Remember the days when salespeople went door to door or picked up the phone to make cold calls to try to win business? Those days are, for the most part, gone. Seismic shifts in consumer behaviour brought on by the omnipresence of the internet’s endless supply of information means people no longer want to be bothered by that interruptive approach from some guy (or gal) who has no idea who you are, what your interests are, or what you might want to buy.
Those outbound ideals are slipping away, but as marketing turns inbound, does that mean it is time to send those trusted workhorses - our salespeople - to the proverbial glue factory? We take a look.
As mentioned, outbound, interruptive sales and marketing approaches are no longer what consumers want, so we need to understand what it is they do want. Research has shown that 70% of consumers who are considering making a purchasing decision, whether that’s in the B2B or the B2C arena, have pretty much made up their mind to buy by the time they approach, or want to be approached by, a salesperson.
That’s because they have done their research, have checked out what is available online, made comparisons between competitors, assessed reviews and recommendations, even formed an opinion on the type of user experience they are being given in this endeavour by a company or agency’s website. Therefore, what it is they really need is information. Not just any old information, but useful, relevant information that will help them discover their challenges, and the solutions to those challenges you can offer.
Providing that content and optimising it to make sure it is SEO-friendly, found in search engine results and leads the consumer to visit your website is the first part of the inbound methodology. Creating an effective inbound marketing strategy that then nurtures those visitors and turns them into qualified leads continues this process, with each step bringing the lead further along the path to conversion, before finally, it’s time for the salesperson to shine.
However, if your marketing efforts are bringing consumers so far along the line towards purchasing, are salespeople really needed? Wouldn’t the equivalent of a sales till be sufficient? Is it really the death of the salesman? Is it curtains for Ol' Gil here?
Well, no. The role has not become extinct, it has instead evolved, just as marketing and content creation has evolved, requiring a ‘survival of the fittest’ scenario when it comes to getting your products or services noticed, and making them appeal more than your competitors. We are now in the era of the salesperson 2.0, as this HubSpot post explains.
The sales team now has at its disposal a lot more information about the consumer than they used to, and needs to act upon this accordingly to tailor their approach to converting leads, but they also need to play a bigger part in the marketing side of things.
When it comes to our own industry of inbound marketing and being ‘the agency for agencies’, there is here an interesting contradiction. In a recent discussion with my boss, we mused over the fact that while we create a good volume of consistent inbound content through our blog and social media, we do still rely on our sales team to bring in many customers directly. We preach inbound, yet many results come from traditional approaches such as networking and sales calls. But that doesn’t necessarily have to go against the grain.
The truth is, inbound marketing works incredibly well to grab the interest of consumers with compelling content, and entices them to learn more about their challenges, your company and what you can offer them, but you still need that salesperson to get on that phone, to seal the deal, to convert that lead into a customer.
You also sometimes need that same salesperson to first grab the attention of consumers, who can then be reeled into your marketing strategy and guided down the conversion funnel with the provision of useful and relevant content that works almost as back-up material to aid the sale or conversion.
It’s a ‘works both ways’ deal. But that is not the only way in which it works both ways. Sales and marketing have now really become two parts of the same entity. Sales need marketing, marketing need sales. Ebony and ivory, and so on…
Why is this? Well, the most effective way to create and operate an effective and efficient inbound strategy is through what is (unfortunately) called ‘smarketing’ – that is, sales and marketing combined.
Another role of the salesperson today is that they need to work with marketing to create a rounded picture of their ideal customer, to identify what it is they are looking for, where they are going to find information about it, and how they like to be engaged with. This feedback helps the inbound marketing team to create those strategies that will bring leads into the business, while information on the content that is proving successful and what is not, will help determine where resources need to be invested and how future content should be tailored.
We spoke previously on the chicken and egg scenario in inbound marketing, asking whether sales or marketing come first, but with this approach, they really are just two parts of the same process, and the salesman plays a very pivotal role, not just in the closing of the deal, but in establishing the strategy that brings those leads in in the first place.
Far from being dead, the role of the salesperson has changed from being the individual who closes the leads to a member of the team that helps generate, nurture, convert and then make the sale, and if anything, has become more important to the successful running of a business or agency.
Find out how we can help you create a winning inbound marketing strategy that generates, qualifies and nurtures leads so your sales team can close more deals by arranging a call with us: