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February 11, 2020

Inbound Sales: How to sell the way prospects buy

The buying process has evolved significantly in recent years. New technology, savvy consumers and fierce competition have all played a huge part in this evolution. For buyers, the opportunities are great with more products and services at their fingertips than ever before. For sellers, this ever-changing landscape can present many challenges, not least understanding what the buyer wants and how to get it to them.

The challenge for many brands today is staying ahead of what consumers are doing and thinking. In addition to perfecting their offering, analyzing data and understanding the competition, brands also need to work out how to reach consumers effectively and provide the right information at the right time. What's needed is a way to almost climb inside the prospect's mind, to understand their needs, to identify with their pain points and to present the solution in the most compelling way.

Inbound sales offer a personalized, targeted and innovative strategy that can be designed to align effectively with every stage of the buyer journey. In this article, we'll take a closer look at each stage of this journey and how you can design a sales strategy that sells in the same way that prospects buy.

Defining the Buyer's Journey

More traditional sales strategies involve sales teams focusing on predefined sales targets and business objectives before identifying the needs of the buyer. Focusing so much energy on these areas and 'checking the boxes' laid out by a sales manager could mean that opportunities are missed and consumers let down.

A successful inbound marketing strategy is one that earns the attention of prospects and ensures the company is easily found. Prospects need to be listened to throughout every stage of the buying process. This should start from the very first touchpoint, whether that touchpoint was social media, the company website or through a marketing event.

Unlike outbound marketing, inbound marketing rarely relies on the intervention of sales representatives. With a good inbound strategy in place, your website, social media channels, SEO, reviews and other online commodities will do the hard work for you, leading consumers smoothly to the checkout or inquiry process. Buyers today are much more empowered. They know what they want. You just have to find a way to give it to them.

Traveling Through the Sales Funnel

As buyers start their journey they enter the sales funnel. The objective for any business is to get them through that sales funnel as smoothly as possible to the purchase stage.

  • Top of the Funnel: This is the awareness stage where people come seeking answers, education, resources, opinions, and research data.
  • Middle of the Funnel: Known as the consideration or evaluation stage, this is where prospects are doing heavy research on whether your service or product is the right fit.
  • Bottom of the Funnel: This is the decision stage where prospects are seriously considering your offering and getting ready to make a purchase.

The Awareness Stage

The awareness stage is the first stage in the buyer's journey and typically involves consumers who do not yet realize they have a problem or realize that something isn't quite right but they're not sure what that something is yet.

The awareness stage will be different across every industry and will depend on the nature of the problem and solution. For example, a company offering the latest IoT products may have a greater requirement for creating awareness content than a company that uses a more widely used product such as televisions. That isn't to say that a television brand won't need awareness content. They will, but their audience may be more receptive to their product because they know what it is and what it does.

When creating content during the awareness stage, be mindful of avoiding the hard sell and instead, generate content that educates, inspires and motivates. If you try to sell when the buyer doesn't yet know they have a problem, they will be put off. Empathy is so much more effective at this stage than a blatant sales pitch.

In addition to empathizing with your target audience, you should also make them aware of what might happen if they don't use your product. Creating content that makes consumers think about potentially negative scenarios can prove positive at this stage in the customer journey. Ask a question, agitate the problem and get ready to lead into the solution in the next stage.

Awareness stage content types to consider: 

  • Educational blog posts and articles
  • Educational videos
  • Brand videos that share company values and mission
  • Analyst reports
  • White papers

The Consideration Stage

Remember, you are creating a sales strategy that aligns with how prospects buy. Don't hit them with the solution just yet even if you are used to doing so in your outbound sales strategies. A carefully targeted and executed strategy is the order of the day here. You have got them this far through the sales funnel. Don't scare them with the hard sell.

During the consideration stage, prospects will be aware of the problem they have and be receptive to the suggestion of a solution. Your content doesn't need to get pushy or overly salesy here. Your prospect is only looking for answers at this stage and may not be ready to consider a solution straight away. All you need to do at this stage is to emphasize the benefits of your solution.

Consideration stage content types to consider: 

  • Webcasts
  • Solution comparable white papers
  • Videos
  • Podcasts

The Decision Stage

At this stage, your prospect is almost there with their decision. They have liked what they have seen so far and are getting ready to make a purchase or booking. However, there might be several factors holding them back. With the amount of comparison data available to them online, they will be using evaluation information such as pricing, features and return on investment to make this decision.

The good news is that you can use content to influence those in the decision stage. Product demos, reviews, price comparisons, and flexible monthly subscriptions are all great ways to convince consumers that yours is the only product or service to choose.

Every single piece of content you produce at this stage needs to demonstrate the positive impact that your product or service can have on your prospect's life, whether it is helping them to track their fitness or watch the latest movies for less.

Consideration stage content types to consider: 

  • Vendor and product comparisons
  • Case studies
  • Software downloads and demos
  • Product literature
  • Consumer reviews

Aligning with the Buyer Throughout the Journey and Beyond

When you align your inbound sales strategy with the buyer journey, it shows in both the actions of the consumer and your sales reports. Conventional sales processes have always put the sales pitch front and center. With inbound sales, you support the buyer throughout every stage of the journey. While inbound sales, when managed correctly, should be an automated process as much as possible, every sales representative needs to be aware of the process.

Depending on the product or service on offer and your target market, some prospects may still need nurturing with telephone calls, emails, and face-to-face meetings. For example, older prospects or those without access to the latest technology may be reassured that there is still a real person at the other end of the sales process.

Oh, there is a Fourth Stage

While the three stages of the buyer journey are the most important, there is one more stage you also need to focus on: loyalty. You've worked so hard to get your prospects to this stage. Do you really want to lose them after just one purchase or booking?

This is by no means the end of the buyer journey or your content marketing strategy. There are so many more things you can do to encourage prospects to buy more and use more. If you have delighted your customers, they will almost always be receptive to your marketing. What's more, there are plenty of ways to keep them engaged.

Loyalty stage content types to consider: 

  • User guides
  • Surveys
  • Events
  • Product-focused articles
  • Product updates and news
  • Customer newsletters
  • Promotions and loyalty programs

Finally, your customers have made their purchase. However, this is not the end of your content marketing. Most buyers will be interested in best practices and guides to make sure they continually get value out of your product or service.

The ideal types of content to keep customers engaged include:

  • User guides
  • Product-focused articles
  • Product updates
  • Customer newsletters
  • Promotions and loyalty programs
  • News and event details
  • Surveys

Final Thoughts

Marketing works so much better when you put time and effort into understanding your prospects and tailoring the buyer experience to suit their needs. Doing so also makes you realize that your prospects do not always share similar traits or have similar needs or expectations. Once you have access to this information, you can start segmenting your audience and tailoring your content to suit those who have different questions or needs.

An effective inbound marketing approach that aligns with your prospects can help you to gain a competitive edge, sell more and generate better returns on digital marketing.

About Eniture Technology

Eniture Technology specializes in helping e-Commerce merchants grow by providing useful information, digital marketing services, off-the-shelf apps that solve common problems, and custom programming services. Please contact us if you need help growing your online business or implementing the concepts presented in this blog post.

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