The internet has changed how sales works. If you are selling a product or service business to business, the sales process almost always starts long before your salesperson ever talks to a perspective client. This is different than the way sales worked even just a few years ago, but it is the reality now. The goal is still to get your salesperson in contact with interested buyers as earlier in the buying process as possible, it is just not as easy as it used to be.
So what has changed?
Sellers have lost the control and buyers do not need sales people anymore. The internet has given buyers the ability to “self-educate” on solutions to the business “pains points” they are dealing with. These buyers will figure out on their own most of what your company (and your competitors) can offer without having to talk with you first.
Once a prospective buyer has identified a need they have, chances are they’ll start with a Google search to learn about the problems they need to fix. Once they feel they’ve identified a possible solution, they will start to look for providers.
For example – if a manager at a manufacturing company feels the cost of owning and maintaining their fleet of trucks is too expensive, he’ll likely go right to his computer and do some searches on Google; “how can I reduce the cost of fleet ownership” or “is it less expensive to lease a truck compared to buying”.
NOTE – people do not start their search for a solution by typing a company’s name, they start with a search for a solution to their problem!
The start of the buying progression I’ve described here changes the balance of control in the buyers favor. In the past, the buyer NEEDED the sales person to help educate them on possible solutions to their problems. Today, buyers can simply research solutions to their challenges on the internet and then decide what solutions and suppliers they want to work with.
The good news is there is a way to take back the upper hand, and gain more control as a seller than you’ve ever had before. It is called internet marketing… to explain I will highlight the two primary areas of focus for internet marketing – Offsite and Onsite.
It is how sellers use internet marketing to become the subject matter experts on the problems customers are trying to solve. It’s not about showing why your solution is best compared to your competition. It is about educating the buyer on possible solutions to their problem – convincing them you are the right solution comes later. This happens in the form of articles on relevant topics, blog posts, and other information you distribute on the internet.
This has several VERY important benefits. First it helps to educate prospective customers with the information they need and establish you as a subject matter expert in their eyes, but it also tells Google that you are the subject matter expert. This is part of an internet marketing concept called SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and is how Google decides what websites to show when a search is performed.
Sell trailer leasing or other transportation services? Master the offsite piece and customers will find you during that crucial self education phase. And perhaps more importantly, Google will list your website high in their rankings when potential clients perform a search on what you sell.
Self education happens exclusively on the internet. If customers cannot find your company or your website it is game over – they’ll find a competitor.
The second area of focus for internet marketing is Onsite – or in other words, your website.
Let’s assume at this point you’ve helped a prospective customer understand their problem and know what their options are to solve it. Remember – the goal is still to get the buyer to become a qualified sales lead by agreeing to talk to a salesperson.
The idea of Onsite is to have a website that converts site visitors into qualified leads. At this point the prospect has an understanding of potential solutions to their business needs, and has identified your company as a potential supplier.
A good website with the right design and sales messaging will convert website visitors into the qualified sales leads you want. By using your website to communicate the value proposition of your products in a convincing way this is easily accomplished. Note, I did not say to make your website simply a brochure of your company’s offerings. A website also needs to communicate the benefits and ROI of what you sell. It needs to differentiate you from your competition and convince visitors you can fix their problems.
So, when the Offsite and the Onsite work, that’s great! Now is when your rock-star closer sales pro can sign a deal. The best part of this process may be that your sales people can focus on selling and not prospecting. What salesperson actually puts much effort into prospecting?
Summary – Here is what to do about it
Your company needs to establish itself as an expert in its market and create an internet presence that provides the information self educating buyers can find and use. An equally important part of this equation is understanding SEO and also showing Google you are the expert. This Offsite focus is how buyers find you during the self education phase. If you ignore this, your competitors will figure it out soon enough.
The Onsite focus is about having a website that converts visitors to leads – which are people interested in your products and open to talking with a salesperson. Having a respectable looking website with the right sale messaging is crucial. Buyers will always see your website and become their first impression of your company. Make sure it is a good one.
This whole process of establishing yourself as a subject matter expert is not a new concept – the difference is just that it happens more efficiently and much more quickly because of the internet.
A great website is important because buyers will see and dissect your website long before they agree to talk to one of your sales reps. They will want to know you provide what they are looking for before they’ll invest the time to contact you.
The good news is if you master the Offsite and Onsite parts to this equation you regain control of the buying process.
Be the resource that helps buyers understand solutions to their problems and become their supplier of choice. Most companies have not figured out this simple process, so when I say “Thanks Internet” I mean it.