Before the internet, consumers relied more on salespeople for information about products and services. Today, it's a whole new ball game.
Buyer's used to be less informed and they had fewer resources to learn about what they needed. The relationship between shoppers and salespeople were more one-on-one and the target market was the neighborhood where your storefront was located. Reputation was built on a track record of trustworthiness that spread by word of mouth.
Not only that, but the line a customer walked, from becoming aware that they had a problem that needed solving all the way to purchasing a solution, was pretty linear. There were fiewer barriers between salespeople and customers and sales benefitted from that. As a result, legacy sales was more focussed on the way salespeople sell, instead of the way consumers buy.
Sales teams used highly intrusive methods of getting into contact with potential buyers like cold calling and sending blasts of emails that overloaded inboxes. Sales reps connected with potential clients at trade shows or by giving generic presentations.
Consumers were in many ways a captive audience, who frequently only knew as much about a product or service as a salesperson or their competition told them. That was then.
The Internet Has Leveled the Playing Field
Now, clients use the internet to research everything before even considering reaching out to a business. Salespeople are relied on for less and less as resources on the internet continue to expand to meet the demands of information-hungry shoppers. The line from awareness to purchase isn't so straight anymore as consumers look to social media, blogs, eBooks, product review videos, and more before even considering reaching out to a business.
Everyone is an expert now. The questions that used to be reserved for the demo floor are answered well before anyone walks through the door. Salespeople simply aren't needed in the same way that they used to be. Sales has fundamentally changed.
Inbound marketing is informed by the reality that consumers want and can have more now instead of later because of the resources provided by the internet. The inbound marketing methodology was created to be adaptive to the fluid environment of our digital age, and its proven to be more effective than outbound or traditional marketing.
Fortunately, some of the same concepts used in the inbound marketing methodology can be tailored to sales as well.
Inbound Sales Rises to Meet the Challenge
Inbound sales strategy turns turns traditional sales on its head. Where traditional sales focusses on the way salespeople sell, inbound sales focusses on the way consumers buy instead. It's all about figuring out who your customers are, what they are searching for, and how you can add value.
The inbound sales methodology has been broken down into four detailed steps that parallel the buyer's journey not unlike the inbound marketing methodology. They are identify, connect, explore and advise.
- Identify - HubSpot says, "Identifying the right business opportunities from the start can be the difference between a thriving business and a failing one. Knowing what to look for also helps salespeople create a predictable, scalable sales funnel." Before reaching out to possible buyers to research what they might need so you can be positioned to help them beforehand.
- Connect - After you've done your research, start connecting with your leads to help them figure out whether their challenge should be prioritized. If they do they move along the sale funnel and become qualified leads.
- Explore - Take time to explore the challenges faced by your qualified leads to assess whether or not your solution, product, or service is a good fit for them.
- Advise - Finally, share your solution with your prospects and advise them on how it is uniquely positioned to address the buyer's needs.
Eventhough a lot has changed since the internet became a key player in the world of marketing and sales, these practices can enable salepeople to become more in tune with the people they are aiming to help.