How the modern buyer has evolved the sales process, making way for the emerging inbound sales professional.
Before the internet, buyers were relatively uninformed. The buyer’s journey was simple and was triggered when that buyer recognised a need. Now, this trigger is random, and the buyer can conduct personal research at all stages of the journey keeping highly informed throughout.
The internet has changed humans (and therefore, buyers)
The modern buyer is no longer dependent on salespeople to access the information necessary to make a decision. If the buyer has a need for a product or service, they can get answers to their questions online.
They can research competitor information, reviews and interact with others who have already made the purchase. Essentially, reaching the decision stage of the journey without speaking to the sales team.
A one size fits all does not work for the modern buyer. They expect sellers to know them and provide value to help. Marketing has accounted for the change in the modern buyer and has updated its efforts accordingly. Making content their focus and working to create material that pulls people towards the organisation and its products. This is where inbound was born.
Inbound Marketing‘s emergence
Since it’s inception, inbound marketing has helped marketers create content that will appeal to the right people, in the right places at the right times.
Making marketing efforts relevant and useful to the modern buyer. And it gets results. HubSpot (2018) state that 54% more leads are generated by inbound tactics than traditional paid marketing and twice as many marketers say inbound delivers below average cost per lead than outbound methods.
The inbound marketing methodology focuses on marketing that attracts strangers, converts those visitors into leads, closes the leads into customers and delights customers to become promoters via word of mouth.
This was a fundamental shift from traditional efforts which has proven to be an effective way to turn strangers into promoters of your business. In the process, marketers have made improvements to the marketing “funnel.”
Marketers don’t want any traffic to a site, they want traffic that will convert. By implementing the inbound marketing methodology, marketers can attract the right kind of prospects/visitors to websites through blogging, SEO, optimising website pages, supported by social media and email marketing.
Once website visitors are generated, the next phase within the funnel is to convert those visitors into leads by gathering contact information. By creating landing pages, utilising lead generation actions and a setting up a CRM, we have a method of converting visitors to nurture. One that does not disrupt the modern buyer’s journey.
Marketing has taken the first step in evolving their methodology to better connect to and attract this new buyer. Successful inbound marketers need to map out and deliver content based on the new buyer’s journey. As a result, 75% of marketers prioritise an inbound approach to marketing.
Over to sales...
In conjunction with this marketing activity, sales departments need to question and reassess their current practices and evolve to meet and surpass the modern buyer’s expectations.
Are sales reps cold calling and leaving cold voicemails? Are they sending mass emails? Is your sales team giving generic presentations over and over?
A legacy sales process is centered around the way salespeople sell, rather than how people buy. But they don't work hand-in-hand with modern marketing strategies. Sales teams are required to match marketing efforts, otherwise the organisation will be removed from the modern buyer’s equation.
The Inbound Sales Methodology
The reality is, however, that the modern buyer does not always need a salesperson to make a purchase. There is a shift in the way buyers buy that we need to account for and evolve our efforts accordingly.
We know that marketing departments have evolved to better connect to the buyer. We’ve heard the inbound marketing methodology is ten times more effective for lead conversion.
The Inbound Sales Methodology (above) accounts for the changing factors of the modern buyer and transforms the way we sell to align with today’s empowered buyer.
The buyer has all the control, not the seller. It’s a hard pill to swallow no matter what department you work in, but once sales realise this it makes all the difference.
Sales need to also understand who the buyer is, what they are searching for and how they can add value during the search. This is the foundation of the inbound sales methodology: Using data and insights to add value to the prospect’s buyer’s journey.
Importance of sales productivity
The current industry trends and analysis tell us that change is necessary. A Forbes Insights and Brainshark (2015) study found that C-Level executives know that sales productivity is paramount to enabling a company to grow: 71% rank it as of critical importance. Sales teams can’t afford not to adopt the sales inbound methodology if marketing teams are adopting inbound.
The modern buyer can get information about a product from a website. They can sometimes purchase from a website. The goal of the inbound sales methodology is for the salesperson to become the trusted advisor. Adding value, becoming a leader in a space and anticipating the buyer’s next move.
The inbound sales methodology is broken down into 4 stages: Identify, connect, explore and advise.
The easiest way to identify suitable buyers (prospects) is to set up workflows that alert the sales department when a visitor visits a website, fills out a form or opens an email.
This doesn’t completely replace a current sales strategy. Sales should be proactive. But, within an inbound sales strategy, content should be used as a conversation starter and should be leveraged to increase a connect rate.
You have identified your leads and know your potential buyers. When connecting with the buyer, always lead with a personalised message personalised. You can refer to the buyer’s industry, role, interests and common connections, and offer advice around the buyer’s interests and goals. The goal is to build trust and authority. You can also start to qualify leads in this stage.
Do your research: What is the buyer’s role in the company? What are their interests? What groups are they part of? Research the person, rather than just a person at the company so you can connect with them on a personal level.
Outside of social media, there are also ways to see the whole picture for every lead and connect every tool your team uses. We also want to find out: What web pages of mine have they seen? What content of mine have they downloaded? What is their lead score in comparison to my other leads?
Next is the Explore phase. This phase determines whether a person is a good fit or a bad fit as a customer. Leverage initial buyer interest to develop additional trust and uncover deep buyer goals through exploratory conversations. You will have to create exploratory call guides based on your personas for your sales team to leverage, and once you do, they can use the guides during the explore phase.
During the explore phase you can work in unique product or service differentiators to help the buyer understand how your service/product can help solve their problem and reach their goals.
During this phase of the inbound sales methodology, you need to tailor your assets to the buyer’s persona and leverage the information you have gathered from the exploratory call. This means tailoring presentations that align product value with the buyer’s needs or conducting a product demo that illustrates features important to the buyer.
Or run an ROI analysis customised to the buyer’s metrics and business. The key is to let the buyer know you have done the work on your end, making them feel that you are adding value to their journey. You have recognised that the buyer is a good fit for your organisation and you are helping the buyer understand why you are uniquely positioned to help.
By this stage, inbound sales teams have developed a relationship with the buyer, so they can get honest answers from them. They can determine the buyer’s timeline and work to create a plan to meet the deadline. After the sale, the inbound salesperson transfers his or her knowledge to the post-sales team and checks in with the buyer every now and again to help ensure their continued success.
AN Evolved sales (and Marketing) process
Consider the differences between legacy salespeople and inbound salespeople. The process is no longer about interrupting, pitching and closing. It’s about listening, diagnosing and prescribing.
The inbound sales methodology is a path for sales teams to follow to determine who their buyers are, what the buyer is searching for and is there to help them identify how they can add value to the buyer’s journey.