8 min read
Sales pros and marketers alike know there are some things we’ll never know about our prospects.
Before they even hear the first thing about your brand, prospects might spend hours upon hours researching the problem. They might bounce between a dozen different publications and online platforms. They may even put the whole matter aside and come back to it months later.
Backed by AI, new analytics methods and programs are making it easier to manage ambiguity. Still, there’s a vast, untapped wilderness out there where your prospects go about their business.
To make it all easier to deal with, most inbound professionals use the 3-Stage Buyers Journey.
- Awareness: The buyer becomes aware that there’s a problem to be solved.
- Consideration: The buyer defines the problem and assembles their options.
- Decision: The buyer compares the various options and selects the best one.
No matter who they are or what issue they’re trying to resolve, all prospective buyers will be in one of these stages whenever they interact with your brand. That makes it a lot easier to conceive of the process as a whole, even though you don’t have visibility into everything that happens.
Plus, it gives you a framework for adding value and building trust throughout the entire sales process.
In inbound sales and marketing, trust is the ultimate currency.
You could be in competition with dozens or even hundreds of other vendors, but not all of them are even in the running: Only the ones that your prospect trusts have any chance of rising above the rest.
That means developing that trust, rapport, and recognition is key to closing any sale. The most effective way to do that is by adding value to ensure that you are helping prospects at every step.
Using the buyers journey to your advantage makes it easier and more consistent.
Let’s look at how you can align your efforts throughout the buyer journey to get more sales.
Awareness Stage: Help Prospects Define the Problem
Ideally, you’d always start your relationship in the Awareness phase. Even the most savvy B2B buyers appreciate convenience, and companies with a strong presence in the Awareness stage have a golden opportunity to become the vendor of choice before buying criteria are even established.
Here’s how to do it:
Align Your Content.
Reaching people in this phase is a result of a consistent Web content strategy. It has to be aligned with the keywords people use when they are in the earliest stages of dealing with a problem and know the least about it. They’ll search for broad, generic ideas, not technical terms.
Sales pros can help marketers achieve this by providing them with lists of questions prospects ask and objections they raise.
Marketers, in turn, should reframe these questions in simpler terms without using any of the precise jargon buyers start to catch on to later in the process.
Deploy Progressive Profiling.
In any sales process, lead qualification starts at the very beginning. All information that your site collects will eventually be used to understand your prospects and address their specific needs. So, you should get rolling as soon as prospects signal they are in a buying frame of mind.
You might be wondering: How the heck can filling out a form or answering questions add value?
We’ll admit, getting prospects to answer questions has traditionally been more for your benefit than for theirs. At last, marketing and sales process optimization tools are catching up to the inbound way.
Progressive profiling helps your prospects get the information they need when their answers are used as the basis of content customization. Today’s content management systems are versatile enough that form responses can refine how content is organized, presented, and even built.
Sometimes, this motivates prospects to reach out early, effectively bypassing Consideration.
Use Pillar Content and “Ultimate Guides.”
Most prospects enter the Awareness phase with a lot of questions. It benefits them when they can get all of their answers in one place. This helps you demonstrate your company’s mastery of the subject while making it much less likely prospects will have to look elsewhere for answers.
This is another situation where both sales and marketing should work together to make sure each issue is covered from all the angles based on real experience with prospects and customers. Be careful to optimize your CTAs on a per-question basis to maximize the number of sales contacts.
Make Yourself Easy to Contact.
Although most prospects won’t be ready to talk to you right away, you should still make it as easy as possible. Ensuring your website has a dedicated contact page and that your email, street address, and phone number are listed throughout the site makes a connection more likely.
That could shorten buying cycles and make your sales process much easier.
Although getting more information from users is always good, the contact form isn’t always the best place to do it. For my money, a contact form should be as simple as you can make it so it actually gets used. Throughout your site, your phone number should be click-to-call, too.
Consideration Stage: Help Prospects Develop Buying Criteria
In the Consideration phase, decision-makers are putting together the list of potential options they will ultimately select from. They usually go into this not knowing what makes one solution best. They have to determine which specific features are “standard” and which are important for them.
Sales enablement is key here. Here’s what you should do at this stage:
Set Up a Chat Bot.
As they reach the Consideration phase, buyers have enough information to know what questions they have. You can make life easier for them and for yourself by setting up an AI chat bot that can dispense wisdom in response to their questions.
Not only does this help them learn about the aspects of choosing a solution in a way that focuses on their priorities, but it gives you more data.
Diversify Your Content Approach.
While most Awareness content takes the form of blog posts or short videos, Consideration phase content is much more diverse. It should appeal to a wide range of learning styles and timeframes.
It’s particularly crucial to start bringing the voice of the sales team in here: They have useful insights on how clients should structure their decision-making process, perfect for Consideration.
They’ll be even more influential in developing Decision-focused content like case studies, which show how a solution performs for selected buyers long-term, so they should get started here.
Deploy an FAQ (or Two)
Even if you have AI chat bots up and running, you should still have convenient FAQs written out on your site. This is a simpler format for those who don’t find bots intuitive – and it strengthens your website’s organic search traffic.
It’s okay to have a large, comprehensive FAQ on a single page as long as you ensure it’s easy to navigate directly to the details the reader wants.
Decision Stage: Connect, Discover, and Close
The sales process culminates in this stage. Sales teams take what they’ve built beside marketing and run with it: The relationship that content has been stirring up crystallizes into a one-to-one connection. If the rapport holds out, then a positive business outcome follows.
Here’s how to navigate this pivotal moment:
Have a Diligent Follow-Up Approach.
A lack of follow-up may well be the biggest sales process oversight teams suffer from. It could require three, five, or even eight follow-up attempts before a decision-maker is ready to commit.
It takes time to craft a follow-up strategy that produces consistent results, but it could mean millions of dollars in sales that your team would otherwise walk away from. Make it a priority!
Use Warm Calling Methodology.
“Warm calling” is an approach to prospecting that starts by planting the seed of a relationship before you try to get a decision-maker on the phone.
That means doing enough research to find a point of commonality: A shared connection, a shared interest, or a trigger event that tells you the prospect has new needs you can meet. It’s far more powerful (and friendly!) than cold calling.
Offer Discovery Sessions.
A discovery session is the next evolution of the common “sales call.” It consists of giving the prospects the space to talk at length about their needs.
Your job? Listen carefully, reflect what you hear, and do what you can to get them to lower their guard. Prospects love hearing that you want to be sure your solutions are really a good fit before you ever talk about inking a contract.
Share Lessons Learned.
Okay, so you won’t be adding value for this buyer with the lessons you just learned.
Still, if you want to do better every single day, it’s vital to help the other members of your team produce as much as they can and do their best work.
Whether that means that means one-to-one mentoring, team training, or annual retreats – or all three – make sure you have a way to put new knowledge into circulation. Before you know it, your own set of sales process best practices will start to sharpen.
That’s nearly a dozen methods for boosting your sales process by adding value. And guess what? That only scratches the surface of what inbound sales and marketing can do.
The inbound philosophy is always focused on knowing your prospects and customers inside and out so you can help them in whatever way is most appropriate at that moment.
When everything in your sales process puts the customer at the center, you’ll soon find yourself picking up on new and better ways to shape a strong relationship with them.
A natural part of that is coming up with excellent value-adds at every turn – and, in time, that differentiates your whole enterprise.
Published on June 21, 2018