"I don't get cold called enough, especially during meal times and when I'm with my family," said no one, ever.
Over the last twenty years, the way people work, live, shop, and buy has fundamentally changed, and consumers are armed with more tools than ever to block out interruptive marketing and sales messages. I think the most telling stat in this power shift is that prospects have made about 60% of their buying decision before talking to a sales rep, according to Corporate Executive Board. The buyer is more than halfway sure whether or not they're going to be your next customer based solely on information they've discovered online. This means your website and content are your de facto sales reps for the majority of the buying process. More importantly, it means the prospect is going to have a pretty good idea of how your product or service does and does not meet their specific business needs.
Salespeople need to have context before that first conversation with a prospect because the call isn't a pitch anymore -- it's an exchange. To empower salespeople with context when reaching out to prospects, we recently launched Signals. Within the first week, 12,000 new users downloaded Signals to see when prospects opened and clicked on their emails to be sure they were getting into the conversation at the right time. As a result, it's imperative that those of us in Sales and Marketing adapt our approach to reflect the needs of the modern buyer. Customers are now controlling the buying process and inbound selling is how modern salespeople can keep up. Check out the SlideShare and blog post below to learn how.
Here are a few ways your sales team can keep every step of the buying process personalized and valuable for both the prospect and the sales rep.
1) Re-Evaluate Lead Generation
We know that about 60% of a prospect's buying decision is made based on what they've found online. It's crucial that what they are finding online makes a positive, valuable, and lasting impression. If most of your resources are going toward cold calling and other sales tactics for lead generation, think about reorganizing them so that your marketing efforts are stronger. Relevant, useful content is how you'll get found online and build relationships with prospects -- your budget should reflect that.
2) Give in to the Leverage Shift
When I was a sales rep in the 90s, prospects had to go through me for pricing information, service plans, product details, and ROI data. Now, anybody can find that information with a quick Google search. The internet is at your prospects' fingertips and you can't stop it, so focus on making the information they want readily available, easy-to-digest, and helpful. Make your website their go-to source so they don't have to go digging online. Prospects will get annoyed and your competitor's public-facing content will be waiting with open arms.
3) Beware of Seller-Beware
Thanks to social media, email, and blogs, word of mouth travels faster and further than ever. If you call a prospect who has downloaded several of your ebooks and ask if he is familiar with your services, you can bet someone across the country, or even the world, will know about your conversation before you put down the phone. Your prospects and customers hold a great deal of influence on the way your company is perceived and talked about. Don't just aim to get customers in the door, shoot to make them happy customers for life by restructuring your sales process to recognize the value of delighting customers before, during, and after they sign on with your business.
4) Take Your Charm Online
The days of door-to-door salesmen and business pitches over fancy dinners are a thing of the past. Now that it's so easy to communicate remotely, salespeople rarely, if ever, meet prospects and customers in person. It's a bit harder to be charming over GoToMeeting or Skype than it was when we were taking prospects out to lunch, which is why spending time with your online profile is important. Being personable through your social platforms, email signatures, and any content you create makes it easier for prospects to connect with you.
5) Understand the "Everything-as-a-Service" Pricing Model
We talk a lot about delighting the customer with content and context, but what about delighting them with what they're most worried about? It used to be that reps sold massive up front price tags with a small tail of revenue later, regardless of your industry or product. In 2013, almost everything is packaged as a service with a revenue stream that happens over time and a profit not occurring on a customer unit basis for many months or years. As a rep, keep in mind that your customers are used to subscription models like Netflix or Spotify where they can extract value over time alongside their payments, and leverage your product pricing, packaging, and sales process to fit that mold. An "everything-as-a-service" pricing structure helps put prospects at ease, and you can have more constructive conversations from the get-go.
With so many companies falling to the wayside because they are stuck in the past, it's crucial to keep up with your customers and how they want to shop and buy. Inbound selling reflects the way people have changed, so update your sales process and go all inbound.