By Guest Blogger Chelsea Segal (originally posted on coxblue.com)
“ABC. Always be closing.” Even if you haven’t seen Alec Baldwin in the 1992 classic Glengarry Glen Ross, you’ve probably heard this advice or something similar before. With sales, a lot of the conventional wisdom is that everything you say and do has one focus in mind: get a yes, and close the sale. Unfortunately for the Alec Baldwins of the world, times have changed, and sales have changed with them.
The new ABC? Always be connecting.
The key? If you focus on relationships, the sales will come.
With most buyers doing a healthy amount of research on their own before they even talk to a salesperson, most small businesses have found the need to adjust their sales model in order to even have a chance of making a sale. Instead of outbound sales methodologies, which are reliant on making up for ineffectiveness through a high volume of outreach and cold pitches, inbound marketing is about figuring out ways to make buyers come to you.
A robust inbound sales funnel can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. The trick is to figure out how to show up on someone’s radar before they even realize that buying from you is a consideration. With a good inbound strategy, you’re building up your position as a helpful and informative voice in your industry, and the sales will follow.
However, as you get deeper into an inbound strategy, you’ll still need good sales and relationship-building skills to get yourself in front of a decision maker and to close the deal.
1. It Starts With Content Marketing
Any solid inbound marketing strategy starts with great content marketing. There are a lot of resources online that can show you how to develop a content marketing plan that works with what your business is focused on. Suffice it to say, you need to figure out how to make yourself a valued voice in the conversation. Quality content is vital not only because it draws people in, but because it’s a useful selling tool that can drive engagement across a variety of channels and tactics.
2. Key in on Your Niche
The most important thing you should know is who your audience is. Do you have the specifics worked out? It’s not enough to think about what features your product offers. You need to understand who would want it and figure out a way to catch those people or businesses where they are, online.
You’ll want to develop multiple buyer scenarios and personas to have a complete picture of who you’re trying to reach. From there, it’s about figuring out what each group has in common—and what they don’t. You might find that you need to adopt one strategy on Twitter, but a completely different tone on LinkedIn. It all depends on who is where, and how each segment of your audience prefers to be engaged.
3. Listen to What Your Sales Are Telling You
Perhaps the simplest and best source of knowledge about how to get seen more is looking at what has worked in the past. After all, your customers are the people who should know the most about how the buying decision was made, and what convinced them to pull the trigger.
Depending on your relationship with your clients and what your business is like, there are a lot of ways to gather information that can help you with your strategy going forward. If you’re in touch fairly regularly, it might be simplest just to pick up the phone and give someone a call. Focus on critical moments in the buying process: how did they first hear about you? What did they look at to make a decision? Who made the decision to buy? Mapping and understanding your customer’s journey can be critical to your success in today’s marketplace.
4. Social Prospecting
LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media platforms can be a powerful selling tool if you use them the right way. Once you’ve figured out who your ideal decision maker is, the next step is to go out and look for them.
When we talk about decision makers, it’s important to realize that there are actually a few different types of people that you’d want your message to be reaching, but not as many making the actual purchasing decision. Influencers are an important piece to the puzzle, as they are generally charged with researching several possible solutions and presenting them to the decision makers. They’re important to both reach and persuade. But, while there are usually several influencers on an individual sale, there are typically only one or two actual decision makers.
The magic thing about social prospecting and social selling is that the barriers between you and a potential decider are fairly low. On the other hand, you don’t want to come across as a spammer by cold messaging anyone whose contact info you can get your hands on. Instead, research the types of conversations these deciders get into on social media and figure out a way to get involved. Keep in mind, this is the long game. Your objective is not impressions or clicks, it’s in establishing relationships that over time will evolve into clients and customers.
A savvy social media presence is as much an art as it is a science, but a good rule of thumb is to think of it like a cocktail party. Nobody is going to want to talk to you for very long if you only talk about yourself. Without showing interest in who you’re talking to, you’re not going to get very far. Make sure you find out what they think, and really engage with what they’re saying.
Social is where a robust content marketing strategy can pay big dividends. Whether you use your content as a source of quality links on Twitter or find ways to adapt it to LinkedIn or a short presentation on SlideShare, used properly, it’s a gateway to new conversations and important business relationships.
What You Can Do Right Now
Rather than spending a lot of energy trying to find the right person at just the right time, the inbound marketing process recognizes that just finding the person is actually much more important than getting the timing right. Once you set up a solid inbound strategy, however, it’s time to leverage social media to be strategically outbound, identifying key decision makers and figuring out how best to engage them.
Start with a solid content marketing plan.
Get specific about your audience so you can figure out who you’re looking for.
Use data from past sales to help refine your targets.
Try social prospecting techniques to reach decision makers with genuine engagement.