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The Investigator: How to Adapt Sales to the Informed Consumer
Blog / Sales Management / Dec 28, 2015 / Posted by Daniel Matthews /

The Investigator: How to Adapt Sales to the Informed Consumer

Adapt. This is nature’s keyword when it comes to evolution and the survival of the fittest. This is also the keyword when it comes to sales strategies. You probably hear it again and again, but it’s worth repeating: the sales process now is a completely different animal than it was before information became so readily available. Salespeople have to adapt to the nature of the new beast.

Where before consumers were simply people who buy things with the help of salespeople, now consumers are investigators, wielding a magnifying glass before they ever buy anything.

Surprising B2B stats

In terms of business-to-business sales, Interconnection author Sandra Donovan reports several statistics:

  • Buyers get at least 57% of the way through their “purchase decision” before ever contacting the seller
  • 68% of the enterprise-level purchasing involves “internal assessments, peer networking, and external recommendations from experts”

In other words, nearly 70% of the business-to-business buying process does not involve salespeople.

Surprising B2C stats

In terms of business-to-community sales:

Even in-store—the typical domain of the salesperson—shoppers are investigating before the point of sale. What are salespeople supposed to do? Hover nearby until the shopper is done looking at the screen? That is indeed what I’ve seen during my shopping so far this holiday season.

The value of statistics

I would expect you to stop reading if I were to overemphasize the above stats, if I were to claim they’re the end-all-be-all in terms of sales. The statistics are an indicator of a growing trend. They don’t make the salesperson, and quality sales techniques, obsolete. They point toward an opportunity.

You have an opportunity to adapt sales strategy to the process of the investigative consumer, to align your strategy with the process in such a way as to drive sales.

Coordinate with marketing

As marketing analyzes consumers and customers—and how these people are interacting with a brand—sales teams can benefit greatly from communicating with marketing. A salesperson may know everything there is to know about the brand, product, or service, but marketing (hopefully) knows about the environment in which people are conducting research.

Now, many marketing departments are analyzing big data. The analyzation, categorization, and outreach typically go toward developing qualified leads. As this is happening, you can talk to marketing about the leads and discuss how people are doing research on the brand.

  • What websites are they visiting?
  • What are they saying on social media?
  • Which pages have they stayed on the longest?
  • Who are the experts and influencers they’re looking to for advice?
  • What do existing customers think about the product?

Knowing these things will help you get a solid idea of what it’s like to be a potential prospect. It will help put you in the shoes, so to speak, of the investigator. You’ll be that much more prepared to convert.

If marketing and sales departments are too big for meetings, for direct communication and coordination, marketing can craft reports that each salesperson sees in their inbox consistently. In turn, you can provide feedback on whether your one-on-one interactions with leads are benefitting from the direction marketing is taking.

With coordination as a goal, strategists can organize marketing and sales into small teams that correspond with each other on focus.

Do lead scoring

If marketing isn’t already scoring leads, a sales committee or department can do so before the outreach process begins. According to Sandra Donovan, lead scoring involves:

  • Metrics, both explicit and implicit, which tell the story of where the lead stands in relation to target audience and level of engagement with a product or service
  • Scoring takes metrics information and assigns the lead a numerical value, based on how close or far way they are from being likely to make a purchase
  • Evaluation and iteration accounts for the individual’s dynamic relationship with the product, service, or brand; this part of the process tracks the lead’s ongoing proximity to prospect status

Explicit metrics are facts about the lead, such as demographics. Implicit metrics detail where the lead is in the investigative process—what sites they’ve visited, digital shopping carts they’ve abandoned, etc.

Lead scoring, in essence, investigates the investigator. This allows you to get closer to personalizing sales. If marketing has already been using marketing automation software, you can use the software for lead scoring.

Consider sales acceleration software

Sales acceleration software uses predictive analytics combined with a host of other technologies. It picks up where marketing automation and lead scoring leave off. Companies that close the most, and make the biggest deals, spend 17% more than others on sales acceleration tech.

A sales acceleration dialer determines the best day of the week and time of the day to call every contact on a list. You’re in control of the call the entire time. The software knows where the lead is in their investigation process, because the data informs it. This lets salespeople do what salespeople do: sell.

Talk to customer service

Finally, corresponding with the customer service department will help sales get a full picture of what leads are seeing out there. People are talking to each other so much online, existing customers point others toward brands and products every day. Good customer service collects actionable insights on what customers are saying on social media, forums, webforms, and traditional channels. If you know what influencers are saying to leads, you’ll be well prepared to be the final influencer in the sales process.

Investigative consumers represent a chance for salespeople to really dig in and get to know things from the consumer standpoint. It just makes sense. The more you understand people and their journey toward a purchase, the better you’ll be at helping them make the purchase.

About Author

Daniel Matthews is a freelance writer from Boise, ID who has written for Social Media Today, Switch and Shift, Triple Pundit, and Jeff Bullas, among others. He specializes in company culture, sales and marketing, as well as tech, with a sprinkle of anything super-interesting in the world right now.

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