I’ve been selling and leading sales teams for years. I’ve sold everything from complex, technology products and services, to simple, transactional offerings. The one thing all of the these sales had in common was everyone knew what I it was we were selling. The prospects had used them before or knew others who had used them. They weren’t “new.”
At Socially Booked, I’m learning that selling something new is hard. Selling something that no one has ever used or that the industry is unfamiliar with is tough. Selling something new creates an additional step in the selling process. When selling something new, that no one in an the industry uses or has ever used requires you sell the idea first. It requires you create context. You have to educate prospects on what it is they are buying and why they even need to consider it. When selling servers, sales training, phones systems, aluminum siding, solar panels or a car, buyers have context. They know what the value is. They know what they are buying. They don’t have to be educated on what it is they are looking at. Everyone knows what a car does, what sales training can do, what a phone system is etc. The decision when we know what it is we are buying focuses around whether or not we need it. Not what is it.
When selling a new product or service that didn’t exist, no one is looking for it. There is no aware market. Prospects don’t have predefined decision criteria. Prospects don’t know have success criteria. They aren’t considering what you sell, because the don’t know it exists. This environment has a huge impact on the selling process. Why? Asking the traditional questions first are lost on prospects as they have no context for the discussion. In sales we are trained, and rightfully so, to ask questions, get an understanding of what the customer is looking for, how they operate, what their challenges are etc. Asking these questions out of context irritates the customer and turns them off, trust me I know.
Socially Booked provides ski and snowboard schools with a social media platform embedded right into the resorts website. Socially Booked gives ski and snowboard school instructors their own social media pages (think Facebook for ski instructors) where they can upload pictures, video’s, blog, status update etc. in order to market themselves and the mountain. Socially Booked is a fully functional social media platform that embeds into a ski resorts current website. This concept is completely new to ski resorts. With few exceptions, the concept is completely foreign to the resorts. Therefore, the traditional approach of discovery does not work well. The lack of understanding and knowledge requires we take a dual approach, with a heavy emphasis towards education.
We’ve learned that creating context through education is the first step in the process. Jumping to discovery turns off prospects, because they are just too busy to engage without knowing why it matters. They don’t have time to answer questions, when they don’t understand what it is we offer. We have to talk more in the beginning. We have to educate. We have to provide information that gives them a foundation to work with. Once we educate, which can take sometime, we can then discuss their needs, and the decision process. We can then have conversations around their business challenges and goals. However, even in those discussions, context is critical because there are no case studies or proof of success. No one has used it yet.
We expect to have Socially Booked in a couple of summer ski camps this summer. That will help a lot. We’ll be able to point to successes. We have a number of resorts who want to implement for the 2011/2012 season. Once a few mountains have used it with success, things change. It’s not new anymore. Context is less important. Resorts know what it is we are selling. Once this happens the sales process returns to normal. But until then, we’re learning a lot.
Selling something folks have never heard of is hard. It requires breaking the rules and doing more telling than selling. It requires education. It requires time. It takes patience. Prospects don’t want what they don’t know exists. Getting them to understand what is even being sold is key. No one has time to talk about how they accomplish what your product does, if they don’t know what your product is.
I’ve learned a lot Starting Socially Booked and I don’t expect that to stop anytime soon.