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The Inbound Sales and Marketing Blog

The Rules of Engagement in Sales Have Changed. Have You?

by Lindsay Kelley on October 27, 2016

The rules of sales have changed....have you been paying attention?

There’s a giant disconnect between salespeople and the people they want to sell to. Both are having conversations online about managed IT services and printing hardware: that’s a good thing. Those conversations aren’t with each other: that’s not a good thing.

According to HubSpot research, what customers want to talk about in the first sales meeting is NOT what the reps want to talk about. Let’s explore.

Salespeople Are From Mars; Prospects Are From Venus

Both sides are talking about the same things, but in different ways.

Here’s what office technology reps are talking about:

  1. Why is the company purchasing?
  2. What the company is trying to achieve with the purchase?
  3. What are the company’s overall goals?

These are questions that need to be answered so that salespeople can understand what their prospect needs so they can make the right recommendation. However, hitting a prospect over the head with the hammer of these questions . . . maybe not the right approach. Why not? Because prospects want to talk about something different in the beginning.  

What do prospects want to discuss?

  1. Price
  2. A demo
  3. Case studies for how others have successful used the product or service

Now - remember, this is the FIRST CALL. In the past, sales reps held the keys to the kingdom of knowledge. They were able to listen to a prospect’s pains and spout out all the recommendations that would fit the prospect’s pain points. That knowledge gap rarely exists in today’s buying process.

Today, more often than not, the prospect has already done research and made an alignment of the product or service that best solves their company’s pain based on their research. And where do they research? Well, where do you research? Google, Bing, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Twitter, and any other online community where they can get answers on their own terms from people they trust.

True story - this past weekend, we decided to stop by the pool store in my town to look at the solar covers. I know nothing about solar covers. My husband has some knowledge, but it’s dated back to when he had a pool at his parent’s house as a teenager. On the way there in the car, I started discussing how I’d like to ask the employee in the store about the different types of solar covers. My husband stopped me immediately. “Lindz, do NOT ask the guy in the store. He’s going to sell you their brand or whatever they’re trying to make the most money on. Get your phone and do some research first, then you’ll know what to look for.”

That was a master electrician telling a sales and marketing professional not to trust the sales guy. He was absolutely right though. I had a world of information at my fingertips about the thickness, size, durability, average temperature the water could be increased by from different solar covers…. no need to engage with the store employee until I was closer to my decision. I knew what I was looking for within 10 minutes.

It’s the same for your prospects - they look online for their answers. Think about your website and the office technology industry in general;  there aren’t a lot of educational articles that can steer the customer towards the right choice. That’s a huge opportunity for a  company willing to put the time and effort required into answering typically asked questions online (on their website, on Twitter, on LinkedIn, etc.)..

Let’s look at how the rules of sales engagement have changed:

Then -

  • Cold calls were answered
  • Drop-ins were successful and resulted in immediate meetings
  • Sales reps educated the prospects on the products and services

Today -

  • Many evolved buyers don’t answer their phone at all – e.g., gatekeepers, caller ID
  • Elevators don’t have buttons – they have guards with digital keys to get you to your desired floor
  • Google is their sales rep

Google has fundamentally changed sales because consumers we are ALWAYS connected. What happens when you forget your phone in the morning? You go back for it! It’s your connection to getting any answer you want instantly. It keeps you connected…. technology evolved and brought the sales process with it.

According to Anderson Jones PR, 93% of the business-to-business buying process starts with an online search.

And, according to Forrester, 74% of business buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase.

Prospects Get Frustrated

We are conditioned now to get exactly what we want when we want it. Technology has spoiled us. Your prospects are experiencing that right now. Our industry has exceptional sales people and they are trained to the hilt. But our prospects no longer want to be called or receive direct mail… they want answers and they want them now. Imagine the delight they’ll feel about YOU when you’re the one answering their questions.

Tools Are WAY Better

Think about 10 years ago… the iPhone didn’t exist yet. You couldn’t take a photo and post it to Facebook or Instagram immediately. Think about 20 years ago. The cell phones were HUGE -- remember having to pull out the little antenna?. Sales reps carried a ridiculous amount of quarters in order to pay parking meters and use pay phones to call the office for leads or to check in. What about offices? We were tied to terminals in the office. Now, we can take our laptops with us anywhere. What’s the point? The point is that our tools and technology evolved, and we evolved with them. We have expectations  that we can get what we want when we want it from anyplace.

So why haven’t we evolved how we sell to meet the evolving landscape of how buyers buy? I don’t know.

Let’s Start Here: How Can You Engage Your Audience in Today’s Business Environment?

First, do NOT stop cold calling. Most folks think if they start getting leads coming in through the website that they don’t have to cold call anymore. Wrong. Until you have more inbound leads coming from your website than you can handle in your funnel, then cold calling still needs to be done.

However, think about all the opportunities companies or individual reps can share the knowledge in their heads:

Something to keep in mind: you are human. Your buyer is human. Engage online like a human… not a cyborg. When you’re answering questions, answer them in your words, like a human. You’re creating a digital soul to connect with.

“Grabbing attention, engagement, and personality, aren’t ends in and of themselves, they’re stepping stones to get to someone buying something from you.” -BRYANT DUHON, VP of Content Strategy

Now that we know you have to connect on a human level online, just as you world offline, let’s give you some ideas about what kinds go things buyers look for when they’re browsing for answers online.

Top 5 questions you need to answer for your target audience to find you online:

  1. Price/Cost questions. - I know, I know - you can’t list the monthly cost per seat for your Managed IT Services program or what an MFP costs (however, any of you who have heard me speak know that I won’t let any of our customers use “MFP”…it’s a copier to your prospect, so call it a copier online). But prospects are Googling the question “How much does a copier cost?” If you aren’t addressing it at least in ballpark, rough estimates, then you’re not coming up in the search results. If you’re not, then who is? Notice that this Google search shows places you can shop online and buy a copier, then an Ad, then “Google’s Answer Box”, and finally the number 1 result on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). And, really, why does everyone guard their pricing like a state secret anyway? Any smart prospect will know that final pricing will depend on the specifics of their contract. A prospect who thinks the online price should be the price is probably a customer you don’t want.
  2. Problems and Issues. When researching, prospects will research which machines could be problematic for them. A typical question might be "Which copier is the most high maintenance?"
  3. Versus/Comparison Questions. These questions often come up in the middle of the researcher’s process as ways to start gathering information to make an educated decision. An appropriate one would be: “What’s the difference between an In-house copier lease vs. 3rd-party copier lease?” or “Leasing vs buying a copier."
  4. Reviews. When the prospect has an idea of a specific product or solution, a search for a review of the product will occur. Something like “Review of the Xerox Workcentre 7845."
  5. Best Of. These questions are at the heart of the decision for the buyer. An example would be, “What is the best color copier for a small business?"

Makes sense right? So, let’s get down to what you’re really interested in:

What will answering these types of questions on my website do for my sales growth?

Folks buy from people the know, like, and trust… so get them to trust you, in the place where they are spending time doing the research… online. What do you think that will do for you in a competitive situation? They do a search on Google, you answer their question, they begin to trust you. It’s that simple.

Final Takeaway

Answer the top 5 questions your prospects ask your sales reps on your website.

Answer the top 5 questions your prospects ask sales reps on your website. Have your reps share the keys to the kingdom of knowledge on your website so the top of the sales funnel can get filled with qualified, well educated leads.  

Because if you think you’re in control of the buying process anymore; you’re headed for failure.

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Topics: Buyer 2.0, Website, Inbound Sales, Lead Generation, Inbound Marketing, Client Relationships, Resources & Training