Sell BEFORE they go online

by Shannon F.

Informal opinion polls show that the internet is not just a passing phase. Though MySpace, homemade Angelfire websites, and certain derelict forums may be ready for the digital junkyard, the World Wide Web is generally still thriving, and only a few stragglers still believe that customers will find them in the Yellowpages. The availability of products, information, reviews, and comparisons online make it difficult to compete if you’re continuing to sell the way you did ten years ago. That’s why the most adaptable salespeople, instead of fighting the inevitable, learned how to do two things early on: harness online marketing tools and, just as significantly, reach prospects before they go to the internet.

Be the expert they find online.

When was the last time you made a complicated or expensive purchase because a salesperson talked you into it? Chances are, you researched your options extensively before you even went to the store. If you decided in advance that you wanted a Brother MFC-8510DN Laser Multifunction Printer, it’s going to be much harder for a salesperson to convince you that the HP LaserJet Pro 400 M475DN is your best bet. You’re now an educated buyer, because you found out the pros and cons of each product online.

So how can you sell your B2B products and services to today’s educated buyers? For one, you have to provide the information that prospects seek online. If you sell business telephones, for example, you should be blogging about selecting a phone system, the pros and cons of different products, and other frequently asked questions. And if prospects go so far as to search the name of your company, you’ll want them to find a wealth of good stuff about you: active social media accounts, press releases, articles you published, etc. They’re more likely to trust you if you appear to be an expert in your field.

Ideally, you should reach prospects before they go online.

Having a strong internet presence is essential, but you will be able to influence your prospects’ buying decisions most easily if you reach them long before they do an internet search for the product or service that you offer. Today, where the internet is essentially an extension of the brain, your best chance at offline influence will actually come before your customers even know they need your product or service.

But how is that possible? The Harvard Business Review stated that the best time to sell to a company is when they are in a state of flux. In fact, our company was founded on that principle 25 years ago. We’ve identified that when a B2B prospect is expanding, relocating, merging, or even downsizing, they reevaluate their needs and allocate funds for products and services. For example, say a company recently had a staff reduction. Because their accounting department just went from two people to one person, that company may benefit from accounting software that makes it easy for one person to do the job of two. That’s where you come in. Companies that are growing, shrinking, or relocating often have needs that include IT, telecom, furniture, office equipment, and much more, but they often don’t know they need it until you bring it up.

So how do you get in early?

For one, find those companies that are looking for change. That’s what we do. You could also find this information by networking, asking around to find out about local businesses that are moving, or making good old-fashioned cold calls. Once you’ve found a company that is moving, don’t just sell them a solution—if they’re looking for a solution, they probably already went online and found it. Instead, inspire them to grow their business in innovative ways using your company’s products and services. You’ll find that once you’ve had an insightful conversation with a prospect, they’re less likely to check out your competition online.

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