While spending Christmas at my Son’s home near Ft. Hood, Texas, I finished reading Frank Belzer’s groundbreaking book Sales Shift. Having to do “work” gave me a reason for an occasional respite from the Christmas hoopla (Jack, 3 years old and Paul, 4 months old). Of course, I also had to post on my blog while “working” and I felt the concepts outlined in Belzer’ s book were worth some “ink” for our industrial sales & marketing friends.
Because of the effectiveness of content marketing/inbound marketing as a lead generation tactic, industrial sales groups must make dramatic shifts in the way they approach their prospects and customers.
I speak with good authority concerning Belzer’s book. Personally I have made the “Shift” Belzer outlines in his book. For me, the “Shift” has been gradual over the last 3 years. The “Shift” has been required by new technologies and market realities. The “Shift” has been easy for me because I love change and I enjoy the challenge of learning new ideas. Most importantly, the “Shift” has been mandated by our customers.
Now my customers come to me with more knowledge than 3-4 years ago. My prospects need a consultant, not a sales person. After all they can learn just about anything concerning web development and web marketing at their desktop…or while waiting on a fight at the gate.
(When we arrived at the gate for our flight in Dallas there were 55 others waiting at the gate for our flight to Detroit. I did a quick tally. 30 were messing with their smart phones. 12 were on tablets and oblivious to the annoying airport announcements. So 76% of the travelers were doing something on their mobile devices. Amazing, I thought.)
I found myself in a more consultative role with prospects and customers. Because of my personality, my study of people, my love and knowledge of technology, the “Sales Shift”, as Belzer describes, was quite natural for me. Actually…an enjoyable growth opportunity that benefits Market Pipeline and our customers.
However, from a strategic standpoint, the “Shift” has been difficult for our company. The learning curve for content development and marketing automation was very steep and time consuming. Our “Shift” caused sales to suffer temporarily.
But now our focus is back on lead generation and sales…and providing helpful content and a consultative process that genuinely helps industrial marketers navigate the tricky maze of online digital marketing.
We have developed some great content to attract prospects interested in “industrial lead generation”, “industrial content marketing”, “industrial branding”, “inbound marketing for industrial marketers” and other “long-tail” keywords, rather than just “web development” or “SEO services”. Content marketing is working. More leads are coming and we are closing deals from these inbound leads. I can’t even describe the euphoric feeling of closing a deal from a lead that chased me… rather than a lead I had to chase.
What a paradigm “Shift”!
This same “Shift” is possible for your company’s sales group. But your company must go through the same journey I just outlined. Your company must realize your buyer has changed dramatically. Your customers’ want to converse with sales when they are ready. Not when your sales group is ready.
So your management and sales group must make significant cultural changes.
First your company must embrace the concept of content marketing/inbound marketing. Your company must now become a publisher of helpful content that demonstrates your expertise to potential buyers.
Although marketing automation is not a necessity, I believe it has critical elements that make content marketing deployed by a marketing automation platform a good long-term business decision.
These changes are mandatory for survival in the industrial market place as outline in Jared Fabac’s book The Industrial (Marketing) Revolution. Probably the most difficult cultural changes will be for your sales group. We all know how difficult it is to change the thinking of a, typically, independent-minded sales person. (I speak from experience!)
Belzer outlines the necessary changes your sales group must make. I can personally testify this stuff is real and must be done to be successful at industrial sales in the future.
If you are involved in industrial sales I would highly encourage you to pick up Belzer’s book, Sales Shift, and study it. Sales folks are highly instinctive and none of the content in Belzer’s book will be an “aaahuh” moment. But reading his book will validate your instincts and give you fresh ideas and a fresh attitude on how to embrace the changes mandated on us all.
For all you Cliff Notes fans here are the four take-aways and the new skills required for industrial sales:
Consultative skills: As Belzer says, we need to go beyond what the customer expects from a sales person. You will need to read and study more and become a “thought leader” for your specific industry. Get creative. You will need to ask probing questions with the goal of getting, “Oh, I had not thought of that”. As I recommended in an earlier post you must start a blog to demonstrate your expertise and authority.
Advisor relationship: Although your prospect comes to the relationship with more knowledge than ever, your people skills are more critical than ever. Folks still gravitate to someone they like and trust. The old Zig Ziglar skills were great, but much of what Zig taught simply will not work today. (Although much of Zig’s foundational concepts are timeless) I recommend you brush up on your people skills by reading the classic How to Win Friend and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
Natural style: Because our prospects are so well prepared no longer do they respond to “What will it take to get this deal done?” or “On a scale of 1-10, 1 meaning you are not interested and 10 meaning you want to give me a check, where are you?” And then “What will it take to get you to a 10?” Not only does the prospect greet you with more product knowledge but also a distaste for slick sales tricks. They want natural people that don’t have any agenda other than a helpful agenda.
Demonstrated integrity & trust: Your prospects can’t get this from a web site or from downloading your e-book. Your prospect needs to trust your company and its products and that begins many times with your sales group. Again, a great way to begin a trusting relationship is a blog that demonstrates your expertise but also includes authentic stories and examples of your own journey and then continues with a face-to-face.
“By Tom Repp”