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September 19, 2014 // 6:00 AM

Welcome to the New Sales Process: How to Let Content Do the Selling

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handshake-blue-background"Pushy" isn’t the first word you want prospects to associate with your profession, but it’s a term that’s plagued the sales industry for years -- and for good reason.

With the old-school sales approach, you searched for prospects with the biggest budgets and incessantly pitched your products or services until they surrendered. The ABCs (always be closing) were your guiding principles. If there wasn’t a need, you created one. If there wasn’t an interest, you plugged anyway. If you heard “No,” it just meant you turned the screws a little tighter.

Thankfully, those days are over and consumers are taking charge of the sales process. They don’t need -- or want -- someone talking at them or selling them on a product’s value proposition. In fact, consumers go through 70% - 90% of the buyer journey before contacting a vendor.

And for both B2B and B2C industries, content is holding their hands through the process.

Let Content Build Relationships for You

When consumers identify a need, they don’t have to go directly to the seller for more information. With a few key phrases and a Google search bar, they can become instant experts on a product or service without spending a dime. Content weighs in on most questions consumers have in the purchase-decision stage.  

The sales game isn’t about pushing out your product anymore; it’s about building meaningful relationships with prospects so they come to you when they’re ready to buy. Here are five ways content marketing embodies the spirit of relationship-based sales:

1) It primes consumers on your product.

Education is at the core of relationship-based sales, and the same holds true with content. Relate to prospects on a personal level, and then educate them on the whats, hows, and whys of your product or service. For growing companies, content is a vehicle for scaling your expertise and reaching more prospects with fewer resources.

2) It fulfills needs instead of creating them.

Most products and services satisfy a consumer need or problem. Your content works in a similar fashion but fulfills the need for additional information. Provide content that meets consumer needs rather than fabricating them.

3) It establishes trust.

When content shares lessons, tips, and others secrets of the trade, it can add value to the purchase cycle. And with each consecutive piece, you’re positioned as a more credible expert in the eyes of the consumer, which helps instill trust -- a foundational principle of all long-lasting and meaningful relationships.

4) It humanizes your brand. 

Consumers want to buy from people, not companies. Content puts a face to a brand and helps the reader relate to you as a person before engaging in a conversation in person.

5) It facilitates meaningful conversations.

Content naturally opens up a dialogue with readers, which can expedite the sales process and build trust. Your content qualifies leads and preps them before a sales call, so you can get straight to the tailored, hard-hitting questions that will close the sale.

Content that establishes you as a thought leader can guide readers through the sales funnel with ease. It informs them of industry trends, starts a conversation, and prepares prospects to buy from a trusted source -- you, of course.

Scale Your Sales Efforts Through Content

Forming meaningful relationships with a wide audience is a difficult feat for startups or growing companies. Content scales this process, lends credibility to your expertise, and makes sales a more collaborative effort.

Consider the following strategies for boosting your sales efforts through content:

1) Allow consumers to self-identify their needs. 

Old-school sales put company goals first, but relationship-based sales center on consumer needs. Research what consumers actually want, and develop content around that. Create your inbound funnel, and write guest posts that address concerns for each type of lead. Let readers define their needs and further educate themselves on your company blog or by downloading your whitepaper. Run drip campaigns to nurture leads and develop those relationships.

2) Use content to add value.

Relationship-based sales always add value. If you’ve identified the needs of your prospects, you know how to improve their situations. Send published articles to prospects before sales calls to raise the quality of the conversation or let them know whether they’re a good fit for your product or service.

3) Forge real connections.

Old-school sales started by telling consumers their best options and then engaging in a point-counterpoint dance to hammer out any objections. Relationship-based sales start by listening to your prospects, then educating them on their best options. Share content with leads after a sales call to establish yourself as the consultant they need. Continue the conversation through education, and demonstrate your expertise.

Sharing high-quality content helps you achieve many of the same goals as traditional sales -- no aggressive sales pitch required. Consumers want applicable knowledge that will lead them through the purchase process to a decision they’re confident in. Take the first step toward building a relationship through content, and the rest will fall perfectly into place.

content mapping

Topics: Inbound Sales Inbound Sales Content Marketing

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