The industry buzz in recent years surrounding the Buyer's Journey, Inbound Marketing, and Digital Marketing in general is impossible to ignore. I can't think of a better time to be a marketer!
There's no denying that the power of the marketing industry is something to get excited about, but as a result there are some that feel the role of the sales professional is becoming obsolete. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It's not magic, it's effort.
B2B marketers don't wave a magic wand and get customers to punch in their credit card number for a $100K purchase. They may do this for smaller purchases, but for larger investments, they are looking for more than just a transactional experience. In fact, as companies invest more in marketing efforts and progress leads further down the funnel, the top sales person is worth more than ever. What this also means is that the weakest link in the sales force becomes a liability due to the high cost of low conversions.
So what makes a successful digital sales person, you ask?
1. They proactively follow-up on engaged suitable contacts
Before there is a formal project, there is a contact in your market looking to self-educate. Many sales people brush these contacts off as "tire kickers", paying little or no attention to them. Although sales representatives do need to put their primary focus on closing the month or quarter and achieving revenue goals, they also need to build their future pipeline.
A sales representative should reach out to a suitable contact engaged with your content so that introductions and possible future meetings can be arranged. A personal follow-up will also show your contact that there is a human on the other end of the content they are receiving that they can trust for answers.
2. They provide digital navigation
The great news for today's buyer is that there's a wealth of information available to inform their decisions. The downside of so much information is information overload and decision paralysis. Even worse is the daunting task of identifying and rejecting poor or misleading information.
An effective sales person will help prospects navigate through the bad information and arrive at quality content with real value. The content offered should range in style and source according to the prospects' needs: long or short form, created in-house, by partners or other industry thought leaders, the possibilities are endless. Heck, you can even offer competitor content from time to time if it is of value.
3. They answer questions, follow-up on content downloads, and maintain responsiveness
This sounds simple, but it's shocking how few companies and sales professionals do this right. In some cases, it makes sense for an inside sales person to execute these tasks early in the sales cycle. Once you qualify that contact as suitable for your solution, every touch point is an opportunity to build and nurture a relationship.
I recently downloaded a lot of content from a certain marketing technology firm, but I've barely been able to get someone there to talk with me despite being a part of their target market. This is extremely frustrating as a buyer. As for the seller, they've lost potential revenue due to poor sales follow-up. I know this firm has a great offering and great content, but I continue to buy from their competitor.
4. They leverage content and engage in personal communication to nurture relationshipsBack in the pre-digital days, great sales people would mail prospects articles to help nurture relationships. The very best would include hand-written personal notes. The same underlying sentiment applies to today’s marketing: Personalization is key. This can be done by emailing an article to a prospect as a way to keep in touch.
Even better, the best digital sales professionals maintain active social media feeds with quality industry content. Prospects can follow them to stay up-to-date on the latest offerings and thought leadership. Of course, nothing beats personalized engagement communication addressing a specific need.
5. They really listen
A top sales person is an active and engaged listener. While prospects can download content until their fingers cramp from clicking, nothing beats a knowledgeable person invested in listening to their needs and sharing thoughts on solutions.A new part of listening in the digital age is to have your finger on the pulse of your customer's social media presence. There's a lot to be learned about their needs and goals through their online presence."
I recently evaluated replacing a service provider of ours because I felt there may be more valuable options on the market. I met with a number of firms, all offering comparable services at the same price. Firm A talked solely about their solution for the entire meeting. The solution itself was good, but they wasted a lot of time talking about areas that didn't were not concerns for our business. Firm B asked me questions and listened to our needs. They then catered their presentation based on our specific painpoints. Which company do you think I went with?
6. They offer a trustworthy point of contact
Unfortunately, even many sales people don't appreciate the importance of trust in the decision-making process. As buyers evaluate services and solutions with comparable value propositions, the trust and confidence they build with an individual sales person is critical.
How does a salesperson build trust in the digital age? By being open and honest about your solution. This includes knowing which thought leadership pieces and content are available and relevant, as well as speaking openly and transparently about your offerings.
You can bet your customer will find out about negative aspects of your solutions and positive aspects of your competitors, so you should be upfront about these items and even share with your prospects where they can find this information online. This process will not only help build your relationship with the prospect, but it will also boost your credibility.
7. Last but certainly not least, they close business
The digital age is even more for closers than the pre-digital age. A great sales person must position the benefits of their company's offering and how it solves a customer's problems. This means articulating your value proposition over your competitors’ and positioning your firm for the win.
Closing, even in the digital age, should be done in person or on the phone. You can engage and nurture digitally, but you should close with good old-fashioned conversation.