help minimize costs and labor.

Best POS for inventory management

Lightspeed Retail POS

Cost: Software $69 per month (billed annually) and up. Hardware quote-based.

Lightspeed’s retail point-of-sale system is built for inventory management. It can keep detailed records of your products across multiple locations and set automatic reorder points, so you don’t run out. The software also offers employee and customer relationship management tools, as well as advanced analytics features on its higher-priced plans.

You have the option to use a third-party payment processor, or Lightspeed’s in-house processor with per-transaction fees at 2.6% plus 10 cents for swipe, dip and contactless payments and 2.6% plus 30 cents for keyed-in transactions.

Square for Retail

Cost: Software free and up. Hardware from free card reader to $799 terminal and up.

Square’s retail-specific POS software offers inventory management tools and multi-location capabilities as well. The free version has a variety of other useful features including reporting tools, customer and employee management. Email marketing, loyalty programs and payroll are available with a higher-priced plan or as a paid add-on.

Though its inventory management isn’t quite as deep as Lightspeed’s, Square’s user-friendly interface and accessible pricing make it a great choice for most retail businesses. Payment processing fees vary per plan, but with the free retail plan, costs are 2.6% plus 10 cents per in-person transaction, 2.9% plus 30 cents per online transaction and 3.5% plus 15 cents per keyed transaction.

Shopify POS

Cost: Software $29 to $299 and up. Hardware $49 and up.

Shopify’s point-of-sale system is geared for businesses that primarily sell online. The software tracks inventory, hides out-of-stock products on your website and offers basic inventory analysis. It also facilitates drop-shipping, curbside pickup and local delivery options, plus access to vendors and third-party applications.

Shopify helps businesses manage inventory across online and in-store locations. Its Pro version can create purchase orders, run inventory counts, perform advanced inventory analysis and generate low-stock reports. However, it’s not ideal for a business that only sells in store. Payment processing varies by plan, with in-person fees starting at 2.4% with Shopify POS Lite.

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6 ways to improve your coupon marketing strategy and increase sales

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Improve sales with strategy

Of all the reasons customers buy something, saving money is near the top of the list. This need to save is why discount coupons have become a bigger part of running a successful ecommerce business. Studies show that before making a purchase, 92% of online shoppers search for a coupon or discount code.

Coupons are valuable to ecommerce because they inspire customers to take action. New or up-and-coming brands are especially likely to benefit from offering coupons. According to Inmar Intelligence research, 54% of shoppers purchase from a new brand because it’s less expensive, and about a third are influenced by digital coupons.

With the right coupon marketing strategy, you can target customers where they already spend time online: via email, text, and social media. A coupon campaign that uses relevance, timeliness, and perceived value, can help you maximize exposure and customer follow-through.

1. Add discounts to lead forms

Just as their name suggests, lead magnets are a helpful tool used to attract new leads. Lead magnets are flexible and let you offer a variety of incentives based on your business type and customer preferences. For example, in exchange for sharing their email address, subscribers can get an eBook, access to a webinar, a checklist, a resource guide, or even a video packed with insider information.

One of the most popular types of lead magnets is the discount offer. Subscribers can save a percentage or dollar amount on a future purchase.

Lead magnets pop up automatically on your website after customers:

  • Spend some time browsing your shop
  • Scroll down on the page
  • Move their mouse to close the page — the idea here is to get people to stay on the site longer by offering an incentive

For example, the first time you enter Nick Mayer’s art website and attempt to navigate away from the page (either by moving your mouse to close the tab or click the back arrow), a popup appears. The popup offers the user the opportunity to enter to win a free print by submitting their email and trying their luck at “spinning the prize wheel.” Not only is this digital coupon a fun and clever graphic design, but it’s also a very enticing way to acquire leads.

coupon strategies
Photo: Mick Mayer Art

Lead magnets work especially well if one of your business goals is to grow your email list. According to a study by Google and Boston Consulting Group, 90% of customers are willing to share their email address if it means getting a special offer like a discount.

To keep customers coming back, occasionally update your coupon offers since customers are always looking for fresh new deals. Make sure your offers and coupon strategies are relevant based on what’s important to your audience. This way, once you have new email addresses, you can nurture your leads and share exclusive offers the general public doesn’t have access to.

For example, Biko, a Canadian jewelry brand, offers shoppers 10% off their first order in addition to access to insider-only discounts. Since this site’s target audience is most likely millennial women with an interest in fashion and unique accessories, Biko captures the emails of people who want to buy more amazing products and also save money.

coupon strategies
Photo: Biko

To attract the right lead magnet, figure out what incentives are important to your audience. For example, 48% of U.S. consumers attribute extra costs such as shipping as the number one reason for shopping cart abandonment. Therefore offering a promo code for free shipping can be a more persuasive incentive than a discount on the product or service itself.

coupon strategies
Photo: Baymard Institute
Unexpected shipping costs are the number-one reason consumers don’t complete their online purchase.

2. Use limited-time offers

A limited-time offer is a discount customers have access to for a set amount of time. For example, you can set availability to a few hours or a few days. The goal is to get customers to act sooner by putting an expiration date on the coupon. This type of scarcity marketing can give the customer the perception that a product is more desirable now than it was even a few days before the coupon campaign went live.

Limited-time offers tend to pop up during product launches or special times of the year, like over the holidays. This approach also works well to attract customers who are in the consideration stage of their customer journey. They’ve done the research and narrowed down their options. When they land on your site and see the offer, they understand the value you offer, plus they’re getting what they want with a discount.

To make your offer stand out from the competition, do a little research to see what types of offers other retailers have available. Then find a way to go one step further. For example, if they offer customers free shipping on their first purchase, do the same and add a gift certificate for a friend or family member.

coupon strategies
Photo: Harry’s

Use email marketing to help keep limited-time offers top-of-mind for your subscribers. Add a sense of urgency to act by including a countdown timer in your emails to remind customers that time is running out for them to buy the product they’ve been eyeing.

You can do even more with this idea of urgency by adding in social proof. For example, include a few testimonials from customers who’ve bought the products you’re promoting. Social proof taps into the experience known as FOMO (fear of missing out), which greatly influences customer behavior.

3. Strategize what types of deals to offer

Percentage and dollar amount discounts are popular discount options because they work. But you don’t have to limit yourself to just these types. The discount you offer depends on your ability to manage the cost financially. It’s one thing to give first-time buyers $20 off, but how will this affect your bottom line? Will you still make a profit, or will you lose money?

Before you launch your discount campaign, think about what matters to your audience. Customer surveys are a great way to learn more about what your customers want. If you’ve already surveyed your customers, then you have data insights to guide you in designing a coupon strategy.

Based on survey results and customer comments, discount options may include:

  • Free shipping
  • Abandoned cart savings
  • Free gift with purchase — offer something inexpensive but valuable that sets the tone for the new customer relationship
  • Chance to win a giveaway — multiple people sign up, but you only give away a small number of products
  • Share a referral or include a gift voucher — effective because many shoppers want to be seen as a trendsetter
  • Offer a printable version of your coupon for an older audience that might prefer print over digital

Over time, your customer preferences might change due to new interests, experiences, and advice from their network, so experiment with the types of offers you share.

For example, if you promote lead magnet offers on your website, you can use a tool like Google Analytics to gauge conversion rates. Check to see how many times your popups appear and how many times leads submit an email address. Once you start to see a consistent decrease in conversion, it’s time to make a change to your coupon marketing strategy.

4. Create a customer reward program

Reward programs are a great way to encourage customer loyalty. In exchange for consistently choosing to buy your products over the competition’s, customers receive exclusive offers that provide value and let them save money. The longer customers stay loyal, the higher their lifetime value (LTV) and the higher your revenue.

By all accounts, reward programs seem to be working. According to Fortune Business Insights, loyalty programs are expected to grow from $4.43 billion in 2021 to $18.22 billion in 2028. This is thanks in part to the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning that can provide businesses with insights on which strategies will be more likely to convert customers.

Reward customer loyalty by offering special discounts. You can even throw in extra perks like a free product when customers hit certain milestones, like sending a thank you product when customers hit their one-year anniversary.

The first step in creating an appealing reward program is to figure out what your audience wants. This is based on what you know about them. Ask yourself questions like what kinds of products do repeat customers buy the most and what types of rewards do they use the most — percentage discounts or dollar savings.

Next, segment your customers into groups so you can create specific programs and messaging for particular types of customers. For example, let’s say you have a clothing brand that caters to men and women. Create a rewards program that lets each segment accumulate rewards, points, etc., to use toward specific purchases.

Some brands, like Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW), even offer loyalty programs with tiers. This way, as customers spend more, they unlock more rewards.

coupon strategies
Photo: DSW

To keep customers engaged and excited about moving to another reward tier, use email or SMS marketing to remind them of the level they’re currently at and what savings await them.

Also, consider incorporating artificial advancement in your tiered rewards. When a new customer qualifies for the reward program, welcome them by giving them a few “free” points or dollars to get started. A study of the Endowed Progress Effect found that customers gravitate to reward programs where they feel like they’ve already started vs. reward programs that start at zero and customers have to build on them.

5. Use different distribution channels

Although there’s power in sending coupons via email, you shouldn’t rely solely on this tactic since emails don’t always get opened right away (or ever if they get stuck in the promotions tab on Gmail). Instead, you should expand your coupon strategies and experiment with other channels, list your product or service on popular coupon sites, and test different methods to maximize your reach and grow your leads.

One way to increase the chances of your customer engaging with a coupon code is to use text messaging to share discounts. The open rate for text messages is 98%, with a click-through rate as high as 36%, yet most marketers still don’t use SMS marketing in their strategy. Moreover, as smartphone usage increases around the globe, more customers want to communicate via text message with your business. Including a mobile option in your coupon marketing strategy is important. In 2021, 71% of ecommerce took place on smartphones.

coupon strategies
Photo: Statista

Promoting new products and discounts on social media is another way to improve your coupon strategy. There are billions of users across popular social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, so your strategy should include sharing discounts regularly.

However, it’s important to be mindful of overusing coupons. If your products are always on sale, they start to feel less valuable, and your lead magnets may view your coupon strategy as a marketing ploy to get more emails or followers.

To avoid this disenchantment, plan your discounts around special events, customer anniversaries, or holidays. These are times when customers are inclined to shop more anyway, and it makes sense to target them across different channels. You can also use the help of influencers to promote your product or service. In this way, customers can get your coupon through a personable source they already admire and trust.

6. Use creative visuals

At their core, coupons are basically a request for customers to buy something. As a result, coupon codes can easily be sent as plain text messages. But where’s the fun in that? Customers appreciate attractive visuals, so incorporate eye-catching graphics, colors, and fonts in your coupon design. After all, you want your offer to get customers excited, right?

If you’re using an email campaign as part of your coupon marketing strategy, you can base your visuals on your customer segments.

Take this automated email campaign for Sephora. After customers sign up for the email newsletter, they get one version with a special offer if they spend $200 or more and another version if they don’t. Both coupon designs are striking and offer relevant information.

coupon marketing strategies
Photo: Campaign Monitor

You can use this same strategy when promoting your special offers. For example, if a customer uses a coupon, send a thank you email and include links to similar products they might be interested in buying next time. If a customer doesn’t use a coupon when they buy something, send an email that includes a special offer for a future purchase.

This approach works because customers appreciate personalization. Consider cross-selling and upselling by including links to products based on their historical purchases. Using your creativity to make your offers visually appealing and personal can increase the amount a customer ends up spending.

Take your coupon marketing strategy to the next level

Keep in mind, coupon marketing strategies work best in combination with other tactics. Relying on coupons alone to grow your business will actually have the opposite effect because customers won’t see the value in your product. They might shop at another store where the perceived value is higher simply because the competition is more strategic about when and how they offer discounts.

Take some time to get to know your ideal customer and their expectations. From there, you can build a coupon marketing strategy that gets noticed and converts more customers.



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Are Lonely Salespeople Costing You Customers?

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Sales has always had lonely moments. However, when the pandemic sent salespeople home to Zoom, the loneliness became palpable. This is becoming a costly problem.

Many of the changes to the sales profession are no longer temporary. Our clients are reporting that a portion of buyers are permanently working from home. Sales organizations are hiring more remote employees and video calls are the expected norm.

In an agenda-driven video sales call, the social elements (handshakes, shared coffee, etc.) that once humanized the sales interaction have been stripped away. Without these emotionally engaging elements, and without a bullpen of colleagues to buoy their spirits, sales jobs are increasingly becoming transactional and lonely roles.

As one seller put it, “Before, I was busy all the time, and some of it was fun. Now, I’m on Zoom just trying to stay awake. I’m realizing I need more social interactions, but at the end of the day, I’m too exhausted to make the effort.”

Left unaddressed, salesperson loneliness can become a costly problem. Recent research conducted by one of us (Dr. Good) reveals that loneliness goes beyond just a hit to morale — it has begun to impact salesperson behavior with customers, leading to an erosion of revenue, margin, and market reputation. Dr. Good’s data was gathered from two studies that surveyed more than 250 B2B and B2C salespeople from a variety of industries, as well as follow-up qualitative interviews, performance data, and observations of more than a dozen sales teams. Findings revealed that salesperson loneliness is causing three problematic behaviors that ultimately create a cycle of poor performance:

1. Social awkwardness

When social skills aren’t routinely practiced, they deteriorate like any other muscle. Sellers in the studies were frequently observed misreading social signals and misjudging the importance of key details in exchanges with customers. While not surprising — all of us are a little awkward these days — sellers play a particularly heavy price for missing social cues. Buyers are less likely to engage, and the trust required for relationship building doesn’t happen.

Further compounding this problem is the fact that sellers may be coming into a sales interaction moments after having been rejected by a previous customer. Without the buffer of peers in close proximately to help them reset, this could increase the potential for a confidence deficit, contributing to even more initial awkwardness on the next call. An awkward start has a chilling effect on customer engagement and can derail or, at the very least stall, what could have been a successful sales process.

2. Loss of focus on customer needs

Sellers who are overeager for social connection don’t listen deeply during the needs assessment phase of the sales process. The data revealed that these lonely sellers were more likely to forget critical customer information.

In a virtual environment, the visual cues that make each customer distinctive and memorable are often absent. When each customer is just another tiny box on your same computer, in the same room, talking about the same things, they bleed together. This lack of distinction makes what happened (and what the customer said) harder to remember. As one seller told us, “I’m on with 20 customers a day, and every call feels the same.”

We also saw evidence that because they don’t have enough meaningful social connections outside their job, sellers can wind up treating the customer as a confidante, someone they share with, rather than someone whose needs should be the organizing element of the conversation. 

Without a clear understanding of customer-specific needs and goals, sellers are unable to create a compelling or differentiated story about their solution. This impaired memory early in the process winds up hobbling them when they try to close.

3. Conspicuous overspending on customers

Nowhere was the direct cost of salesperson loneliness more readily apparent than their expense account. Dr. Good’s studies showed that salesperson loneliness was directly connected to increased spending on customers. It’s not hard to understand why someone who’s lonely would want to buy their clients gifts and meals, or why they might want to reduce the price to maintain a client friendship. These actions usually generate a warm response from customers, and what lonely person doesn’t want to generate a more positive emotional reaction from the people they spend time with?

However warm it might feel in the moment, this “sweethearting” did not improve salesperson performance in either of the two studies Dr. Good conducted. While buyers may have been grateful, and sellers may have gotten the dopamine high of a positive social interaction, this conspicuous overspending did not create additional revenue. It was a cost with no return on investment.

In the current social-starved environment, many sellers are over-indexing on the old adage, “people buy from people they like.” In an effort to be liked, salespeople have forgotten that the true purpose of sales: to improve life for customers.

How Managers Can Help Lonely Salespeople

As humans, we’re hardwired to seek meaningful connection. The challenge for sellers (and their managers) is two-fold: the shift to virtual created a huge interpersonal void for salespeople whose time had previously been filled with human interaction. Second, when salespeople try to mitigate their loneliness, their coping behaviors play out with customers, which has a direct impact on the organization’s financial health and reputation.

The three above behaviors create a dangerous cycle that erodes competitive differentiation, eats away at the margin, and results in costly turnover in the sales role. With the virtual world of selling unlikely to fully revert, it is crucial that leaders proactively mitigate this problem. Here are eight strategies to break this cycle:

Create situations that encourage non-competing.

When every sales meeting feels like Shark Tank, with coworkers pitted against each other, it reinforces the loneliness. Go beyond the usual sales reporting meetings and give your salespeople regular opportunities to be together without an agenda or contest. Something as simple as a weekly 15-minute “Share your favorite TV binge” huddle gives sellers a way to connect with coworkers rather than thrusting their loneliness on unsuspecting customers.

Activate a sense of shared purpose.

Sales loneliness magnifies when sellers feel that they’re nothing more than a lone wolf quota filler. You can help counter this feeling by regularly reinforcing a sense of higher purpose. Make a practice of discussing how your organization’s solutions make a difference to customers, and how each member of the team contributes. This reminds sellers that their jobs have meaning and that they’re part of something bigger than themselves.

Design a structure for peer-to-peer support.

Hold regular peer meetings in which sellers brainstorm together to help improve each other’s skills. For example, you can ask people for their favorite questions to ask during discovery or how to open new conversations without awkwardness. Putting sellers in a situation where they’re sharing best practices creates a support structure they can draw upon during times of challenge and change.

Do some brain training.

Listening skills were the most obvious (and potentially detrimental) thing to decline for reps experiencing loneliness. Reverse this trend by running a quick training drill for your sales team where they practice listening and responding to each other describing personal things like weekend plans or how they’ve arranged their workspace. Improving their listening skills in lower-stakes social settings, where there’s not a deal at risk, will help them do the same in front of customers.

Make sure your sales team is crystal clear on your value proposition.

When a rep has confidence in the value proposition they’re offering to customers, they’re less likely to discount or “sweetheart.” Without this solid base, a rep is more likely to feel like they are risking the personal connection by offering a price that may be perceived as too high or overspend on the customer to mitigate negative feelings.

Set spending guidelines and model appropriate gifts.

When spending guidelines are vague, it diverts attention from the true objective of the sale, which is to improve life for customers. Show your sellers exactly what appropriate and effective spending looks like. Perhaps it’s giving customers a helpful book about an issue they’re facing or providing a coffee gift card for them to use in your meeting. Demonstrate to your team that your solution combined with their own expertise is enough; you don’t need elaborate gifts to make connections.

Encourage your salespeople to schedule small breaks between client calls.

Tell your salespeople, “Give yourself five minutes between calls to review the notes, have a glass of water and remind yourself how we improve life for these customers.” This will increase their confidence in their offering and give them a chance to shake off what may have been an unsuccessful past call.  Grounding themselves in the value of their offering helps them start more strategically and curbs the impulse to overshare.

Encourage friendships outside of work.

Your customers don’t need another friend, but your salespeople probably do. But to have friends, you have to be a friend. Truly caring leaders would be wise to encourage salespeople to seek opportunities to pursue friendship outside of work. While friendship may seem like a touchy-feely topic inappropriate for leadership commentary, the research tells us that a salesperson’s lack of friends can be quite costly. Given the high stakes, it’s a problem worth addressing.

Salespeople are no different than the rest of us. When they’re lonely, they become more awkward, they tend to overshare, and they try to connect in using whatever means they have at their disposal. The above strategies can help mitigate salesperson loneliness, and ensure that your team is approaching customers with calm confidence. 

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