Sales is driven by relationships because people do business with people they know, like, and trust. Not long ago, you couldn’t close a complex sale without an in-person meeting to build the necessary level of trust.
Nowadays, buyers are accustomed to negotiating transactions virtually and quite often prefer the efficiency of communicating by phone, email, and video conference. That’s why inside sales has been the fastest growing sales channel in recent years. (See: The Trend that is Changing Sales, The Shift To inside Sales and The Growing Power of Inside Sales)
For smaller, entrepreneurial companies, it can be much easier to scale the business with an inside sales team than with a field sales team, but everything depends on the ability to engage with the buyer digitally. Here are a few things to think about to help you hit the mark.
Fill the Top of the Funnel
This may sound obvious but think about how your content marketing strategy fits in with the sales and marketing funnel. Attracting attention, capturing the interest of your prospect, creating awareness of your company; that’s the starting point for any sales conversation.
Many sales organizations only think about the sales funnel, ignoring that it is really a set of two funnels, with the marketing funnel sitting atop of the sales funnel. All Sales-Qualified-Leads (SQL) first start out as Marketing-Qualified-Leads (MQL). The two funnels have become permanently welded together.
Think about the Sales and Marketing funnel as a series of 5 progressive steps:
Creating awareness is the starting point, but keeping prospects engaged as they progress through the funnel stages is imperative. That dialogue spans across multiple communication channels; email, phone, website blog articles, and social media posts.
Success depends on the sales, marketing, and customer success teams acting in synchronicity. Marketing owns the top of this funnel (the Attract & Engage stages), hands it off to Sales (the Educate & Convert stages), and finally, Customer Success takes over to ensure that hard-won clients are retained.
None of that happens without intriguing content that leads to a sales conversation.
Take a Different Point of View
Every marketplace is crowded, like a Middle-Eastern bazaar where goods and services are exchanged. How do you plan to stand out in that kind of environment? That’s why it is so important to create content that engages your prospect, captures their imagination, and shows how doing business with you helps them be more successful.
To capture attention, take a different point of view. As George Patton once said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”
To resonate with your target audience, the content must be relevant, insightful, and timely. You can’t control the timeliness, but the relevance and insightfulness are entirely within your control. If you are willing to look at things in a new way, to see opportunities that others are not seeing, that is how you will create value for your clients.
Make It Personal
How many emails do you receive in a typical day? If you are like most people, it ranges between 80 and 200, but studies show that we can effectively process about 50 email a day. So, what happens to the rest? We delete them, starting with anything that does not seem immediately relevant to us.
Again, if the information is not timely, relevant, and insightful, then it gets deleted. Yet, even if the messaging simply looks generic, it probably gets swept out with all the other deleted emails. That is why it is essential to customize your messaging to the specific needs of the individual.
It really comes down to knowing your prospect, taking the time to segment your contact lists, and thinking about how your product or service helps your prospects solve their business problems. Poor targeting will get you poor results every time.
Help Prospects Overcome Their Business Challenges
In his book, The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, Anthony Iannarino quotes Theodore Levitt from Harvard Business School who said “People don’t want to buy drills. They want to buy quarter-inch holes.” Your prospects don’t care about your product. They only care about the outcome it delivers.
Prospects quickly group products and services into “Need-to-Have” and “Nice-to-Have” categories. There is never enough time, budget, or interest for “Nice-to-Have” products.
To overcome inertia, buyers need to understand that the cost of doing nothing outweighs the risk of making a change. To move your prospects through the sales funnel, focus on the outcomes you deliver, not the features you sell. (See: Does the Buyer Have a Reason to Change)
Relate Through A Story
Humans have been telling stories since the beginning of time. We use stories to educate, entertain, and communicate. Think about how many cultures pass their oral history from one generation to another in story. That’s because stories are easy to remember.
“Many studies show that facts are easier to remember if they are embedded in a story than if they are delivered in any other form,” says Paul Smith in his book, Sell With A Story.
Smith points out that most professional buyers have heard every pitch, tactic, and closing strategy there is. Storytelling gives you a way to stand out with something original, interesting, and meaningful. It shows that you are actually thinking about the prospect’s business and the role you play.
Create Subscription-Based Services
A subscription pricing model gives you revenue visibility and predictability, and it becomes much easier to upsell clients or cross-sell new products and services. That’s really important for startups looking to scale their business.
Subscription-based models are not new, yet some companies are using them in novel ways and in unexpected industries. Think about The Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s, and other places where the subscription model has done well. Those were pretty innovative when they first rolled out, and client retention runs pretty high.
In the software industry, many companies use the ‘freemium pricing model’ to gradually upsell clients because it starts them using a basic version of the application at no cost. It’s a great customer acquisition strategy if executed well.
Timely, Relevant, Insightful Content
Rainmaker’s podcast ‘Get More Clients With Smarter Email Marketing’ is a great resource and a recurring theme is that success depends on delivering value at every point in the sales and marketing funnel. That requires content that is timely, relevant, and insightful.