With the commercialization of the Web, buyers are fully in control of the sales process. Whether it’s a consumer looking for new cookware, or a commercial buyer sourcing new manufacturing materials, prospects are now capable of thoroughly researching and comparing potential purchases long before sellers are even aware that someone might be interested in them. Here is the terrible truth: according to marketing intelligence consultant IDC, two-thirds of B2B buyers engage a sales reps ONLY after they’ve already made a purchasing decision. If you’re a sales and marketing professional, that has to be downright scary.
The challenge for a sales professional is daunting – how can you persuade prospects that your products or services have value and you are worthy of their trust before contact has been established.
The short answer is, make sure you and your sales team are active online, offering valuable, objective information about your industry, market, and the products or services in it. Have that information readily available in many forms that prospects can access when, where, and how they choose. The good news is, IDC has also discovered that 75 percent of B2B companies considering purchases take up to six months to do so. That gives you plenty of time to get valuable information into the hands of prospects, even if they choose not to immediately engage with you.
To loosely paraphrase Mark Twain: “rumors of the death of sales reps are greatly exaggerated.” The role of the sales representative is alive and well, it’s just evolved significantly over the past several years. Sales and marketing teams, instead of delivering all-or-nothing sales pitches, are now dispensing timely information to nurture prospects along the sales journey.
And not just any information – it’s a variety of content developed to be highly relevant at different stages of the sales process. Content that addresses the “pains” that cause the prospect to be investigating a purchase in the first place, and then increasingly detailed and helpful information that’s needed as they get deeper into their research and begin to have questions. The image below shows the Inbound Sales process stages aligned with the buyer's journey stages (awareness - consideration - decision) at the bottom.
Fortunately, there are a number of marketing tools available that can aid your own research into customer preferences and needs. For B2B sales teams, LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a great resource for research into prospects. Social media monitoring tools can help sales gain insight into the behavior and biases of specific prospects and their markets. A content strategy session or two will help your team analyze the data revealed by these tools and develop a list of appropriate topics that can be covered in a wide range of content such as white papers, eBooks, executive guides, and blog posts.
Gaining critical trust and interest from prospects is all about delivering to prospects experienced insight into how you solved for other clients the problems they’re now facing. Be sure to back up those claims with objective third party research and client quotes to prove you actually delivered real solutions.
Effectively engaging prospects requires trust. Converting prospects into clients requires developing a relationship that builds their trust in what you say and the value of what you sell.
Capability Human nature leads us all to believe that we are better at certain things than we really are. Some believe they’re the world’s great lovers. Others that they could have played pro football. The truth, though, is usually less amazing.
What does this mean to sales professionals? That they should not overestimate their capabilities. For buyers to truly trust a sales person and believe in them enough to establish a relationship, that sales rep needs to bring actionable ideas to the table. To successfully demonstrate they can deliver a winning solution – whether it’s the right product to solve the prospects problem or a service that will really save them time and money. Whatever it is, the buyer must believe the seller is capable of delivering and is worthy of trust.
Dependability Honor your commitments. Successful sales reps say what they’ll do and do what they say. Establish clear expectations with prospects on what you will do for them and then do it well. Not just occasionally, but all the time.
Integrity Do the right thing. Weak individuals might be willing to fudge on something to close a sale, but that eventually catches up to them. Have a strong code of ethics and adhere to it. Buyers naturally trust sellers who truly have their best interest in mind, even if it means initially losing a sale. Prospects, however, always remember being treated fairly and that will eventually translate into increased sales as the good word spreads.
Intimacy Don’t be afraid to show your human side – you’re not a sales machine or automatic order taker. You are a fellow human being who has experienced the same or similar challenges and you’re happy to share a solution with prospects. Don’t be afraid to connect on a personal level.
All prospects, regardless of what they’re buying, are looking for solutions for their problems – whether it’s new shoes with better arch support or a reliable Doppler blood flow monitor. By sharing valuable content centered around their challenges and making that content available at key points along the sales journey, you help prospects objectively research their purchases with solid information. This, in turn, develops trust and encourages prospects to engage. The result? A relationship that benefits both parties and provides the seller with a competitive advantage.
The inbound sales methodology is all about identifying the best prospects and engaging them in a way that delivers value and builds trust. Download the Guide to Inbound Sales and transform the way you sell to the modern buyer.
Bristol Strategy is a full funnel inbound marketing agency and inbound sales agency offering the full complement of Inbound Marketing services that enable our clients to surpass their business objectives by transforming the way they engage with their buyer on-line. Reach out to us to learn more about how our experience and capabilities can help your business grow.