Believe it or not, just one idea can completely transform your business.

It can be easy to forget, but your customers are people. It is advantageous to speak to them as you would to someone you know.

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Following an Inbound approach has gained considerable momentum in the past few years. For your customers, that means there is a new expectation that they should be taken care of on a human level, not just as a means to make quota.

It means having quality conversations that go beyond selling units, services, or products.

It means recognizing that the way your customer buys from you no longer fits into a convenient one-size-fits-all buyer journey.

Companies that focus on helping rather than selling are winning the battle for the most empowered generation of customers. In today’s market, reviews and word of mouth referrals are the fuel for growth, with 84% of buyers now kick off their buying process with a referral. Poor customer experience is no longer acceptable, and there’s nowhere to hide if your salespeople can’t deliver. Only 3% of buyers trust reps, and t professions with less credibility include car salespeople and politicians.

Here’s the good news: there’s a distinct competitive advantage for salespeople who treat customers well. Inbound salespeople know their customers intimately, and they try to help them as much as they can. The customer not only trusts these reps, but recommends them to friends and colleagues who need help. By spreading the responsibility for the sale across the organization, Inbound puts less pressure on salespeople to close at all costs and liberates them to be genuinely effective helpers on the customer’s path to success.

With this approach, your conversations don’t have to be perfect as long as they’re personal and authentic. Inbound organizations successfully use their customer data and a more human approach to gain customers. These ideal customers are typically more loyal and valuable in the long term.

According to HubSpot’s own Dan Tyre:

"This shift in response to buyer behavior in the 21st Century is so radical that businesses without an Inbound strategy won’t be able to succeed. Companies that offer superior customer experience will likely see better outcomes because their entire organization can take a more personal approach to help their customers. This is what modern buyers expect. Sales teams supported by an organization revolving around the customer perform better."

Until recently, there was a comfortable distance between you and your customer. Mass media taught us to speak to our customers like strangers, often encouraging disjointed messaging that felt impersonal.

Channels such as video and live chat mean that you can now engage people in meaningful, personal conversations from the first time they connect. When internal departments share information about the customer they enjoy a seamless experience when dealing with Marketing, Sales and Customer Success. The use of customer data from your CRM and customer insights from a connected, cross-functional hub allows you to develop relationships with your customer beyond the sale.

According to Dan, "If you like word of mouth leads, remember that the modern sales engine is now focused on customer success. That’s where the most value is today. By providing superior customer service, Inbound organizations are showing the value of returning customers and positive word of mouth referrals."

You’re at risk if your customer prefers to spend up to 70% of their buyer journey doing their own research online and you’re not able to help them along the way. Your customer is expecting you to not only know who and where they are in their journey but also to pick up where their own trail ends every time they stumble or hit an obstacle along the way.

You can do this by tailoring a unique solution to their unique context, based on your expertise and your understanding of who they are and what they need. As sales organizations begin to share the entire view of the buyer’s journey across departments, it becomes easier to intercept your customer at exactly the right moment, when they need you most. When you’re in the right place at the right time, selling becomes a whole lot easier.

Buyer behavior has shifted radically and expectations have soared so significantly. Here are five ways to shift your sales strategy to adapt to buyer behavior in 2020.

1. Treat each customer like a segment of one.

Every customer feels like they’re special, and everyone wants to be treated like their needs are a top priority. Making assumptions about how a customer should be treated, what they need, or how you can solve their problems can cause serious communication issues down the line. Customers take it personally if you or anyone in your organization acts like you’ve never met before "Don’t you know who I am?" is not as good as "It’s like you can read my mind! Thank you."

While engaging with customers, let curiosity be your driving force. Ask them open-ended questions to learn what they need, and make sure they are the focus of the conversation.

2. Provide value as soon as possible.

Cut the time between your first conversation and the first time they see value in the form of a problem solved and your customer will thank you for it.

Nobody wants to wait around weighing endless options and choices. You’re nearly 7 times more likely to have meaningful conversations with decision-makers if you attempt to reach a lead within an hour.

Social selling is a way to engage a potential customer early on, benefitting the customer with every step they take towards a purchase from the very first interaction. 65% of salespeople who use social selling fill their pipeline, compared to 47% of reps who do not.

3. Use video to increase engagement.

Ask questions and point the customer in the direction you recommend, but always listen for cues to learn more about their individual needs. Video walkthroughs, visual case studies, screen shares and webinars are all great ways to communicate value before getting down to what your individual customer needs.

Seven in 10 B2B buyers watch a video sometime during their buying process.Video is no longer a nice-to-have. According to Google, 50% of internet users look for videos related to a product or service before they visit a store. Furthermore, 55% of consumers say they’ll pay more attention to video than to any other medium.

The key to having conversations through video is to have your CRM connected to your communication channels so that every video can be personalized in a way that delights your customer by seeming as though it was made just for them. Customers and prospects can draw their own conclusions, ask better questions and make sure they understand the solution in their context rather than yours.

At Mount Arbor, our team has found success using simple webcam and smartphone videos in outreach, contracts, demos, and other creative applications. We’ve run side by side tests of using video in the sales process for prospecting, versus the standard sequences we’d been using before with our clients. The results were astounding.

Clickthrough rates on emails were above 40%, and over 70% of those who engaged with the emails would watch our videos the whole way through. Videos were linked back to the CRM and meetings tool which included a call-to-action to book a meeting with our sales reps. This had a measurable impact on revenue. The presence of video makes people want to click, open and engage — especially if the video is well done, delivered with a smile, and tailored to the buyer’s unique context.

4. Anticipate your customer’s needs.

Understand key milestones for your customer and work backwards from the end goal to find moments you can intervene with help. If you know what’s important to your customer along the way, you’re more likely to anticipate what they’ll need at the right time and you’ll be in a position to delight them with proactive assistance.

Listen to your customer and pick up on the cues they provide to understand their communication style. Some people love a good chat about their problems, while some are more analytical and only want the facts. Use customer data to gain insights into what makes your customer tick, so that you can anticipate and deliver on their expectations.

5. Say no to customers who aren’t the right fit.

In the days of using traditional sales funnels, many marketers thought filling the top of the funnel with as many leads as possible was an indication of future success. It was simply a matter of conversions — if an adequate number of those leads made their way through to become a customer you could grow your business.

Using a Flywheel model, you are responsible for everything. As the informed resource you are responsible for understanding needs, product recommendations, additional services, and customer success.

With this increased responsibility on all sides of the sale, clogging the sales organization with poorly qualified leads can cause prospects to spin off into the arms of your competitors. Reduce friction in your sales process by making sure each and every customer you speak to fits your ideal customer profile, and once qualified, continue to nurture your prospects so there is a mutual understanding of what success looks like.

Without clear communication and the trust that allows you to say no once in a while, customers can quickly eat up your resources, jam up the Flywheel and cause your growth to stall. Instead, focus on the value you can provide at scale, and do it really well.

Implementing these tactics can help a modern sales team navigate the ever-changing business landscape.

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Originally published Apr 10, 2020 8:30:00 AM, updated April 10 2020

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Sales Strategy