Salespeople have been around forever. Traditionally, a salesperson’s role has been to make the good points of a product or service known to prospective buyers, and lead them towards purchase. This product-based sales process worked back then, but is completely irrelevant in this day and age. The modern customer doesn’t need you to tell him or her that your product works twenty times better than your competitor’s, for half the price. By the time your product is relevant to a prospect, she knows all of that already, from your website. And in fact, she knows whether or not your claims are true, based on the reviews of others. The power no longer lies in the hands of sales. Instead, the buyer is the one yielding all the power.
So is the traditional salesperson still relevant in 2018? The answer to that question is no. However, a different type of salesperson can accomplish a lot in the twenty-first century. An inbound salesperson focuses on a prospect and how we, the company, can help that prospect. First, the selling process shifts focus from seller (what we have), to buyer (what is it that you need?). Second, a good salesperson tailors his or her strategy to the needs of each individual prospect. Before even being in contact with the prospect, the modern salesperson knows exactly what the prospect already is aware of, and what he or she is searching for that has not yet been answered. Instead of fulfilling the “pushy salesman” stereotype, the new type of salesperson is helpful and on the same side as the customer.
Before even deciding on a selling strategy, a good sales team needs to identify the buyer’s journey for their company. How does a person go from knowing nothing about the company to becoming a customer? Traditionally, this was seen as a three-step process: A prospect sees a demo, and then hopefully transitions into a customer. This, however, is missing many in-between steps, and is pretty much null when applied to the Internet age. The inbound sales buyer’s journey is similar to the inbound marketer’s buyer’s journey, and it also includes three stages:
- Awareness- a prospect becomes aware of a problem or an opportunity worth pursuing
- Consideration- the prospect has fully identified the challenge or opportunity and is committed to solving or pursuing it
- Decision- the prospect decides on the best way his or her problem or opportunity can be addressed
Ask questions about how you can help address the prospect’s needs at each stage. For example, in the awareness stage, ask questions like “how do buyers articulate their challenges and goals?”. In the consideration stage- “what channels do buyers use to educate themselves about their opportunities?”. And in the decision stage, questions like “why would a customer choose our solution over the solutions of competitors?” will help you understand how to reach prospects.
Once you understand where your customers are coming from, you can go on to create a sales process that recognizes and understands the needs of the modern buyer. The best way to get what you want from people is by giving them what they want, and the first step to doing that is by understanding what those wants are, and where they stem from. That way, you will become the salesperson that matters in 2018.