Gone are the days of cold calling a prospect, walking into a meeting with the prospect - if you even get one - and closing a sale. These days the power sits in the hands of the prospect. Before they will work with a salesperson or even an organisation for that matter, they have the ability to research the company, products and even the salespeople. In truth, most of the sale is done before you even get the first meeting. In all likelihood, the prospect has narrowed down his choices to two or three select vendors before the meeting occurs.
According to this year’s State of Inbound Report, as Inbound Marketing evolves, salespeople start migrating away from old hard-sell tactics and shift into a position of a trusted advisor to the business. In order to keep up with the shifting consumer sentiment which are heavily influenced by technology, sales reps need to connect with customers on their preferred channels and be authentic and helpful in their messaging.
The State of Inbound Report maps the responses of a global professional audience: 6,399 professionals across 141 countries were surveyed. Professionals were asked what the most challenging aspect of sales were today compared to those faced 2 – 3 years ago, and here’s what came out tops:
1. Getting a response from prospects
Sales reps today agree that the most common challenge they face, as compared with 2 – 3 years ago, is getting a response from prospects. Despite all the devices that we have on hand, and all the communication technology available at our fingertips, people today are less responsive than ever before. This may be due to a proliferation of channels or simply, communication overload. Sales reps need to distinguish their voices from the crowd and become trusted consultants that their customers can rely on.
2. Closing deals
Closing a deal is the second most challenging aspect of sales compared to recent years. In a market that is increasingly competitive, people do not want to be sold to. Instead, consumers, today prefer to do the legwork themselves, and with tools like search engines readily available, acquiring expert knowledge on a company, product or service, and even the sales rep is an easy task. The salesperson needs to become intimately familiar with the challenges that his or her prospect faces, and customise a solution targeted to that person's needs.
3. Prospecting good leads
Quality leads are hard to find and even harder, it seems, than it was a couple of years ago. Engaging with brands and companies is easy for consumers to do, but how do salespeople identify the wheat from the chaff? The answer lies in the alignment of marketing and sales, which can assist in qualifying quality leads before they are passed onto sales by using a solid CRM that can score leads, plugs into LinkedIn for prospect intel, and can automatically score leads.
4. Engaging multiple decision makers at a company
Salespeople strive for in-company connections to be 3-wide and 3-deep. What this means is that at the face of the company, a salesperson should have at least three contacts, and these contacts should be able to open an inroad into the business three levels deep, toward the key decision-makers. Engaging multiple decision-makers and influencers is increasingly challenging for salespeople, and can possibly be solved by creating useful content that is targeted towards the organisation, and the various personas in the organisation (decision-makers and influencers), which then becomes easily shareable among colleagues.
5. Avoiding discounting
No business wants to enter a price war, it is always a race to the bottom and no-one wins. In order to bring in new business, salespeople might consider negotiating on their pricing, but this ultimately becomes a client expectation and there is no back-pedalling. Sales reps should consider adding value, instead of discounting on price as a solution to finding an accord with new business prospects.
6. Connecting via the phone
Our mobile devices have become an integral part of our daily lives, so how is it that salespeople are finding it more and more difficult to reach people on the phone? It is true that with so many means of communicating, often people prefer to email or text over having a conversation on the phone. People's busy schedules also make them more difficult to reach. Salespeople can consider alternative means to communicating which don't require two people to be available at the same time. Using a platform like HubSpot can email or you’re your prospects or you automatically when they visit your website, or if they open your proposal. This makes connecting more relevant and non-interruptive.
7. Incorporating social media into the sales process
A major challenge for sale reps today is understanding how to use social media tools in the selling process. It comes down to understanding where your leads are and connecting with them on their preferred channels. Sales should work with marketing to understand where customers are and identify best-fit for business strategies to connect with their audience. Marketing can then use relevant social channels like the B2B network – LinkedIn to locate and target the best prospects.
The State of Inbound report continues to list other challenges faced by salespeople today as compared to a few years ago. The report helps to outline the shift in the way people communicate and do business, which helps us as marketers and sales managers make better decisions about our outreach and conversion tactics.
Download it here.