Around 1741, the first magazines started catching on in the American colonies. In the 1830s, posters were the hottest marketing phenomenon. And by 1867, the first rented billboards were on the scene.
Since those early days of buying and selling, we’ve seen the advent of radio ads in the 1930s, television ads in the 1950s, telemarketing since the 1970s, and good old spam email in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
And still, the buying and selling environment continues to change as new technologies are developed and adopted. Today, however, there has been a fundamental shift: A shift in the power dynamic between buyers and sellers.
How and Why Things Have Changed
In previous years, when sales communication was almost entirely outbound, when advertisements told buyers how great their products and services were and why they needed to buy them, it was the sales reps that served as gatekeepers for information. If a potential buyer was interested in a product, but wanted to know more, they would have to actually talk to a member of the sales team.
But today, buyers have Google for that same reason—in fact, in any given month, an average of 10.3 billion Google searches are made. Because of the advent of the Internet, buyers have access to more information than ever, on practically every product and service on the market (products and services like yours).
Additionally, as a result of the recent economic recession, buyers have become much tighter with their money. They are less inclined to spend, more price-conscious, less responsive to being sold to, and more likely to conduct research before making a purchase.
To put this in perspective, 78% of US Internet users research products and services before making a purchase, and 52% of B2B buyers begin their buying processes with research around a challenge they are faced with. This means that by the time a sales professional makes contact with a potential buyer, the buyer has likely already learned about their products and services—this is why salespeople no longer serve as gatekeepers.
What Buyers Want and Need Today
So how does this affect Sales? Well, for one, you’ll have to change your selling strategy. Considering that these risk averse buyers have likely done research before you contact them, you can’t simply give them a list of features your products have and expect to close a deal. Instead, today’s buyers need inbound sales.
Research shows that, because of the wealth of information readily available through a simple Google search, buyers are already two-thirds to 90% through the buyer’s journey by the time they make first contact with Sales.
Rather, buyers today want to be educated—and not necessarily just about how your products or services can help them. Some times, depending on where they are in the buyer’s journey, they are simply looking for information about what their problem is. This is where sharing valuable, educational content from your website, like blogs, eBooks, and so on, comes into play.
Typically, this content creation responsibility fall into the hands of Marketing—however, Sales can contribute as well. If a buyer sees a blog written by a member of the Sales team, and then talks to that Sales rep when they’re ready to buy, they could view them as an advisor, as some who knows their problem who they can trust. Today’s buyers also need to be nurtured—by both your Marketing and Sales team. This is the cornerstone of inbound sales.
The Bottom Line
And above all, Sales teams need to earn their buyer’s trust, which, considering how this past recession has affected consumer spending habits, might be easier said than done. However, by practicing inbound selling, by focusing on the individual customer’s needs and how you can help and educate them, you can win them over by establishing yourself as a trusted advisor and an industry thought leader.