I started at Media Junction entirely new to inbound marketing. Prior to Media Junction, I worked at a Fortune 500 staffing agency. Staffing agencies are renowned for their fast-paced environments and sink or swim mentality. Hitting metrics was a must, and managers assured us that “there was no such thing as a nine-to-five business day.” A successful business day was defined by making 100 dials – the infamous phrase “smile and dial” was the expectation.
Working Hard, but Certainly Not Smart
To me, this was normal sales. The more calls I could make in a day the better chance at least one client would call me back. And maybe, just maybe, they’d have an open book of business needs for me to fill.
So, who was I contacting? My calls were sometimes (though not always) targeted, but almost always completely interruptive. In the rare instance that I ended up catching someone willing to have a conversation, I was counting on my enthusiasm for our product mixed with a persuasive sales pitch to steer the unsuspecting individual to work with me.
Except it never played out that way, because these traditional sales tactics just don’t work with today’s customers. How many times have I hung up on a telemarketer, annoyed at the audacity to call me during the work day? More importantly, why was I essentially doing the exact same thing and expecting a different reaction?
The problem was my calls were based off of my own need to gain new business, rather than an expressed need by the person on the other end of the phone. Conversations were shallow and simple:
“Do you have a need? Do you have the budget? Yes, and yes? Great, let’s do business!”
You’re on the fence? You have some apprehensions? Well, you better decide quickly because my product won’t be around for long and I would hate for you to miss out on a great opportunity.”
The problems were numerous. For one, I didn’t understand my buyer’s context. Additionally, I hadn’t established a relationship or built any kind of trust with them. I merely sold my company and its tenure. I delivered the same tired presentation, offering discounts or promotions to get the customer to work with me now, on my timeline.
Changing the Rules With Inbound
Inbound sales completely flips this methodology on its head. At the core, inbound sales is about understanding the buyer. Inbound salespeople start by listening to the market and identifying where people are at in the buyer’s journey.These salespeople start conversations around the buyer’s plans, goals, and challenges. They build rapport. They explore consequences and implications, and don’t ignore the details that are significant to understanding their buyer’s context.
In fact, context is crucial in the inbound sales methodology, as it reveals where the customer stands within his or her journey and how a salesperson can assist. Using context, an inbound salesperson provides advice and positions his or her products and services as a solution to their customer’s needs. As sales strategist, bestselling author, and award-winning sales blogger Jill Konrath explained to Media Junction, "You don’t need to sell your customers on purchasing a website – they already know they need a new one. It is your role to show them why they need it, and how it will get done. As a requisite, you need to be strategic in your approach and offer value every step of the way, as well as uncover pain points and show the customer the light to solving those issues.”
In inbound marketing, we should not think of sales representatives as salespeople. We are more than salespeople – we are advisors. It’s our job to use our expertise to answer questions, discuss goals, and support the customer. It’s a collaborative effort, always customer-centric. According to HubSpot partner channel manager and inbound marketing guru Jill Fratianne, "Today's buyers have done their research. By the time they reach out to a sales rep they aren't looking for basic education on a subject or to be oversold, they are looking for help and guidance. They are looking for a trusted advisor that will help them solve a problem. If they feel a sales rep is ‘too pushy’ or not helpful, it's back to shopping they go!"
Delighting Customers and Myself
As I reflect on my former experience and sales history with my previous company, I’m surprised I had even an ounce of success. How is the inbound approach not the sole way to conduct business in today’s day and age? I think back on all the wasted effort spent dialing the phone aimlessly, sending uncharted email blasts to any address I could find and ultimately see how counter-productive the traditional sales approach truly is.
Having learned the inbound marketing approach, it’s rewarding to provide customers with content they want to see and engage with. I don’t feel pressure to win someone over who’d made no effort to contact me or learn about my product or service. It’s refreshing to know which companies want to do business with Media Junction via our inbound leads. Armed with my Inbound Sales Certification, I’m confident that I add value by providing useful information and customized support tailored to each customer’s unique situation.
With the principles of inbound marketing, I’m no longer focused on my own timeline, I’m focused on my customer’s timeline. I’m not anxious about closing the next customer, I’m anxious to deliver quality recommendations. Most importantly, I’m not just a salesperson to my customers – I’m a trusted advisor.