In the 1990s, I spent time as a debt collector, knocking on the doors of customers who were in various stages of delinquency with the companies I worked for. To an outsider, the job might seem straightforward. You ask for money and people either give it to you or they don’t.
But I found that my success as an outside collector boiled down to three significant steps: Approach, research and teamwork. And I’ve found these three ingredients are the same for inbound selling.
1. Being There Means Being Different
We have 50 satisfied manufacturing clients. We have generated over 10 million leads for our clients. Your agency’s stated differentiators, while impressive, aren’t usually enough to tip the scales in your favor.
Your value to that prospect starts with your approach. How are you as a seller for this particular opportunity going to be different than your competitors? By being helpful. Being helpful means offering to do things your competitors won’t do, or thinking of ways to add value and trust that will set you apart.
In 2014 I lost a large sale that I thought was in the bag. I did the things I thought my competition wouldn’t do, but it wasn’t enough. Seven months later, just to see how things were going, I reviewed the company’s website and noticed a lot of issues with their content.
I emailed my old contact and politely pointed these out. Not only did he not realize these issues were affecting his results, he also wasn’t happy with the way things were going with the agency. This bit of helpful advice eventually turned a lost sale into a $60K+ client.
2. Discovery: Laying the Foundation for Success
As a collector, this was the research stage. In sales, it’s discovery. An effective discovery process performs many functions. If done properly, it helps
- Identify a prospect’s budget, authority, needs, timing, goals, plans and challenges (BANTGPC)
- Determine if they are a good fit for your agency: Do they need help? Can you help them? Do they want your help? And do you want to help them?
- Build trust and confidence with the prospect by asking good, relevant questions
- Pave the way for a happy and profitable client
The process usually involves 2-3 phone calls along with a review of a prospect’s specific challenges. If it’s SEO, we will review Google Analytics, their website and keyword strategy if they have one. If it’s UX, we will perform a mini-audit on their site to look for gaps and enhancement opportunities.
3. Uniting Your Sales Team (It’s not what you think)
I haven’t read Tim Sanders’ new book, Dealstorming, but the premise is that today’s complex B2B sales environment requires a team approach. You can’t sell in a silo and expect to be successful—you need to enlist the help of non-sales people in your organization. Selling inbound is no different.
Unless you’re a one-person show, you have a marketing team with expertise in all of the areas your prospect is looking for help with. Identify the team members who can help. Bring them into the sales process early. Then brainstorm ways your agency can help solve the prospect’s challenges.
Does the prospect have process questions or concerns? Have a client manager join a call to answer questions and to reassure them that they are in competent hands.
Do they have strategy questions? Arrange an internal call with your agency principals to discuss solutions. If needed, set up a call with the prospect and principals to brainstorm.
As a smaller, tight-knit agency, we collaborate on every inbound marketing opportunity that gets to the proposal stage. Not only does it help strengthen the deal for the prospect, it gains buy-in from our agency, setting up the relationship for long-term success should that prospect become a client.