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It’s been said countless times, and will likely be said countless more: Today’s buyers are self-educating, Google-savvy, and typically quite a long way into the buying process before ever reaching out to a member of a company’s Sales team.

Of course, that’s why inbound marketing works so well. Inbound marketing provides this educational material to these buyers through valuable content, drawing leads into your site. Yet, traditional Sales tactics don’t quite compliment this new breed of Marketing. Instead, by aligning your tactics with those of Marketing, by adopting Inbound Sales, you can better meet the wants and needs of today’s buyers.

However, though buyers do tend to be two-thirds to 90% through the buying process, there are still times when they actually want to talk with Sales. According to Forrester, these are the top 5 scenarios when leads want this engagement from Sales:

  1.     91% of buyers want to talk with Sales when price negotiation is involved
  2.     82% want to talk with Sales when the purchase is complex
  3.     67% want to talk with Sales when the purchase is expensive
  4.     67% when the offering requires installation
  5.     64% when the offering requires service

All that being the case, it’s clear that Sales is still vital to the inbound process. Typically, they are responsible for the bottom of the funnel—however, when considering the sales funnel from the perspective of your buyer personas, when considering the Buyer’s Journey, there are a number of ways Sales can be involved throughout every stage.

Why Should Sales Care About the Buyer’s Journey?

But first, why should Sales even care about the Buyer’s Journey? For a number of reasons. For example, research from DemandGen indicates that leads who are nurtured, on average, produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities, when compared with non-nurtured leads. This means that the more care and information you and your Marketing team provide to your leads throughout their Journey, the more likely they will give you the chance to sell to them.

Additionally, leveraging the Buyer’s Journey allows Sales to more easily forecast future revenue, as they understand where each of their leads are, how close they are to the bottom of the funnel, and the relative likelihood of them closing into a customer. The Buyer’s Journey also provides your company a buyer-centric framework for understanding how your leads move through your funnel, ultimately providing them with a better experience.

What Can Sales Do Along the Journey?

Well, quite a bit, actually. For inbound to work effectively in your organization, Sales needs to know where each lead is in the Buyer’s Journey, and what each stage of the Buyer’s Journey indicates about the lead. A lead at each of the following stages needs something different. Through lead nurturing at the top of the funnel is typically Marketing’s responsibility, your Sales team can contribute through inbound selling. They can make follow-up calls or emails at different stages and begin fostering a relationship, but they’ve got to remember what a lead needs at each stage. Here are a few inbound sales tips for each stage of the Buyer’s Journey.

Awareness Stage

In the Awareness Stage, your website visitor or qualified lead knows they have a problem—but that’s about it. They don’t really know about your company or about the solutions you may offer.

At this point in the Buyer’s Journey, Sales can fill an advisory role. For example, they can pass along valuable information to leads to nurture awareness—however, it’s extremely important to remember that leads in the Awareness Stage are not ready to buy, or hear a sales pitch.

The primary goal of Sales engagement in this stage is to be helpful, to pass along information to leads, and to add value. This will help build a trust-based relationship with this lead, warming them up to a Sales pitch down the line.

Use information from your marketing automation software to add a personalized, contextualized element to your engagement, based off of the leads’ activity on your website. Additionally, get to know the content that your Marketing team has created, as there are likely a number of pieces created specifically for the Awareness Stage. Pass these along to some of your leads.

Consideration Stage

In this stage, leads are warmed up—they’ve identified their problem, but are still weighing out their solutions. Remember, though, Sales still needs to tread carefully here. Don’t repeat Awareness Stage questions, and don’t ask questions that will make your leads brace themselves for a sales pitch.

But by this point, your Marketing team will likely have identified some of your leads’ soft spots, or particular pain points, which you can strategically and specifically address. Ask your Marketing team what they’ve learned, and talk with your leads about this. Keep in mind that while these leads are considering your brand as a solution to their problem, they are also considering other solutions: competitors, for example. Ask why they’re considering you, and what they hope to get from you. And again, add value—continue to educate them about what they want to know, and not just about what you products or services can do.

Decision Stage

This is typically where the lead is officially passed off from Marketing to Sales to begin the actual sales process. The lead knows what their problem is, has weighed out the solutions, and is deciding whether or not to close into your customer.

It’s important to determine when a lead enters into the Decision Stage—you don’t want to talk to a lead sorted into this stage prematurely, and you don’t want to miss the opportunity of a lead that was never sorted into this stage at all. Clearly define when this handoff happens by talking with your Marketing team and creating a Service Level Agreement.

Additionally, give feedback to Marketing on whether or not the leads you contact are truly qualified, truly ready to enter into the sales process. This will allow them to adjust their practices and pass more qualified leads to you in the future.

Take advantage of the wealth of information stored in your CRM and marketing automation software—gather as much information on your leads from these and from social media, information and defining characteristics of your buyer personas, and arm yourself with valuable content and educational answers to questions that may be posed. And of course, add value. By continuing to add value, especially value outside of what you’re selling right before you sell it, will position you as a trusted advisor.

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