There is a tremendous opportunity for selling organizations that move aggressively and adapt to the new “inbound” world. Research from organizations such as Forrester and the Corporate Executive Board acknowledge the growing trend that prospects/customers will not engage with selling organizations until they are well into their buying process. However, additional research demonstrates that buyers do, in fact, desire to engage with sellers who demonstrate the ability to create value and provide insights throughout the process.
As the Internet and traditional media become increasingly crowded by sites and sources providing product and service information, it’s tougher and tougher to isolate those true, clear voices in the mix. Customers are doing more and more of their own research, and the due diligence they are investing now leads them to the doors of the firms that have provided them with the knowledge they seek at every step of the purchase process.
Educate Your Customer
Your customer is a more educated consumer than at any time in history. The more resources you provide that heightens their awareness, challenges their misconceptions, and offers unassailable information with regard to the products and services you offer, the more likely that your relationship with that customer end in a highly profitable sale.
And that information must be presented to the customer in a logical responsive fashion; anticipating the questions they may have in their discovery process of the products or solutions they seek. Consequently, that demands that your people –from those who answer the phones to those who close sales—be armed to the hilt with all available essential information regarding what you are selling.
Educate Your Sales Team
In order for your salespeople to be effective, they must be perceived as valuable consultants rather than the high-pressure, “close-at-any-cost” types that once populated the sales realm. Rather than ducking the salesman that approaches them, individuals are far more likely to engage a thoughtful, low-pressure and engaging sales individual than at any time in the past.
This is good news for organizations that adopt and leverage inbound marketing through their sales and service process. The most fascinating information comes as a result of learning from all parties that both buyer and seller alike benefit from engaged interaction throughout the sales process…and beyond.
Customer Info = Sales Power
While customers may be moved successfully to purchase by intelligent website content and informed salespeople, those same salespeople and the enterprises to which they are employed should be gleaning invaluable information from the inquiries they receive from consumers. And when that data is notated, compiled and distilled intelligently into new sales initiatives, results multiply.
This trend shows that buyer behavior has changed dramatically, and that content- and information-based marketing efforts need to be stepped up to meet the curious and investigative demands of your customer.
Social Media & the Traditional Consumer
While social media has undeniably fueled the share of vital information and customer endorsements of products, the mix that leads to best results typically originates on the Web and, ideally, is perpetuated by sales personnel.
A successful content marketing approach should be implemented to:
- Reach a balanced mix of conventional B2B, online, social and traditional buyers;
- Facilitate access to Subject Matter Experts and their knowledge;
- Empower sales staff to become Subject Matter Experts in their own right.
If those latter two initiatives are fully and successfully engaged, here is the value that sales reps can provide potential B2B clients when their expertise is fully engaged:
Step One—The Epiphany
- Provide customer unique perspective on market problems and solutions.
- Challenge conventional thoughts and perspectives.
- Educate clients on issues and opportunities in industry.
- Inform clients/customers on new issues of technology.
Step Two – Awareness
- Provide with product and service information.
- Make evident where valuable information resides on website.
- Broker access (e.g., provide links) to Subject Matter Experts.
Step Three – Interest
- Provide information regarding benchmarks and business best practices.
- Help customer evaluate and weigh alternative solutions.
Step Four – Confidence
- Provide advice to help consumer make informed decisions.
- Facilitate contact with references and Subject Matter Experts.
- Help customer build a successful business case and strategy.
Traditional, non-inbound oriented salespeople will continue to be treated as peddlers and left out of the conversations that really matter. Salespeople with the savvy and acumen will be viewed by their customers as ongoing fonts of knowledge who challenge their way of thinking, educate them with regard to pertinent matters, and provide unique perspectives on myriad matters within their business segment.
The Big Value of Customer Questions, Trends & Data
As previously suggested, while your sales staff are perpetuating themselves as valuable sources of information, have them keep a record of the questions, concerns and needs they encounter. As this information is compiled, collated and interpreted, you’ll find that you’ve gleaned formidable, invaluable data from the minds of your most loyal and best-targeted consumer base.
Recycle this info to provide increasingly more effective customer service initiatives, to present your products to the masses, and to create an invaluable sense of fellowship with your target audience.