It takes time for new technologies to spur a paradigm shift in behavior. Consider, for example, the switch to mobile devices. The first cellphones that could be carried around came out in 1983 (and cost $4,000). It took until 1996 for Motorola to develop a lightweight cellphone that could fit in a pocket. Fast forward to 2015. We now use our cellphones to surf the Web, take photos, track our calories, navigate when we drive—and on and on.
The point? As technology evolves, behavior and patterns shift, but it’s still a process.
A similar revolution has been taking place in sales, yet widespread adoption has not kept pace with the technology.
Consider this statistic: 80 percent of the sales cycle process used to be driven by the sales team; buyer prospects would only spend about 20 percent of their time researching a product, and the rest of the time they spent engaged directly with a sales rep.
The Internet upended this process in the 2000s, as search optimization completely changed how people learned about products and services before they ever reached out to a sales team member.
Prospective buyers now spend more than half of their time researching before engaging with a sales team member; by 2020, 80 percent of the buying process will occur online without any direct human-to-human interaction. This means that by the time prospects actually speak with sales, they are well-educated on the product, likely have checked out competitors, and are much further along in the sales cycle.
Interestingly, many sales departments have been slow to adopt to this paradigm shift; they’re still conducting sales practices with the previous model that’s focused primarily on outreach rather than nurturing prospects online as buyers move through the funnel.
In short: Sales teams are not adapting their practices to the current technology—marketing software designed for the paradigm shift of how people today research and ultimately buy.
What does this mean as marketers? You have a challenge. Your task is to educate your sales team about the technology and behavioral shift and push your team toward the new buying process. It starts with the marketing software you use.
Here are some education points for getting your sales team on board.
Inbound marketing has been around for a while, but there is still confusion about what it entails, how much of a strategic investment it requires, and the type of technology required to deploy it successfully.
To help your sales team get buy-in, here’s a stat worth mentioning: Inbound marketing generates 54 percent more leads than the traditional outbound methods used in the past (paid advertising in pubs, trade shows, cold calls, etc.). Buyers are going online first to understand a product, so your whole website framework, copy and lead nurturing process should be designed to capture people as soon as they land on your website.
With inbound marketing, you’re educating and solving problems versus pushing sales and promos. When done correctly, you’ll be catching people much earlier in the buying cycle and nurturing them as they move through the funnel. When they are ready to buy, your brand will be top of mind because your process started very early on in their buying decision process.
When you work with your sales team to move toward an inbound marketing model, stress that it requires more than just email blasts and blogs, and it’s not a short-term strategy. Successful inbound marketing requires marketing software that is designed to maximize engagement at every level in the buying process.
You’ll need to start off with a website design that is modeled to the type of buyer personas you’re targeting. Marketing software is built around the user experience—across all devices—and it provides alerts and scoring systems as people interact with content and downloads so your sales team has visibility into how engaged prospects are before a sales member reaches out. The automation and triggers marketing software provide are designed to educate buyers as they move through the funnel so your sales team has more insight when they go to personally engage with the target.
Finally, when “selling” your sales team on inbound marketing and marketing software, emphasize that their sales process will move from a product-centric model to a user-centric model.
The previous sales paradigm stressed products, features and sales or offers. When you use marketing software, the emphasis moves to a user-centric experience. This means that instead of focusing on the product, you’re instead educating and solving a buyer’s problems. You become the go-to source for providing answers, and you’re capturing prospects at the top and middle of the sales funnel instead of at the bottom. Long-term, this leads to not just sales, but customer retention, because marketing software allows you to keep buyers in your ongoing communication process, which includes emails, guides and relevant blogs.
Just as the cellphone ushered in a new way of behaving, so, too, has marketing software caused a disruption in how sales teams work. Help your sales team maximize their efforts by spending less time on product-centric sales and more time nurturing prospects through a user-centric model. It begins with the marketing software and inbound strategy your sales team adopts, and, as a marketer, you’ll be working hand-in-hand with sales to deploy and manage a successful inbound strategy.