Lindsey Witcherley

How to adapt your sales strategy for modern buying behaviours

by Lindsey Witcherley on November 15, 2013

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In 1998, the average consumer saw or heard 1 million marketing messages – almost 3,000 per day – according to Fast Company.

That was 15 years ago. We’re now in the age of 24/7 news, smartphones and social media. Research from comScore shows that more than 130 billion internet searches are now conducted each month. 

What does all this mean for winning business? 15 years ago prospects needed you to give them information about your products and services. Now they do a lot of background research on their own, and are further along in the buying process once they make initial contact.

Thus, you’re at a disadvantage compared to 15 years ago. Prospects are inundated with marketing messages now. They are more sceptical, because everyone is ‘a leader’ or ‘an expert’. And they can compare suppliers much more easily.

All this means that you have to adapt your sales strategy for 21st century buying behaviours in order to be competitive.

Here are three tips to get you started.

1. Segment your customers

Prospects have much shorter attention spans than they did 15 years ago. They’re not going to waste time trudging through information that’s not relevant to them – instead they’ll switch off completely. By segmenting your customers you can ensure you get the right information to the right people as quickly as possible.

There are three aspects to this. First of all, you need to divide your customers into broad categories. Secondly, you need to identify what advantages and benefits you offer each category. Thirdly, you can zero in on which products or services you should push. This chart gives a basic example for a web design firm.

Customer segment SME Large corporate
Advantages & benefits Expertise, consultancy, one stop shop, cost effective website that works Efficiency (time & money), seamless integration with existing systems
Relevant services Design, development, hosting, ongoing outsourced website management Design, development, user friendly management system

An SME is likely to want to outsource the entire website design and management process because it doesn’t have the in-house resource to do it. A large corporate has an IT department. It’s trying to save resource by outsourcing website creation, but its own employees are then going to manage it. As a result, this web design firm is selling a slightly different service to each segment. Once it identifies this, the company can make sure its marketing messages are targeted appropriately.

2. Identify your buyer personas

Now you know who your customers are, broadly speaking. However, you’re not selling to a company. You’re selling to a person. A common mistake B2B companies make is to forget there is a human being at the other end of their marketing. By identifying your buyer personas you make sure you are speaking to that human being in a way that helps him or her with the buying decision.

The goal is to associate a ‘face’ with each type of person you sell to. Let’s take the web design example from above. When working with an SME, a person involved in the purchasing decision is likely to be the managing director. So that’s the first buyer persona.

Here’s what that buyer persona might look like:

Title Managing Director
Background Has a business degree, has no expertise in websites
Demographics Generally male, age 40-60
Goals A profitable, growing business; loyal customers; happy employees
Challenges Lots of competing demands on time; knows very little about websites; doesn’t have much budget
How you can help Complete outsourced service – he can cross the website off his to-do listUsing plain English – he won’t be overwhelmed by techspeak and will understand what he’s getting (and paying for)Giving the best website for his money – he can be confident his website is generating as much revenue as possible

Each persona will have different goals and different challenges, and you will be able to help in slightly different ways. By identifying these personas you will make sure you are hitting each with the most effective marketing message. That way, when it comes time to decide which supplier to hire, each person involved in the process is pushing for you.

3. Plan your marketing

Prospects look for different types of information as they progress from stranger to paying customer. Thus, your marketing has to help nurture them through the decision making process. First you have to convince them to buy what you’re selling. Then you have to convince them to buy it from you rather than a competitor.

Plan your marketing with this process in mind. Here’s what that might look like for our fictional web design firm targeting the managing director of an SME.

Stage Goal What he’s looking for
Attract Awareness/interest phase of the process, in which he wants to learn more about what’s involved in getting a website. Free white papers, blog posts and guides, newspaper/magazine articles
Inform In the interest/desire/research phase of the process, in which he wants to learn more about the services web designers offer and how they would work with his business Supplier websites, general case studies, FAQs, blog posts, guides
Convert Research/comparison phase of the process, in which he wants to figure out which supplier will be best for his business Relevant case studies, testimonials, pricing information, brochures

This is the only way to win over prospects flooded with information. These three steps establish the foundation for achieving this.

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Lindsey Witcherley

This post was written by Lindsey Witcherley

As Inbound Director, Lindsey is responsible for driving overall inbound strategy and marketing automation.

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