Inbound Isn’t Just for Marketing: The Paradigm Change In Sales
Technology and time change things. Using outdated practices to conduct business can make work seem like a losing battle, but new, tactics bring new hope. Such methods acknowledge the new business environment and use a tacit approach to succeed.
Just as inbound marketing revolutionized the job of marketers, the new strategy will revolutionize sales. Rather than using an overt persuasive effort, salespeople must now identify needs and problems in the market, and provide solutions that allude to a particular product or service. A paradigm shift has also occurred in sales, where the indirect approach works better than the direct selling tactics that worked decades ago.
1. Prospecting has changed
Traditional approaches to sales relied on contacting customers and trying to grab their attention. The strategy worked when everyone had a landline telephone and Caller ID was only for the rich and famous. Now, the masses have mobile phones and instinctively screen calls, making cold calling a frustrating, if not impossible, endeavor. Inbound sales efforts succeed by providing a trail of valuable, actionable information that brings customers to your doorstep of their accord.
2. Account control has changed
Information liberates prospects seizing account control from salespeople. Knowledge and connections no longer provide leverage the sales process. Power has shifted to customers because they no longer need sales reps to supply them with information such as product pricing and specifications. Prospects no longer rely on their account manager to provide connections with other customers as references.
Now, prospective customers can easily access pricing from multiple suppliers without the need for an intermediary. Brand communities exist, so people can independently learn of the product experiences of other customers. Prospects can go so far as contacting company executives to ask questions, express concerns, or give compliments. Meanwhile, potential buyers can find all the information and connections they could ever hope for online, without help from salespeople. Capable of making informed decisions that support their needs, customers can choose from any of thousands of online competitors. Effective sales efforts, however, will lead to the seller’s website.
3. Transformation to seller beware
Sales transactions in the past often required customers to make upfront payments that locked them into a particular product for extended periods. After the sale, customers depended on vendor sales and customer service contacts to learn about their system and get product updates and news. High switching costs kept clients with a brand for a long time, even if the product did not adequate match the organization. Businesses enjoyed having a steady stream of lucrative sales that continued long after the initial purchase. During those times, buyers had to beware, lest they make a bad, expensive decision. Times have changed.
Sellers must now beware because customers have power. Empowered by SaaS, clients have jettisoned the decisions that put them at risk in the past. Replacing monthly software subscriptions for locally installed client-server packages gives customers the power to walk away from a deal at the first sign of discontent. Low switching costs make changing vendors easier than before, putting salespeople in a precarious position.
Suddenly, businesses must realize they can precipitously lose customers, forcing them to act carefully to ensure that their products and services perform as promised. Salespeople can no longer presume ongoing sales from their clients after the sale. Instead, sales reps must deliberately follow up with each customer as part of a continuous inbound sales effort.
The New Way of Selling
Salespeople must embrace a new playbook that puts customers in charge of sales and requires firms to position themselves as their logical choice. Doing this requires a new paradigm and some effort on your part to achieve long-term success.
1. Get out of your head
Learn about your customers. Companies must know how their customers live, what they need, and how they think to succeed in the current business climate. Salespeople must position themselves and their products in ways that demonstrate value to the customer. The new way of selling requires sales reps to collaborate and cooperate with clients in an effort that meets their needs. Salespeople who fail to get on the customer’s side will likely struggle.
2. Learn what to do
Informed customers have the world at their fingertips. In the past, clients had only a limited selection of products and services to choose from, so they relied on sales reps to guide their buying decisions. Now salespeople face rejection with alarming frequency as customers decide to buy from rival firms. Survival in the midst of tidal waves of rejection depends on preparation.
Sales people must get ready to serve customers by spending time in their shoes. Such preparation helps sales professionals understand the needs of clients and the problems they face. Sales reps can then provide information and guidance that helps clients understand their need and the value they can gain from a particular product or service. Honesty must always prevail while presenting product and pricing information regarding proposed solutions, and reps should not hesitate to discuss the weaknesses of their product along with its strengths. When customers choose an alternative, salespeople must keep the rejection in perspective.
The rejection of an honest sales effort outweighs the anger that can result when customers feel misled. After all, customers have plenty of online places to vent including Facebook, G2Crowd, Twitter. Buyers who feel mistreated can cause a headache and longterm damage.
3. Become a problem-finder
Salespeople should view themselves as advocates. The new sales relationship depends on an in-depth understanding of how buyers think, the lives they lead, and the problems they might face. Such knowledge enables the salesforce to guide customers into an awareness of a problem and then to see a particular product and firm as the perfect solution.
Identifying the latent needs of clients in a given market requires salespeople to process massive amounts of information and analyze it from the customer’s perspective. Customers will respond to people who understand them, and will naturally trust the company that recognizes the power held by buyers and still acts unselfishly on their behalf.
Bonus Tip: Pragmatism rules
Rejection comes with the sales profession, and reliance on old-school tactics can make things worse. Rather than dogmatically adhering to outdated methodologies, savvy salespeople will adopt a pragmatic approach that embraces inbound selling. Sellers who embrace the paradigm change in sales will align themselves with customers and trust them to recognize the products and services that meet their needs.