Before the Internet, buyers had limited access to information about companies and what they produced. This made salespeople the gatekeepers of product information.
Today, buyers can easily find this information online, putting them in charge of the purchasing process. Buyers can also delay engaging with salespeople.
To connect with buyers in today’s digital environment, companies must rethink their sales strategies and what sales software they’re using to support them. Here’s a brief overview of three ways we see sales processes—and sales technology—changing.
1. Sales and Marketing Are Aligning
To capture buyer attention in today’s digital environment, many businesses have adopted inbound marketing and sales strategies.
Instead of reaching out to prospects and hoping for engagement, these marketers are creating relevant, useful and interesting content that appeals to segments of buyers and draws them in organically. And rather than hard-selling, inbound sales professionals aim to educate and inform prospects.
Here’s an example of how inbound marketing and sales can work together throughout the purchasing process:
An inbound marketer creates and shares content that appeals to a targeted group of buyers (known as a “persona”). This content attracts a prospect. The way the prospect interacts with the content reveals clues about their needs and interests.
At this point, an inbound salesperson might offer to answer questions and/or share more targeted content that addresses the prospect’s specific issues.
In short: Inbound salespeople reference the buyer’s specific context, rather than using one standard elevator pitch for every prospect.
Outbound vs. Inbound Sales
“Savvy companies know how to use salespeople cleverly to combine inbound marketing and inbound selling. … A really good salesperson knows at what point each one of those pieces of content should be delivered, and they also put context around that content.”
The purchasing decisions of sales and marketing professionals who contact Software Advice reflect this new buyer-focused sales process.
Our recent analysis of online CRM software buyers from small businesses offers an example: One-third of buyers want software with sales and marketing functions bundled together.
Online CRM Applications Requested by Small Business Buyers
There’s good reason for this: Companies that bundle their sales and marketing software create a continuous feedback loop between marketing and sales departments about what works with buyers and what doesn’t.
In fact, companies that choose integrated sales and marketing platforms are able to:
- Develop marketing content that better addresses what buyers care about
- Streamline the passage of leads between marketing and sales
- Pass warmer leads to salespeople
- Improve the customer experience
2. Software Helps Power Data-Driven Sales
In the past, sales was more personality-based than customer-centric: It focused on which sales reps could most easily charm or push people through the funnel.
Today, sales is about gathering data, measuring the effectiveness of certain tactics and applying those lessons to future activities or real-time decision-making.
Scott explains that salespeople practicing inbound sales are more like “buyer advocates.”
Instead of pushing buyers through the sales funnel, they help buyers move through it on their own terms (and at their own pace) by providing the most useful, relevant content for specific problems or questions.
To deliver the right content at the right time, these salespeople need much more nuanced information about buyers—and at a much earlier stage in the process.
Scott says companies that gather detailed buyer information, then use it to inform what content they create and when they deliver it, are the most successful.
The good news is that consumer data is much more accessible than it used to be: The Internet offers a wealth of information ripe for the picking.
What’s more, the sales software landscape has evolved to include tools that help businesses harness consumer data and use it to make accurate predictions.
This cuts down on the time salespeople spend pursuing leads that never pan out, and takes some of the guesswork out of selling.
For example, predictive analytics software for sales and marketing helps companies judge whether a prospect is likely to buy, based on the prospect’s attributes, online behavior or past interactions with a company.
Relationship intelligence software even helps businesses process communication exchanges with prospects—such as email conversations and calendar information—and look for patterns.
This technology helps salespeople improve future communication and make better decisions about when (and with whom) to engage.
3. Social Selling Puts the Focus on Customer Relationships
The primary tenet of inbound sales is that useful, relevant content must be presented to potential buyers in order to engage them. Thus, useful inbound marketing content addresses real buyer pain points.
Beyond the tools sales software offers, many salespeople also use social networks to connect with buyers on a deeper level and learn more about what those needs and pain points are.
Salespeople can leverage social networks to build trusting, authentic relationships with prospects much earlier in the process—well before they’re ready to buy.
Additionally, these reps are in a good position to maintain a positive, ongoing relationship after a sale. This helps foster customer loyalty and brand advocacy.
Steve Woods, CTO and co-founder of Nudge:
“Growing the right relationships requires time and effort. … No matter how personalized marketing becomes, trust will always trump content.”
While social selling isn’t necessarily a new concept, the way companies approach it is evolving. Scott says some companies miss the point, and use the term “social selling” to describe an aggressive sales technique that just happens to be done through a social channel.
David Meerman Scott, sales and marketing strategist and author of The New Rules of Sales & Service:
“If you’re spamming somebody’s LinkedIn to try to get them to take a look at your product in the same way that you spam them through email to try to take a look at your product, that’s not social selling.”
While he says companies that do it poorly give social selling a bad rap, there are companies learning a wiser approach.
Successful companies simply use social channels to connect, listen and respond, Scott says: They forgo pushy interactions and foster customer-centric relationships.
Some salespeople choose to connect with and follow prospects on their own. However, there are now a number of different tools on the market to help salespeople make more informed decisions and follow a wider audience on social media platforms.
For instance, many CRM systems now include some form of social media functionality. And social media monitoring software helps companies gauge what’s being said on social media platforms so they can respond at the right time, with the right message.
Need help choosing the right software for buyer-focused sales tactics? Our team of Software Advisors can help. Call (855) 998-8505 today for a free phone consultation. It includes a no-obligation short list of solutions to meet your needs.