Before we entered the Digital Age, consumers traditionally relied upon advertising and company sales materials to learn about products and services for sale. The Internet has fundamentally changed all of that. Today, buyers are in the driver’s seat, and they use the Web to independently research companies and what they sell, often with virtually no input from the seller.
Free and easy access to online information from a variety of sources enables buyers to inform themselves in depth about products and services, relegating salespeople to the unenviable role of mere order-takers with little influence over the purchase decision-making process.
So, how do sales teams earn back early access and the ability to influence their target customers?
As traditional advertising and its costly methodology of pushing sales messages out over passive general media or online become increasingly less effective, they are being replaced by a highly-effective approach that engages sales prospects using valuable online content that directly addresses their concerns and interests. Called “Inbound Sales,” this new approach enables sales to be highly selective when targeting prospects while appealing to them by offering valuable information with each outreach attempt, connecting with that ideal prospects at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods while gaining access when the prospect is first researching solutions.
Inbound Sales differs from traditional solutions, now referred to as “outbound sales,” in three fundamental ways. Inbound Sales is:
Buyer-centric, based entirely on what the buyers want, not the seller. Inbound marketers attract the attention and interest of prospects using content that directly addresses a problem or need that is causing the consumer to look for a solution.
In this new and improved sales scenario, salespeople fill a new role, as an advisor and product expert making recommendations to help prospects achieve the goal of their intended purchase which is to address a problem or need that they have.
Personalized Unlike traditional advertising or marketing methods, inbound sales enables messaging personalization and customization to create even more effective and influential messages that address the specific needs of specific consumers and businesses. Sales and marketing teams today can leverage a host of technologies and data analytics to monitor what buyers are seeing and saying online. This kind of information provides unprecedented insights into buyer behavior that enables messages to be customized and targeted even more effectively.
Advisory Inbound Sales is all about building trust with prospects. While consumers are increasingly suspicious these days of the information contained in traditional advertising messages, they tend to trust content they perceive as impartial and valuable. This trust is transferred to the provider of that content, creating goodwill between the buyer and the seller that often leads to a dialog between the two that, properly nurtured, can lead to a purchase.
Salespeople now take on an advisory role as a product or service expert in the eyes of the prospect, in a position as a trusted consultant.
This new buyer-centric, personalized, and advisory approach to building consumer relationships is implemented over the four stages of the inbound sales process:
Identify your target audience by researching your ideal prospect and creating a buyer profile (persona). This method will help you create the most valuable and compelling messages for reaching and attracting those prospects. Inbound salespeople Identify strangers who may have goals or challenges where they can help. These strangers become leads.
Develop useful communication sequences (e.g., email campaigns, blog posts, social media messages) for each target persona and create appropriate content for each outreach sequence to establish a connection and engage with prospects. Inbound salespeople Connect with these leads to help them decide whether they should prioritize the goal or challenge. If the buyer chooses to do so, these leads become qualified leads.
Not every quaffed lead is ready to buy, or they may not yet be feeling the pain that would cause them to want to address the problems you solve. It is the Inbound salespeople Explore their qualified leads’ goals or challenges to assess whether their offering is a good fit for the qualified leads’ context. If it turns out it’s a good fit, these qualified leads become opportunities.
Once you establish an initial relationship, use a set of detailed questions to determine the level of buyer commitment to your product or service. This method enables your sales representatives to focus in on the most appropriate purchase recommendation for any given prospect and provide a compelling closing offer. Inbound salespeople Advise these prospects (opportunities) on how their offering is uniquely positioned to address the buyer’s context. If the buyer agrees the salesperson’s offering is best for their context, these opportunities become customers.
It requires a different mindset for engaging with consumers and a commitment to establishing and nurturing relationships that build trust and loyalty with the customer.
Because the outreach activity requires analytics about how the prospect is engaging during the connect phase of the inbound sales process and multiple outreach attempts are necessary to connect, Inbound Sales teams need the help of an Inbound Sales Enablement Solution (a CRM that is optimized for this sales methodology) to make this approach productive for them.
The time and effort invested in the Inbound Sales method offer a substantial payoff unavailable through traditional outreach methods. By focusing on buyer needs first and foremost, and heavily personalizing your connection methods, Inbound Sales practitioners have the opportunity to build a significant amount of perceive value with prospects, create a strong, positive brand identity, and deliver unmatched brand value.