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May 15
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Selling in the Modern Age: how to be more relevant with empowered (& overwhelmed) buyers

Great article from Brian Signorelli at HubSpot - Tom Wengler



by Brian Signorelli

14 May 2018


Before coming to HubSpot, I was a research analyst, then a co-founder of a tiny startup. I had been exposed, at arm’s length, to sales…and I HATED it. Every experience I had supporting sales reps as a research analyst appalled me. Virtually every experience I had on the buyer’s side while making purchasing decisions at the startup was equally frustrating. My impression was that salespeople only cared about making their number and were generally self-serving, selfish, and purely money motivated. I viewed it as a “lowly” profession. Until I learned how HubSpot approached sales, which over time came to be known as,“inbound selling”


Yet, to this day, only a very small percentage of sales reps and businesses know about this better, more relevant way to sell. You might be wondering, “Why should I care?”

Sales: 10 years of change

Between 2011 and 2017, the marketing technology landscape EXPLODED. It grew from just 150 marketing technologies to over 5,000!




Because businesses started to understand the value of content marketing, driven to change due to the fact that traditional outbound marketing tactics (trade shows, direct mail, print advertising, etc) were proving less and less effective. Global content marketing spend rose from ($100bn) to over ($200bn) by the end of 2017, and shows no signs of slowing down.





What’s equally interesting is that in that time, the number of sales technologies exploded as well - from about 300 in 2014 to over 700 by the end of 2017


How do these trends impact my team today?


You’re probably wondering what all of this data adds up to. Here’s my take:


First, with all of this access to content on websites, buyers needed sales reps less than they ever had previously.We see this backed up by data from Gartner that says buyers’ are now57% through their purchasing decision before they ever engage a sales rep.Second, all of this content has inundated buyers with choice. And choice, while in theory is a good thing, also creates the perception that perfect solutions to challenges must exist - which ultimately extends buy cycles. In fact, data (again from Gartner) suggests that 84% of B2B buyers spend twice as longCouple these two realities with the fact that we also now live in the age of convenience - think Amazon, Uber, Netflix, etc. - and you’re looking at one of the most challenging selling AND buying environments, perhaps, of all time. Buyers that expect answers immediately, think the perfect solution to their problem exists, and don’t want to speak with your team members until they’re almost two-thirds done with their research. Ouch. Ultimately, what this means for your sales team is that buyers have changed the way they buy.


If you want to be more relevant with those buyers, cut through the noise, build more trust, and ultimately win more customers, more predictably, it’s time to change your sales strategy to match how people buy today.


How does Inbound Selling work?

The last thing the world needs is yet another sales methodology. So instead of claiming I have one, I’ll share some highlights with you on what an inbound sales strategy looks like:


What is Inbound Sales?

Inbound Selling is a modern, buyer-centric form of sales where the seller prioritises the buyer's needs ahead of their own. Inbound salespeople focus on the buyer's pain and context above all else, customising their sales process and solution, should one exist.


Prospecting strategy

Inbound sellers active buyers over those who are passive. This means that inbound sales teams prioritise companies already coming to their website, or engaging with other company channels, as opposed to those who aren’t.


Connect call strategy

Inbound sellers know their buyer profile AND their buyer personas intimately (sometimes referred to as the Ideal Customer Profile). As a result, they are able to personalise messaging for a specific buyer’s contextExploration and discovery


Inbound sellers use a buyer-centric approach on exploratory or discovery calls, known as “GPCTC”, which stands for, “Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline, Consequences.” They use this to develop a deep understanding of the buyer’s context and prescribe crystal clear next steps throughout an entire purchasing process.


Negotiate and close

Inbound sellers never hesitate to tell a prospect that they should NOT be a customer. They recommend alternative paths forward, or explain very clearly a plan for overcoming a buyer’s challenges and achieve their goals.


“Everything else”

There are many other behaviours and philosophies that inbound sellers adhere to, such as leveraging technology to improve the buyer’s experience; or appreciating that insight drives behavioural change (not pitches and “value props”); or being very prescriptive in the final stages of a purchasing decision to minimise buyer risk, and so on.

***Sales Initiative readers are being offered a 20% discount off the hardcover version of Inbound Selling: How to Change the Way You Sell to Match How People Buy (9781119473411), written by this article’s author, Brian Signorelli. Purchase direct from www.wiley.comand enter the promo code SIN20 when prompted. By Brian Signorelli, director of HubSpot's Global Sales Partner Program, founder of InboundSeller.com, & author of Inbound Selling: How to Change the Way You Sell to Match How People Buy (Wiley, May 2018).