Today’s buyer no longer looks to salespeople straight out of the gate for information. No offense, but sales is among the least-trusted sources of information. We took a look at the incredibly, in-depth report just released by HubSpot, the State of Inbound 2017.
This report shows which sources of information buyers rely on and trust when making purchase decisions.
Clearly times have changed. No I’m certainly not saying that sales is obsolete. I’m suggesting that sales needs to rethink the way they sell. Here’s why.
Why buyers don’t need salespeople
More than just a trust issue, buyers don’t rely on sales for information because they can find the information on their own easier and faster than reaching out to a salesperson. In fact, a 2014 study showed that 81% percent of buyers research purchases online before they buy.
With the ever-increasing amounts of data available on the internet, consumers have become more knowledgeable. They’ve also become very busy. Information is available 24/7 so a buyer can find answers on his or her own time.
Technology evolves, buyers evolve… now sales needs to evolve?
What did you think would happen?
How sales orgs are impacted
The latest HubSpot report, State of Inbound 2017, also shows the increasing challenges sales teams have seen over the last couple of years.
What is more difficult to do in
sales compared to 2-3 years ago?
It’s obvious salespeople agree on the challenges they’ve seen increasing over the last couple of years:
- Getting a response from prospects
- Closing deals
- Identifying good leads
Did you know that 47% of buyers viewed between 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep? (Demand Gen Report, 2016) (Source: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics)
What sales orgs should do about it
This self-educating consumer trend certainly impacts the sales team and its processes but, it doesn’t have to. As buyers and buyer journeys evolve, so too shall the salespeople. Here are a few recommendations to help make your sales team’s lives easier:
Get chummy with the marketing team.
Yes, I’m serious. Align the sales and marketing departments (Smarketing, if you will) and the organization will see a dramatic increase in the effectiveness of the marketing efforts. The long-running rivalry between sales and marketing is a thing of the past (and if one still exists in your organization, that should be the first thing you tackle).
How to align sales and marketing?
Start with Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Most teams don’t work well together because they don’t typically understand what the other team is doing or which team is responsible for what. Having SLAs can clear the air and begin helping bridge the gap between the two (hopefully, former) adversaries.
The State of Inbound 2017 reported that organizations with a Service Level Agreement are 3 times more likely to have an effective marketing strategy. This graph shows just how ineffective marketing strategies are based on the alignment of the sales and marketing teams.
Based on how you characterized your company’s marketing and sales relationship,
do you feel that your marketing strategy is effective?
Make it easier for sales and marketing to work together with an integrated workflow. It's not as simple as getting a lead from marketing and sending it straight through to sales to contact them. Incorporate lead nurturing and lead scoring then get your sales CRM platform and marketing platform to play nicely together. Sales needs to know exactly when a lead should be contacted from marketing and marketing needs to know that sales is going to contact them as soon as they're qualified.
Hire one more salesperson… your website
Your website should be the strongest salesperson on your team. People don’t want to call someone at your company to get the information they’re looking for. Make sure it’s on your website and easily accessible. **Tip: Align your content with the buyer's journey - buyers in the awareness stage are looking for information about their problem, whereas buyers in the consideration stage are looking for solutions.
Target (and engage) prospects across multiple channels.
38% of salespeople say getting a response from prospects is more difficult than it was two to three years ago. Of course it is. Buyers don’t want to be bothered; they’re looking for information online and on their own time.
Once a buyer has determined what they need to solve a problem, they’ll reach out to the companies they’ve decided they want to work with. You just want to make sure you’re one of those companies.
How? Instead of reaching out to prospects and giving information they’re not ready for, provide information when and where the buyer wants it. Multi-channel marketing tactics help make sure your information is included in all that stuff the buyer is researching. If your name keeps popping up on all the resources that help the buyer make their decision, guess who they’re going to think of first?
What are some of the different channels?
- Website - Make sure your site not only has the information people need to help them solve their problem, but make sure they can find it. Your website should be so easy to use that you’re almost embarrassed by its simplicity. Test it. Change it. Test it again. And if you need help with this, just ask!
- Social media - all the fantastic and valuable information you put on your site needs to be shared via your social media channels (and shared again by your followers).
- Video - it’s a sign of the times, my friend. Video is what people are looking for. Humans digest information from videos far faster (and easier) than a 2,000-word blog post. If you’re worried about SEO, don’t be. There are ways around that (think: transcribe services).
- Interviews - Publish discussions with your buyers’ influencers via blog posts, videos and podcasts. Bonus: those influencers will also help get the word out on your publication.
- Email - no, it’s not dead. This is still one of the strongest methods of engagement and channels for delivering value. I’m not talking about emails from you, the salesperson, reminding a prospect that the offer is still on the table. I’m talking about emails offering tips to make your prospect’s life easier.
Be more service oriented
Winning over the hearts of your customers will encourage them to spread the word! A buyer trusts nothing more than word of mouth referrals from other buyers.Allow your salespeople to take on roles of “trusted advisor” to your prospects and customers instead of focusing so much on sales. No longer can we compete on price; consumers are looking for value and quality service. Offer your knowledge, your advice… be their yoda.
Many sales leaders are changing their pay structure to include service-focused targets. As an example, consider rewarding based on account renewals. Most customers aren’t going to renew if they’re not happy.
When in Rome…
There is certainly no reason to think sales is over and done; the profession is just going through a shift, albeit a very big one. Unfortunately, those that don’t keep up with a buyer’s changing preferences will be the ones left not hitting unreachable targets.
So instead of forcing your 10-year old sales and marketing strategy to work, rethink your approach and give buyers what they want, when they want it. Work with your marketing team to get the information to buyers and through the right channels.
OK, so not exactly “Rome” but this was better.
And don’t worry, we’ll talk to the marketing team too…
If you need help aligning your sales and marketing teams, give us a call.
Want to download the full State of Inbound 2017 report? Click below.