Author: Mark Roberge, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School,
former Chief Revenue Officer at HubSpot.
Provide a helpful, human, and holistic experience to anyone who interacts with your company in any way. The goal for this is to turn your prospects and existing clients to be your brand ambassadors. Sales is a mindset, sales is an attitude, sales is all about the experience you give.
Are you a Sales Person?
Most people don’t trust salespeople. In the list of most trusted professions, salespeople are down at the bottom with politicians and lobbyists. This comes as no surprise to most folks, but it raises an important question:
Why? Why doesn’t anybody trust salespeople?
The answer is that most salespeople haven’t adapted to the modern era. Imagine for a moment what it was like to buy a product before the internet existed. Back then, buyers really needed salespeople in order to make a decision. Salespeople held all the cards. They had answers to the key questions in the buyer’s mind. Things like:
● What’s included in your offering?
● What does it cost?
● How does it compare to competitors?
● Who else is using your offering — and do they like it?
The internet changed the buyer/seller relationship. Now, the information that buyers use to make a purchase decision is just a click away. The power in the buying and selling process has shifted from the seller to the buyer. The buying process has transformed. Modern salespeople need to adapt and find ways to use these changes to their advantage.
Have you adapted?
Your buyer is using the internet to research your company — are you using the internet to research your prospects? Every call you make should be a warm call, backed by research you’ve pulled from the internet and your CRM. If it isn’t, you’re stuck in the past, and you’re going to fail.
Your buyer is using Google, Youtube, and Social media, to research your product — are you using any to answer their questions? If you’re waiting until the sales call to engage your prospects, you’re going to be waiting a long time. You’ve got to find a way to get involved earlier, or the competition will get to your customers before you even have a chance to begin.
Your buyer is accustomed to being in charge of the sales conversation — are you ready to act as a guide and help them achieve their goals? Or are you going to keep fighting for control and wondering why nobody wants to talk to you?
Inbound sales transform sales to match the way people buy. That’s it. Inbound sales teams base their entire sales strategy on the buyer rather than the seller, and inbound salespeople personalize the entire sales experience to the buyer’s context.
The first step in transforming to an inbound sales model is to understand the way your customers buy your product or service. This process is often referred to as the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey is the active research process someone goes through leading up to a purchase.
Most sales teams that struggle with inbound sales skip the buyer’s journey step. Instead, they start by defining their sales process. For example, they may define their sales process as:
This process delivers minimal value to the buyer. Buyers don’t want to be prospected, demoed, or closed in your sales process. They want to be educated, supported, and guided through their buying process.
If you look at your interactions from the buyer’s perspective, you’ll better understand how to maximize the value you give to your buyers.
Starting with the buyer’s journey enables you to do just that. To define the buyer’s journey, think about how buyers become aware of a problem, consider the available solutions, and ultimately decide to purchase your product or service. You may already have such an intimate understanding of your buyers that you can outline the stages of the buyer’s journey with ease. If not, talk to a few of your customers, prospects, and coworkers to get a sense of the buyer’s journey for the people your company serves.
The buyer’s journey is made up of three stages.
1. The awareness stage
2. The consideration stage
3. And the decision stage
During the awareness stage, buyers identify a challenge they’re experiencing or an opportunity they want to pursue. Just to be clear, the thing the buyer is becoming aware of in this stage is their problem, not your solution. Some of your best customers might have had no idea your company existed when they were in the awareness stage of their journey, but they were aware of a problem they had. And they decided to make solving that problem a priority. In order to fully understand the awareness stage for your buyer, ask yourself:
- How do buyers describe their goals or challenges?
- How do buyers educate themselves on these goals or challenges?
- What are the consequences of inaction by the buyer?
- Are there common misconceptions buyers have about addressing the goal or challenge?
- How do buyers decide whether the goal or challenge should be prioritized?
During the consideration stage, buyers have clearly defined the goal or challenge, they’ve given a name to it, and they’ve committed to addressing it. They evaluate the different approaches or methods available to solve their challenge or capitalize on their opportunity. Ask yourself:
- What categories of solutions do buyers investigate?
- How do buyers educate themselves on the various categories?
- How do buyers perceive the pros and cons of each category?
- How do buyers decide which category is right for them?
In the decision stage, buyers have already decided on a solution category. They might create a list of specific offerings in their selected category and decide on the one that best meets their needs, or they might go with the solution they find first. Either way, a key component of an inbound sales strategy is connecting with buyers before they enter the decision stage. You want to be there to guide them toward a decision, not just waiting around for them to make up their minds. Questions you should ask yourself to define the decision stage are:
- What criteria do buyers use to evaluate the available offerings?
- What do buyers like about your offering compared to alternatives?
- What common concerns do buyers have with your offering?
- Who needs to be involved in the decision? How does each person’s perspective on the decision differ?
- Do buyers want to try your offering before they purchase it?
- Outside of purchasing, do buyers need to make additional preparations, such as implementation plans or training strategies?
The answers to these questions will provide a robust foundation for understanding the buyer’s journey. To sum up, the world has changed, and far too many salespeople are living in the past. It’s time to take a new approach to sales. It’s time to go inbound.