So you’ve started an Inbound marketing campaign, and the traffic and new leads are rolling in. So what’s the next step? Do you wait for the leads to progress through your workflows? Do you sit back and wait for them to call you? Do you take a more proactive approach and reach out to your new leads? For many business owners and agencies, these are the hardest questions to answer. Inbound has not only shifted the way we market our products and services, but it has also shifted the way we sell our products and services.
Marketing and sales are still typically seen as two separate entities within a business structure. While this may be the case, the lines between marketing and sales are becoming more and more blurred. The internet has shifted more than just communication. It has changed nearly every facet of our culture. The days of cold calling aren’t completely over, but they have changed drastically. With the help of inbound marketing, salespeople are more educated about their buyers than ever before.
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Don’t Be Complacent
Before I share our inbound sales approach, I do want to give a quick word of caution. This is a lesson I have learned the hard way. While Inbound methods like blogging, SEO, SEM, and social media marketing are great for attracting visitors to your site, they can’t do all the work. When it comes to actually selling your product or service, there comes a point where human interaction is a must. Yep, that’s right, if you really want to sell you are going to have to talk to people.
It’s easy to sit back and wait for your leads to travel through your workflows and advance through the buyer’s journey, but businesses that grow take a proactive approach to sell, not a passive one. So let’s transition into how we can use the information we gather with our inbound strategy to take our sales to the next level.
Sales Are Personal
There is a theme that runs through the very core of our agency. Everything we do is focused on creating a real, authentic, and personal connection with the people we come in contact with. Yes, we use automation software, but that’s just one piece of the puzzle. At the end of the day, people want to do business with people. This rule applies to corporations just as much as it does to small and mid-size companies and even e-commerce sites.
While the internet may have changed the way we initially begin a conversion (some research has suggested that by 2020, 80% of the buying process will occur without any direct human-to-human interaction), human-to-human interaction is still extremely important. We are social creatures. There is no way to change that. Although the progression toward 80% seems scary, we do have something to fall back on, the old 80/20 rule.
The Pareto principle (also known as the 80~20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. (Wikipedia) This means that now we are forced to put more into the 20% of the process we actually have with our prospects. For many in the traditional sales field, this would mean trying to cram as many features and boring company accolades into a short and most likely failed sales call. In order to capitalize on the 20% and use it to our advantage, we must think differently about sales and how we interact with other humans.
The Value-Added Sales Funnel
Just like any other aspect of your business, developing a scalable strategy will help you be more effective and streamline your success. On the marketing side, this is why we always begin agreements with what we call the Inbound GamePlan. In order to bridge the gap between marketing and sales, I developed what I call “The Value Added Sales Funnel.” The approach is simple yet effective. The goal is to continually add value to the prospect with each interaction and conversion, which leads them to see your company as a trusted resource and not just another vendor.
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Phase 1: Sell Value
Why should people do business with you? Why should they choose your competition instead? What keeps you up at night? What dreams do you want to achieve? These questions are powerful for many reasons, but mainly because they can help you determine why you do what you do. If you don’t believe in yourself or your services, why should anyone else? Once you have divided your “why” you can use this to begin to add a whole new dimension to your marketing and sales.
Selling value starts with selling your why. Before people ever buy your product or sign up for your service they need to trust you. Companies that start by selling their purpose begin to establish a personal connection with their prospect. This phase of “The Value Added Sales Funnel” begins before you ever pick up the phone or send an email. Here is where you align marketing & sales to tell and share with your prospects a story of what could be. Connect them with the vision of the future and how a relationship with you will help them achieve it.
Building Case Stories
One way to sell value is through the use of case studies. The key here is to provide powerful and compelling information that connects emotionally. A case study should really see more as a case story. Sure, stats are nice, but how did your product and service change to improve your client’s lives? How did you help them grow or solve a problem, and what was the personal impact? “Self-Improvement” is a 10 billion dollar year industry, and Amazon has just shy of 1 Million self-help books you can buy. That’s nearly 10 times the number of business development books. People want desperately to improve the quality of their lives. Businesses that can help connect their product to people’s lives will create a community that not only buys but promotes them as well.
The Cost of Inaction
Building urgency is hard. This is where typical salespeople come off as pushy and arrogant. What if instead of using fear, deadline, and other forms of manipulation to get someone to buy, we educated them on the real cost, the cost of inaction? It’s easier to stay put with what you are doing, even if it’s less effective, for one main reason; it’s safe. What many fail to realize is that not taking action can be the riskiest move of all. Back in 2009, I had a chance to jump on board with Hubspot. I had been using the website grader for some SEO clients and liked some of the other offers they were putting together. But I was afraid. $200 a month for a tool seemed like a lot, so instead of taking action, I decided to do things the way I always did them. Fast forward to 2015, I finally joined the Hubspot community, and in less than 2 years, I went from less than $40K a year to now on a path to $250k in revenue. Looking back, the cost of inaction was huge. Had I known or was even educated on what that was, things may have been different.
Educating about “Sunk Cost”
Now blowing an opportunity can really throw you into a funk. But dwelling on what could have been doesn’t change the present or the future. While inaction did cost me, I had to see it as a “sunk cost.” A sunk cost is a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered. How many times have you heard a prospect say, “Well, we already bought this other product? It sucks, but since we paid for it, I guess we have to keep using it.” While this feeling may be valid, the truth is continually using a product or service that doesn’t work just because you already paid for it is a terrible decision. Educating your prospects about sunk costs will help them detach emotionally from the bad purchase and look for a new, better option.
The third and final phase is where you make your “pitch.” One of the mistakes I made early on was sending a proposal as soon as anyone asked. There are a few reasons this is not a good idea. First, it makes what you do more important than why you do it. Second, it puts way too much emphasis on price. And lastly, it gives you no time to decide whether or not you want to do business with that person or company. The selling process is just as much about the prospect selling themselves to you as it is about selling yourself to the prospect.
Honesty and Transparency:
These are two terms that have been used and abused for decades. When I hear them, the first thing that comes to mind is politics. But in reality, people desire honesty and transparency. Telling your prospects everything about your product and answering any questions they may have with honesty goes a long way. If you don’t know the answer, admit it and go find out. In this final phase, remind them again about your why. Share with them the heart of your business and why you offer what you offer. Enthusiasm is contagious. Give them reasons to be excited.
The Bells & Whistles:
Features are nice, but people don’t buy iPhones simply for the features. They buy them because of how they make them feel. The same goes for Mercedes, Tiffany & Co., freshly made Orange juice from your local grove, and the list goes on. When in the final phase of “The Value Added Sales Funnel” it’s paramount that you connect your “features” to “feelings.” Again, why should they purchase what you are selling?
Making the Ask:
How you deliver your ask is crucial. “So, you wanna buy my stuff” is not a good pitch, yet that’s basically what many of us do. The key is to share, educate and connect with the prospect to a point where they ask, “What’s the next step!” When you get that answer, it’s time to share the details. But be careful! If you fall into “salesperson” mode, you can kill the deal. Layout the next steps in a clear and actionable way. Before I ever send I proposal over, I must get a yes to 3 questions.
- Are you committed to your goals?
- Are you committed to Inbound?
- Are you committed to spending?
If I get even one, no, I won’t send a proposal over. It’s key to always be in a place where you control the momentum. You are selling the solution, you are providing a service, and you need to be sure you want to do business with that person.
At the end of the day, sales, just like marketing, is all about connecting. The better you are at educating, providing value, listening to your prospects, and building trust, the greater chance you have to close the sale. It won’t happen on its own. Growth never does. It takes practice, process, and perseverance. This model is by no means perfect, and it’s constantly being tweaked. But building processes take time. I’d love to hear your feedback, so please comment below.