Island author discusses the new world of sales
The term “revenue coach” doesn’t come up very often. When it does, however, ears perk up. Who isn’t interested in earning more money today? The fact that there is an islander who is a revenue coach and available to teach the practice makes it all the more appealing.
Kristin Zhivago has been coaching Fortune 500 CEOs and entrepreneurs for over 40 years. Her personal technique is “reverse engineering.” She says that businesses must understand that the rules of the selling game have changed.
Today, when a buyer wants to purchase something, they can Google it. They can find out about nearly any product before they buy from gleaning information on the Internet. About 80 percent of sales nowadays are formulated on the web, while the remaining 20 percent is garnered from a sales person.
Problems arise when that salesperson doesn’t have the knowledge to close the deal. At this point in the sale, a buyer will have specifi c questions. Should the salesperson not know the answers, the buyer will be lost.
Zhivago’s 20 percent solution is for the seller to question their customers after the sale has been made. Customers will not tell you beforehand what is on their minds or how they arrived at the purchase point. Before the sale, the buyer is in negotiation. After the sale, the buyer will gladly share the buying processes with the seller.
This is what Zhivago refers to when she discusses “reverse engineering.”
Around the world, in business, selling is broken, she says. The Internet has changed everything and selling can no longer be done the old way.
Today, more than ever, the seller has to think like the buyer. According to Zhivago, the buyer is in control and the products being sold in the world today fall into four categories: Light, medium, heavy and intense.
The light category is basically impulse buying. Sellers have no relationship with this set and should not concentrate on this group. The second category set is medium, which are purchases such as clothing. Buyers may ask a few questions, make a decision and move on. The third set is heavy. This is the category where sellers should channel their energy, Zhivago says. Buyers see a product, and ask a lot of questions. The items involve test drives and signing contracts. The last category is intense, which combines the other three categories.
Zhivago’s new book, “Roadmap To Revenue: How To Sell The Way Customers Want To Buy,” is scheduled to be released this month. The book outlines a detailed selling path and Zhivago shows precisely how to sell more products by matching the efforts of the seller to the customer’s buying process.
Zhivago is a business growth consultant who started out by selling and marketing software and hardware products in 1969. Clients range from start-up companies to Fortune 500 corporations, including Dow Jones, IBM and Johnson and Johnson. She founded Zhivago Management Partners in 1979. In 1996, she moved from Silicon Valley in California to Jamestown.
“All I need is my brain and the Internet,” Zhivago said, who runs her business out of her Seaside Drive home. “I do well in recessionary times as well as good times.” Zhivago knows how to make money and where the next river of revenue will be. The main thing driving revenue today from the consumer, she says, is price. There are no “regret purchases.” Impulse, splurging or luxury buying is irrational. People are more careful where they spend their money and they want to know the actual costs of things to make sure that the seller has integrity and is honest.
She says that the first place a prospective buyer gravitates to in order to find out about products is message boards and comment sections.
Trust is key. There is a lot of skepticism and a businessperson’s branding must be that he or she keeps their promises, not just make them. Consumers become skittish if they realized that a CEO or business owner wrote their own product review; sometimes, trust can be more important than cost.
According to Zhivago, 27 million businesses existed in the United States in 2004. About 90 percent of those companies had nine employees or less. It is the small entrepreneur who provides the majority of the jobs to millions of people. Today, that business owner, she says. because of the uncertainty of the current political administration structure, is reluctant to make decisions. Government rules and regulations have crippled the entrepreneur and small business owner, she said. The penalties for failure can be severe and business success can be tough to figure out and very critical if it isn’t done right.
Zhivago lives on the island with her husband, Philip, who retired from a career in advertising at the age of 52. In 2009, they had a 48-foot catamaran custom built for them in Cape Town, South Africa. The couple sailed the boat, which is named Horizon, back to Jamestown and documented the two-month, 8,000-mile trip on their blog, www.sailingonthehorizon.com.
Zhivago has another blog, www.revenuejournal.com, which focuses on “revenue-increasing insights, strategies and techniques.”
“Roadmap to Revenue” is Zhivago’s second book; she is also the author of “Rivers of Revenue: What to do when the money stops flowing.”