Many people are aware that technology, specifically the internet, has changed how businesses buy goods and services forever. Google has replaced the Yellow Pages and most buyers have a good idea of what they want to buy and who they want to buy it from before having any contact with a sales person. The internet has flipped the equation in the business buying process – salespeople are no longer in control, buyers are.
Fewer people are aware that the fallout from the Great Recession has only amplified the changes in the business buying process. Businesses have drastically reduced their headcounts and have tasked the remaining employees with becoming more productive. Corporate managers who participate in the buying process are stretched to the hilt (and stressed to the breaking point.) The old ways of reaching these people (telemarketing and e-mail spamming) are not only ineffective, but annoying to buyers.
Senior executives responsible for making purchasing decisions now look for broad support from their management teams before making buying decisions – taking a risky decision to buy from their golfing buddy is no longer an option. Paradoxically, most of these senior executives have already cut operations to the bone – the only way they can grow their bottom lines is to increase revenue.
These companies still need to buy business services and they are forced to focus on value-based decisions. In order to sell in the current economic environment, businesses need to be communicating with potential buyers well in advance of when the buyer is ready to talk to a salesperson. They need to generate leads by providing prospects with the content that they need at each stage of the buying cycle.
A well-run inbound lead generation program uses keyword strategies and search engine optimization to enable buyers to find them on the web. It creates great content, blogs frequently and promotes its content via social media. It uses marketing automation to nurture leads until they are ready to talk to a salesperson.
Salespeople are still critical to the revenue generation process. Salespeople in an inbound lead generation environment are problem-solvers; helping people who are already familiar with their companies solve business problems. They use referrals to develop warm leads and coaches to help them through the sales process. They use social media to expand their networks and promote their companies. They partner with the marketing team to fine-tune the marketing automation process. They are not bird dogs, annoying busy professionals with unsolicited phone calls and e-mail spam. There’s never been a better time to be a salesperson if you are working for a company that has a highly-tuned inbound lead generation program.
It's time for you to start an inbound marketing program. You need to evolve before your competition does. It’s a Darwinian imperative – adapt or die!