Marketing materials are every where we look. Due to this proliferation of marketing materials in every facet of our lives (tv, internet, radio, and print) the modern buyer is no longer dependent on salespeople for necessary purchasing decision information. For agencies that use an inbound sales methodology, salespeople see first-hand the need to personalize the sales experience to the buyer's context. Often times, this results in sales teams recognizing they must transform their entire sales strategy so they're serving the buyer.
As a whole, the inbound methodology is a sales process that supports the prospect through their buyer's journey. As many of you already know, the buying process goes through three stages: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. But did you realize in this process, that your inbound team members follow their own journey? In their journey, there are four stages: Identify, Connect, Explore, and Advise. Inbound sales teams must check off each part of this journey to support qualified leads into becoming opportunities and eventually customers. Let's dig in to each to get some tips on how to do so....
Identifying the right business opportunities from the start can be the difference between a thriving business and a failing one. It's often in this stage where we find many of our buyers either in the 'Awareness' or 'Consideration' stages. Knowing what to look for will help salespeople create a predictable sales funnel, regardless of the buyer stage. For consumers in the 'Awareness' stage of their journey are typically going to be those who have specific questions that sparked their interest, and is the same motivation for them reaching out. By being a trusted adviser, you can answer these questions and help the consumer into the next phase of their journey, 'Consideration'.
For consumers who have moved into the 'Consideration' phase, this is the opportunity to put your best foot forward, to not only build a rapport with your potential client, but get pertinent information out that will help both of you get closer to the sale.
Inbound salespeople connect with leads to help them decide whether they should prioritize the goal or challenge they're facing. When we say connect, it's not just how you communicate with your potential client, but also the relating through shared experience. When the buyer is in the 'Consideration' portion of their process, utilizing this time for relationship-building not only strengthens your role as a trusted adviser but also allows the buyer room to share, often times opening up other doorways to potential new business!
You would be surprised at how many times I have made a larger, or more complex, deal with a client because I allowed them room to share, and asked those probing questions to find out how best I can suit their needs.
Inbound salespeople explore their qualified leads' goals or challenges to assess whether their offering is a good fit. The buyer, on the other hand, will most likely be at the tail end of their 'Consideration' stage, and moving into 'Decision' time. If you were going to lose a sale, or policy, this would be the stage it happens in.
The majority of good sales are lost in this stage for a reason. It could be the salesperson was too eager to close, the goals of the buyer and salesperson weren't aligned, or even that dreaded "the timing isn't right" conversation. When a breakdown occurs, sales are lost.
Instead, use this time to your advantage. As cliche as it sounds, sales is a lot like dating (or courting, however you see it). If you are too desperate, or in a hurry, you're going to get shut down. If you are too lackadaisical, your buyer might feel resistant to reach out to close.
What's worked for me, and countless others, is to allow the buyer to take you through this part of the journey. If you are doing your job as a trusted adviser, at this point you have answered your potential new clients' questions, have given your value proposition, and have followed up to discuss anything through the discovery process. All that's left is giving the ask for close, however your style dictates, and then take the foot off the gas. Really.... it's that simple.
Many clients I've worked with have explained how they HATE being sold to. Even more have told me how much an aggressive salesperson will convince them out of a sale. By walking the line of being available, and being helpful, is where your success lives. If today isn't the day they close, no problem! You can continue to fill your pipeline, and follow up as needed. When consumers don't feel pressured, and their needs are met, is when they buy. Of course, a proper follow-up procedure is necessary for success, but don't over-do it. If you've called and emailed today and they haven't gotten back to you, then calling them again isn't going to get you the sale, it's just going to push that consumer away.
Inbound salespeople advise prospects on why their solution is uniquely positioned to address the buyer's needs. For me, this step transitions from my previous points effortlessly. If you're not hounding your client, and you've done everything to answer their questions and concerns just short of closing the sale, it's time for your journey to transition from salesperson to adviser full-time. The best salespeople are those who sell effortlessly, and without constantly having to ask for the sale. If you are a super-hero at explaining your value props and making your prospects feel comfortable, and all questions answered, they will come to you to close.
As a personal anecdote to this, I used to have a supervisor who swore that the best way to make sales was to call each prospect every day, 3 times a day, for a week until the prospect eventually closed. Now sure, she was a "decent" salesperson, but her clients hated her. Why? Because she went against every step in this methodology. Instead of being a trusted adviser her prospects could confide in, she bulldozed people with information and enthusiasm until they caved. Needless to say, her clients never lasted very long and almost always shared their negative sentiments with other colleagues. I don't know about you but I would rather be a trusted adviser, than a sleazy salesperson any day.
Adapting your marketing practices to suit the modern buyer is increasingly accepted. Complimenting your buyer's journey by adjusting the sales process is the logical next step.
Without doing so, your hard-won prospects will never close effectively. But with a combined Inbound Marketing and Sales process, agency owners will be able to generate a healthy inbound process, create long-term client relations and secure solid return on their investment.
Tell us what you think! Are you using any of these steps in your agency or office? We want to hear from you!