Salespeople once played a significant role in educating buyers about their options and helping them come to a decision regarding a product or service, but times are changing.
In many ways, the average customer now carries the sum of all human knowledge in their pocket on their smartphones. Because of this, it’s no surprise that the buyer’s journey has undergone a fundamental shift.
Today, as many as 88 percent of consumers perform online research ahead of time before they buy a product. Online reviews and company websites are the two primary platforms for research, but other channels such as social media can provide valuable information, too. Regardless of how they acquire it, potential buyers step onto the sales floor (in-person or virtually) armed with information about their options; to remain effective, salespeople will need to adapt to the methods of the modern buyer.
Because marketers live on the very channels the customers are engaging with, clever marketers harness these channels to reach potential and loyal customers. More than ever before, the new reality of sales must rely on marketing to a higher extent.
Establishing a Sales Enablement Process
Instead of a sales team that’s incredibly knowledgeable about how great your product or service is, you need a team that’s intimately familiar with the customer’s issues, concerns, and demands. The sales enablement process requires identifying the process, technology, and content that aids sales teams in selling efficiently. At its core, sales enablement is all about knowing your customer — especially considering that promotional content is no longer an effective way to sell.
When you create a new strategy around sales enablement, your content will undergo a similar evolution. Instead of promotional material, sales and marketing must collaborate to create helpful content that assists the buyer at every stage of his journey. Because each customer will have a different journey, it’s helpful to visually map out these journeys.
Once the maps are created, flesh out personas to describe the kinds of customers that your sales team will come across most often. Creating in-depth buyer personas is a useful thought exercise designed to identify the content that customers need. With your sales team’s knowledge of actual customers, create several personas composed of details such as age, income, occupation, and values. Then describe their most significant pain points and the key purchase drivers that persuade them to rely on your product, plus their preferred content formats.
Reaching More Educated Buyers
Reaching educated buyers is ultimately about providing helpful resources when they need it most. To deliver what customers are asking for, sales and marketing teams ought to collaborate effectively with the following four steps:
1. Sales should know all they can about the buyer.
In the same way customers educate themselves about products, salespeople need to educate themselves about buyers. They should have an accurate picture of the ideal customer and a firm knowledge of how customers arrive at the decision to buy. It’s fairly easy to come by these insights.
When customers convert, ask them how they got there. Enough buyers will be happy to tell you about the articles and reviews they read, and you’ll start to generate a very useful picture of how people conduct their research. In addition, you will gain a valuable perspective into the awareness stage and learn about what social media channels your customers prefer.
2. Marketing should ask sales about the customer.
Marketing teams know plenty about the customer; the sales team has more direct interaction with customers and prospects than any other department in your organization. These interactions can provide valuable insights as long as they don’t get lost in the shuffle of the day-to-day.
Here’s a tip: Have your salespeople keep a journal of common customer questions, complaints, and feedback. This information will help marketers optimize their efforts and ensure that they’re answering questions, addressing criticism, and responding to feedback appropriately.
When you know what pain points customers experience, you’re in a better position to create a product or service that eliminates them.
3. Journey maps should address the buyer path.
There might be a few commonalities across buyer personas, but these individuals often travel down very different paths before they become customers. It’s up to the sales team to identify the various personas and interview an individual in each of the categories.
Once the sales team knows what makes each persona tick, it’s time for sales and marketing to sit down and come up with the right messaging to engage their audiences. A complete strategy should have content designed around the awareness, consideration, and decision stages of the buyer journey.
4. Digital content should meet the needs of these informed buyers.
To reach more well-educated customers, both marketing and sales should work together to create the kinds of content that these buyers are seeking. When your content is helpful, customers will engage with it, and you’ll earn a reputation as a trusted resource. As a bonus, your search ranking will improve.
Create a blog for your website that you can push out through email newsletters and social media. At the end of each blog post, include a call to action with additional content that provides valuable information, whether it’s a guidebook, a how-to video, or a longer whitepaper. Put sales to the side and strive to be helpful.
Sales and marketing might be separate departments within an organization, but it’s imperative for these teams to work together to build a sales enablement strategy.
A strong collaborative effort will help you create a foundation of great content, and when your audience views your brand as a trusted resource, you’ll earn more sales and turn cautious customers into outspoken advocates.
Kelly Bosetti is the CEO and founder of CEA Marketing Group and a keynote speaker. CEA Marketing Group is a full-service advertising agency that focuses on digital marketing and building inbound marketing strategies for clients in numerous industries.