You know that person who walks into a room and feels 100% comfortable strolling up to a perfect stranger and launching into a deep and meaningful conversation? It's that same person who could convince an Eskimo to by ice cream. We all know people like this, and most of them are in sales.
But, there's a ton of other people in sales who are missing this elusive “sales gene,” and for some unknown reason, they are still wildly successful. Well, the mystery is finally over: They’ve been practicing inbound sales, probably without even knowing it.
For the first time, we’ve uncovered what this means and how you, as a business owner, CEO, marketing executive or sales leader, can take advantage of this new knowledge.
Most of what the inbound sales practice professes is not to sell at all. In fact, selling is exactly what most people don’t want. The reality of the situation, though, is that most of us have businesses that require someone to work with someone else to bring in new business.
Here’s what you should be thinking as you consider how your sales teams operate today.
Find Sales People That Ask Great Questions
Since we agree that you’re no longer trying to convince anyone to buy anything, you have to shift gears. One way to help your sales team make this shift is by ensuring that they ask great questions. You’ll quickly find that the better your questions are and the more you make prospects think about their businesses, challenges, possible solutions and potential outcomes, the faster they’re going to see your team as the experts.
To make sure that your team asks great questions, arm them with some thought-provoking and frequently asked ones before they head into their prospect meetings. Also, look for strategic thinkers who are able to see past the surface issues and push prospects to think this way too or challenge them to go deeper. Focusing on the “why” is a great tactic here. Asking someone three times actually pushes them beyond the surface and usually uncovers the real issue. Then, you can help them fix the disease instead of just treating the symptoms superficially.
Even Better, Train Sales People To Be Amazing Listeners
Questions are great, but if you can’t listen to the answers and use them to continue driving the conversation, even the best questions won’t help you connect with your prospects. Listening may be even more important than asking good questions. It requires very specific skills, and a lot of sales people are so fixated on the close that they often move from question to question without really hearing the answers.
This Forbes article goes through some very particular behaviors that active listeners need to exhibit. The best way to ensure that you’re listening to your prospects is to use their comments to drive your conversation. If they’re talking about challenges, reinforce that you’ve heard similar challenges from other clients. Then, give them a brief explanation of how you’ve helped others deal with those challenges, including the outcomes from your work with those clients. Be careful not to jump into those solutions too quickly, though. Ask for permission to share these stories: “Would it be OK if I shared one or two examples of how we helped another company like yours deal with similar challenges?”
Make Sure Prospects Understand That Your Process Is Designed To Help Them
Your sales strategy and process are important. For the most part, people want to be led. But, you need to explain your entire sales process to your prospects up front. More important, make sure they understand why you need each step in the process and how it’s going to help them make a good decision. It’s critical that you relate each step back to them, their needs and the outcomes they are looking for. As with all excellent sales and marketing, make it about them, not about you.
Arm Sales People With Great Content
Our goal is to make every prospect feel safe, and giving them educational information at each step in the process helps do that. The good news is that marketing should already be creating this content. The same content they’re using to attract new prospects for your sales team can be used in the sales process itself. All you have to do is think through the process from the perspective of your prospects and use content to answer their questions before they ask them.
The more content you provide and the more proactively you provide it, the more comfortable they’re going to be with you, your team, your solution and your company. This isn’t hard to do. Simply ask your current sales team to document the questions that prospects typically ask and where in the process they ask them. Then, create content to answer each question. The content could be a blog article, whitepaper, infographic, webinar or e-book. Finally, share the content as part of your process. That’s it.
Let Prospects Create The Solution With You
Up until now, you’ve been learning about how to improve the overall experience that prospects are having with your company. Now, you have to get them to say "yes," sign the paperwork and cut you a check. This is where it gets tricky and a lot of people fall back on old-school sales tactics. Don’t do that.
Instead, work collaboratively with your prospects to co-create the solution. You’ve already asked them hundreds of questions, and you have all of their answers. So, you should be able to relate your recommendations back to the answers they provided to you. You can also relate the required investment to those same answers. Your prospects should be part of the conversation around the required investment. There shouldn’t be any big reveal. If you’re working with them all throughout the process, when the documentation arrives, they should be 100% prepared and expecting every aspect of the recommended solution, including investment, payment terms and other details.
In fact, this is a good check and balance to make sure your sales process is working as it should or to see if it's missing some important steps.
Start Today Tip – First, you have to admit that you have a challenge. Then, you have to look objectively at your sales process and see if it has any resemblance to the inbound sales process we’re illustrating here. You might be 50% of the way there, or you might need an extensive overhaul. Regardless, if prospects aren’t sliding through the process and coming out at the end with signed agreements, you need to make some changes. In our experience, one of the major issues is lack of process and a missing methodology. Both of these issues are quickly fixed when you start thinking inbound sales.
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Posted By Author Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist
Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.