It’s Still About Business to People Selling: 3 Ways to Handle Unpredictable Buyer Behavior
Remember the days when selling was all about cold calling? When people would actually hold a conversation on the phone with someone they’d never met?
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, those days are fast disappearing. In the past 20 years, buyers have gained more power, and the sales funnel has drastically changed. Prospects no longer rely on salespeople to ‘sell’ the product—they find the information they need on their own.
Instead of an attention-getting role, sales plays a validation role with buyers. Between 60-80% of the buying decision is already made when sales makes an appearance. At that point, buyers want to know that the information they’ve found and their half-formed decision is the right way to go. They can jump straight from the prospect stage to an opportunity stage, just as quickly drop away, and then reappear 10 months later. (For a much more detailed description of the evolving sales funnel, check out this great blog post.)
How can sales adapt to this new sales funnel when they have little control over the information buyers intake at the beginning of the funnel? Here are 3 ways to make the sales process easier:
1. Teach them something new
Buyers may have information power, but so do you. All the information that buyers have is available to sellers as well; you just have to do your research. Take the time to read up on the latest articles in your industry, talk to other experts in your company, and find valuable advice that will surprise and delight prospects. Remember, if they’re talking to you, they’re looking to you to validate their decision. If you can find online reviews of your product, pay attention to those—they can help you prepare a compelling argument beforehand rather than coming up with answers on the fly. Show them how they can differentiate themselves from their competitors. Tell them how you can make their life easier. Position yourself as a buyer’s trusted advisor.
2. Don’t stop with the deal
You’ve gone to all the work of closing the deal. The buyer knows your name, your face, and trusts you. So why would you walk away from that relationship completely? Staying in touch with your converted leads will continue to build trust in your product or service and possibly open the path to upsell or cross-sell opportunities. Share best practices with converted leads occasionally, and use new features or products as an excuse to reach out and check in. The tools described below are an easy way to automate the process.
3. Nurture, nurture, nurture
It’s incredibly important to realize that unconverted leads don’t go away. One of salespeople’s biggest shortcomings is focusing on the ‘ready to buy now’ people and leaving the ‘not quite ready to buy’ people behind. They may not buy today, but if you maintain their attention, many will be ready soon—maybe sooner than you think. Staying in front of unconverted leads doesn’t have to take away time from your more immediately-valuable conversations. Automate the process with a few simple tools: LinkedIn, Twitter, dlvr.it, Newsle. Using these tools can help you reach a wider audience (including customers) in short amount of time. Continue your role as validator by sharing valuable articles, advice, and tips. If you find yourself with a few extra minutes, Newsle is a great way to find excuses to reach out to unconverted leads and check in. And don’t forget about tradeshows and other events; they might not be filled with people ready to buy, but they’ll give you a chance to widen your network and build the foundation for long-term business relationships.
How has your sales process adapted to the changing sales funnel? What are your favorite tools to make the process easier?