Obviously, I'm aiming this blog post at my cohorts out there, other inbound marketing agencies and professionals, but you customers and prospects are welcome to clue in on some of our tactics, too. After all, you're an important part of the process, too! What's at stake is a long-term relationship between a business and an agency performing inbound marketing services. The sales process seals the deal, but it also sets expectations and establishes a working solution for the business goals of the customer. Here are the 5 most important steps toward getting the deal done right.
This is a unique advantage of inbound marketing. By publishing the right content in the right channels for your prospects, you accomplish several things. First, you tell them who you are, what you do and what your value proposition is for their needs. By migrating at their own pace through your sales funnel and consuming your content at each stage, they should know exactly what you sell and why it would behoove them to hire you. This process should prequalify you. Second, as your leads filter through, you can study their behavior as they make decisions on which pages to view and which content to download or listen to. As they do this more often, you can score and segment them and pass this information through to your CRM. This process qualifies them. Before the first phone call, your sales rep should know enough to feel confident that each lead has a high probability of becoming a customer.
During your first sales call you should be able to dispense with the introductions pretty quickly. You should only be talking with leads that have been through Step 1. This is a 2-way discussion, not a presentation. Now you need to know exactly what their goals are and how they have attempted to reach them through sales and marketing. It's your job to ask questions, but you should also have done your research on the company and the individual(s) you're talking to. You need to find out a number of crucial things including who the decision maker is, what the budget looks like, what has and hasn't worked, when the decision will be made and what criteria will be used to make the decision. You also need to listen carefully because now you are qualifying them as a potential long-term client. Be alert for both negative and positive cues that may signal their true intentions, for example, ask them whether or not other agencies will be compared to yours in the evaluation process. It's fair game to ask them why and even which agencies they will compare. Take good notes! Don't forget to update your CRM and log your call.
Now it's your turn to tell them exactly how you will solve their problems with your services. This is not a separate phone call - it's still the first call! Describe your process in detail and give them some examples of how you have worked with your clients in similar scenarios. Direct them to your published information on services, pricing levels and expected results based on typical scenarios. You do have this information on your website, don't you? Your goal is to get them to agree that your solution is a good fit, and ideally to discuss how your solution compares to others they may have heard.
Yes, we're still in call #1, believe it or not. You should know by now if you have a good fit for both parties. If not, it's time to move on by saying so. If so, it's time to set out the deal - here's what we are going to do for you, when and how and how much it's going to cost per month. If there are a la carte items, for example, additional white papers beyond the scope of your monthly services, specify those, too. Now you have specified the problems, the solutions and the plan and pricing. It's time to ask for the sale. "Will our solution work for you?" "Are you prepared to move forward on this today?" Don't accept "maybe" or "send me a proposal and we'll review..." Remind them about what's been discussed and the deal on the table. If they are ready to go forward, you will send them a proposal memorializing the deal for them to sign. Before you hang up, get a commitment for a second call at a set day and time.
Don't even prepare a proposal/contract until the deal has been accepted - the one you discussed in the first call! If there are negotiation points, handle those directly in a call. Don't shoot emails back and forth - this accomplishes nothing but allows them time to reconsider. When the deal is accepted, send them your proposal/contract that mirrors the deal points exactly - nothing more except for your standard terms and conditions. DO NOT SELL WITH YOUR PROPOSAL. You should have already sealed the deal. Do not celebrate or move forward until you receive the signed proposal/contract.
Thanks to the guys at Kurlan & Associates who taught me and my partner how to sell inbound marketing services. I hope my Step #1 is a valuable addition to their classic baseball analogy for the sales process.
Does this stuff work? You bet it does. See you in the winner's circle.
Photo credit: alex_kuruz