I’m fortunate enough to participate in a weekly web conference with the Inbound Networkers Group. This group is managed by the Rainmakermaker himself, Rick Roberge. The tagline for Rick’s blog is “Selling in the 21st Century” and that’s what this article is about. There’s a reason I try to make sure not to miss our Thursday calls – I get something new and useful out of every call.
Last Thursday, we spent a fair amount of time talking about the online-offline continuum within the context of selling. Most, if not all, of the group are HubSpot customers and are firm believers in the power of inbound marketing. I became a convert because I realized that inbound marketing syncs my selling process with the way people and organizations buy in the 21st century.
Which brings me to the point of this article. We all are getting leads using inbound marketing, but we all understand the ultimate success of our businesses depends upon our ability to successfully nurture a relationship that begins online into one that exists in the “real” world. Unless you’re selling a product or commodity using eCommerce, people still buy from people. To take that one step further, people buy from people they like and trust.
So here are some ideas for creating real relationships from virtual ones:
- Find someone who your prospect knows and respects and get an introduction. Rick is probably the best networker that I’ve ever met – he believes in the concept of karma and shares his network with his friends. That’s essentially the raison d’etre of the Inbound Networkers Group. Getting an introduction from a trusted friend is the best form of social proof available.
- Learn about your prospect’s needs and desires before you try to take the relationship offline. There are numerous resources available to find out basic information about your prospect – LinkedIn and Google are two quick ones that come to mind. Try to take it one step further; find someone that knows your prospect and give her a call. See if you can find out something that’s not available on LinkedIn.
- Don’t make it all about you! Guess what – nobody cares. Find a way to help solve a problem your prospect is facing and offer assistance without any expectations or requirements for a payback. You might help your prospect by offering a framework to analyze options to solve a problem. If you offer options that don’t include your solution, you demonstrate that you have the prospect’s best interests at heart. Most people like options.
- Pick up the phone! Many of us (myself included) rely too much on email. Email is a great communications tool, but it lacks the immediate feedback you get from a live conversation. When you pick up the phone, be respectful of your prospect. Have a brief statement prepared that explains why you’re calling and the benefits of the prospect speaking with you. Here’s an example: “Hi, Joe, Rick Roberge suggested I give you a call about the new iPhone app you’re developing. He thought it might be useful for us to kick around a few ideas on how to sell your app using your website and social media. Is now a good time to talk?”
As we were discussing the online to offline relationship development, Rick offered a perspective that I hadn’t thought of. What about the executive decision-maker who has had a long, successful career based on a totally offline style? How do you educate that executive on the benefits of online relationships and selling? In that situation, the key word is educate. Without being pedantic, you need to demonstrate the value of online relationships in the 21st century selling paradigm. In many instances, taking that relationship online is just as important as taking the online relationships offline.
If you’d like to learn more about the online-offline sales continuum, another good resource is the Collaborative Growth Network, run by HubSpot’s Pete Caputa. In the interest of proper attribution, many of the ideas discussed above were offered and fleshed out by my Inbound Networkers Group colleagues including Rick Roberge, Matt Roberge, Dale Berkebile, Carole Mahoney, Michael Mills and Don Battis (forgive me if I forgot someone.) If you’re interested in joining the group, please let us know. I personally find the weekly teleconferences invaluable.
And please – let us know your thoughts on taking online relationships offline and vice-versa.