Salespeople go wrong by focusing on 'buying', which seems like a simple goal. However, in reality, buying is a complex activity that bundles two distinct processes: a process of learning and a process of deciding. Everything in a prospect’s world is going to impact these processes.
That’s why it’s important to remember to establish relevance, and maintain that relevance throughout the sales process, even when someone is already interested in you and what you do. Even though you want to close the sale, the focus should always be on offering value to the buyer.
The sales tactics should fit the buyer, rather than trying to fit the buyer into your sales process. Doing this gives you the opportunity to hone a repeatable process that feels incredibly personal, and provides value.
In order to become relevant to a buyer, it helps to include different forms of outreach. Calling and emailing during the course of a play (rather than just calling or just emailing) gives you more than one way to connect with your prospect and build the rapport you’ll need to eventually make a sale.
If you’re familiar with our DEALS Framework, you know you’re looking to bridge the gap between Engagement and Activation. The Engage Stage is how you can turn cold prospecting into inbound. Engaging with a prospect helps them begin to familiarize themselves with your organization.
Activation is where you turn learning into consideration with intent. It involves high-value, low-risk meaningful actions for the prospect. These actions should be designed to generate meaningful conversations with your prospect.
Activation should leverage relevant content that gives your prospect the opportunity to learn from you without being sold to. You want them to be engaged in what your company is doing and the ideas that you’re communicating.
Say you're trying to sell an IT security solution. At this point, the potential buyer doesn't necessarily think they need to beef up their security. This is your opportunity to provide expertise on the latest tactics and techniques cybercriminals are using to breach companies' defenses. Better still if you have data or examples specifically citing the potential buyer's industry. Now you are providing them with value -- giving them information they need to make the best decisions for their own business without jumping straight to a hard sell of your solution.
If you’ve created strong, targeted content, the metrics in the Activate stage are going to show you that your prospect is interested in what you have to say. Look for things like repeat website visits, email engagement, number of active personas per account, and call rates & engagement
One thing that salespeople frequently forget: when someone is in a learning process, they’re far from wanting to buy. They may not even be aware that they have the problem you can solve. In this stage, they’re educating themselves on a broader topic. They’re not thinking about the problem, but there are aspects of what you do that might pique their interest.
Cold outreach often occurs during the learning process, and it’s important to remember that the prospect likely doesn’t know who you are or what you do. At this point, you want to create value for them, not push them into a sales cycle.
For example, in its early days, HubSpot began publishing their blog a whole six months before they had a product to sell, because they knew they wouldn’t be able to sell the product without first generating engagement. They knew that before they could start selling, they had to give people the opportunity to familiarize themselves with HubSpot. They provided value to their users before they ever began their sales process.
Once the buyer has intent, the decision process can be very closed-minded. The ultimate goal of the Activate Stage is to influence how your buyer is thinking about both their problems and solutions. This is where a lot of salespeople pivot away from providing value towards closing the deal. Ironically, this only serves to make closing the deal harder - the pivot takes you away from the value-driving discussions that have gotten you to this point and the buyer suddenly finds themselves pressured by your schedule rather than their own. It’s tempting to fall into the trap of convincing a prospect why they should buy from you, but ultimately that’s not a winning strategy, especially when you’re coming in cold. Coming on too strong is the fastest way to spook someone, and you risk ruining your credibility. You’ve built a relationship based on providing value to your buyer. Suddenly switching into sell mode can make you seem insincere, and you might just find yourself being pigeon-holed as a stereotypical salesperson.
Curating your sales process to where your buyer is in their sales journey is a much more dependable way to win. To get a prospect to pay attention to your “pitch,” you have to get them to want to pay attention to you first. As our CEO, Doug, likes to say, “getting someone’s attention is simple, just figure out what they pay attention to.”