As marketers, we survive and thrive on what we’re able to help our organizations sell. Thus, for many of us throughout our careers, our sales counterparts…and sometimes we…are schooled in one sales technique after another.
Solution selling, for instance, is one popular methodology, which is driven by the idea that sales’ job is to help solve problems we believe are plaguing our consumers. Another method is Target Account Selling, which is focused primarily on converting smaller customers into larger customers.
These and most of the myriad other sales techniques can be effective, and each has its place. However, none are foolproof and often rely on both Sales and Marketing, making educated assumptions about their prospective customers. Each methodology can benefit from incorporating one science-driven reality that many of us still neglect. “Consumers buy because they find a product or service appealing to them, and they believe the information they receive about that product or service.” This means that organizations trying to sell their wares must find consumers who are naturally inclined to want their products or services or who, due to some external circumstance, are currently looking for the product or service being offered.
The concept is simple. Humans are hard-wired to buy, and our decision to buy is driven and exhibited by a necessary behavior. Psychology Today describes this behavior as the Learning Pathway, and breaks it down as follows:
“A customer must learn about a product or service and relate it to their specific situation. There are three learning domains—Cognitive, Constructivist, and Experiential—that guide our buying behavior. The buying journey begins with the Cognitive domain, which is the intake and assimilation of new information.”
In 21st Century marketing terms, “new information” can be referred to as “content.” This is where marketers figure into the sales mix. We fill the role of researcher, compiler, translator, and distributor (or conveyor) of new information in the form of the content we create. This means we need to arm our salespeople with the most current information translated into the most compelling content delivered using the most innovative and measurable tools.
According to a 2016 Demand Gen Report, 47% of buyers viewed 3 to 5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales representative. Translation: nearly half of the consumers felt the need to research before buying. Moreover, where did they go for this content? In today’s world, their content channels could include blogs, traditional media, infographics, Twitter, videos, email, whitepapers, presentations… Shall I go on?
That same Demand Gen Report also noted that 96% of business-to-business (B2B) buyers want content with more input from industry leaders. Translation: buyers want to know what those they respect say about the products or services they’re considering purchasing.
Marketing automation leader HubSpot reported in a 2016 survey that 62% of consumers prefer to consult a search engine to learn more about a product rather than talk to a salesperson. Only 29% prefer a sales pitch.
Furthermore, a 2017 study conducted by the Content Marketing Institute found that content marketing gets three times more sales leads than paid search advertising. Translation: quality content published regularly motivates consumers to buy exponentially more often than traditional paid search campaigns. This statistic flies in the face of what we marketers have been taught for more than a decade of 21st-century marketing.
So, what does all of this mean to you? Well, if you’re trying to sell something, you need to focus as much, if not more, attention on how you market your product or service as you do on how you sell. Also, while your core business might be the manufacture and sale of widgets, you also need to consider yourself a publisher of information about the widgets you sell. The more accurate and compelling information you can create (or repurpose from and attribute to other sources) and distribute, the more opportunity consumers will have to find your content and the more motivated they will be to buy from you.
As we come to understand the buying behavior better, we must be willing to change our practices when it comes to selling and marketing. Fortunately, at no other time in history has it been more accessible, quicker, and more convenient to produce and distribute content. We can take advantage of today’s technology to disseminate information about our brands, products, and services. We can control where, when, and how we find our prospects and target our information. So we can take comfort in knowing one proven truth about behaviors: they can be trained.