Despite what the play/film Glengarry Glen Ross may suggest, not all sales happen overnight. And the old adage of “Always Be Closing” falls on deaf ears when you’re dealing with a client who may not be able to buy from you many years down the road. In the transit software industry, one of the reasons for this stall in the sales cycle is due to long pauses between national funding events. This means our sales and marketing teams are forced to re-think their approach when it comes to lead nurturing and engaging with these unique clients.
But as luck would have it, the complex sale provides you with some valuable opportunities. When confronted with the longer sales cycle, you can use this time wisely. And since no sale exists within a bubble, your efforts can reach beyond the single sale and become the backbone of an entire inbound-style marketing strategy.
The key to the inbound method is to provide quality, useful and valuable information to your industry (read prospects). Your potential clients are searching for any information that can help them with their specific problems. And since you are also an expert in the industry, you can help them out. What are the trends in your industry that are of most concern to your prospects? Is there any leading research, papers, studies, that are being conducted that can help your prospects to better manage their business? Can your company be responsible for creating these studies? By keeping your eyes open to useful resources and distributing them to your potential clients, you become a central repository of knowledge.
In the transit software industry, grants and funding sources play a major role in our sales relationship. We have found that it’s vital to help assist with budgeting in order to ensure that the acquisition price is within our prospects’ budget and purchase timeline. By working with clients through the RFP and RFI process, we are able to have more control over our sales plan and the methodology for ensuring that our products are the best fit at the best time. Our job is to help our potential clients as much as possible, making the purchasing process as painless as possible.
Don’t simply assume your leads are the only ones in need of this material. Take advantage of your knowledge and create content for everyone in your industry. Write your own whitepapers, eBooks and blog posts and build your credibility as a thought leader. With regards to the complex sale, you are delivering value, long before a sales discussion. It is this growing relationship that will matter when the time comes. As well, after the sale is complete, you can continue to provide insight into your client’s operation. By working with clients, rather than simply selling them your product, you take on a dynamic role within the success of their operation.
Speaking of success. If you have reference sites that can validate and provide an honest and positive review of your product or company, share that with the world. If you have been nurturing your leads (now clients and advocates) over the past year, reveal the success that you and your partners have found, especially to your clients Remember that they are the hero of their story, not you. This point of view is incredibly valuable when new prospects begin to consider your company as a partner. We have found that video testimonials are very well received by both our clients as well as evidence by the traffic on our website. So we suggest taking advantage of video marketing. As well, be ready to provide client references as well as credible ROI analysis.
It can be an annoying thing to be in the middle of a year-long relationship with a potential client when suddenly your key contact up and quits from the company. Suddenly, all those lead nurturing emails and late night phone calls are rendered useless. This is why it’s important to nurture leads in more than one way. If your sale is going to be complex, then so should your approach. Rather than simply engaging one-on-one with a particular contact, there are ways to begin engaging with the company as a whole. Consider approaching others at your target company to work with you on a mutually beneficial project. This can be a co-created whitepaper that can provide value to the industry as a whole. Perhaps you have an idea for a webinar that can be enhanced by the experience and thought leadership of your target company’s leaders. This is a great opportunity to begin a creative and business relationship that does three important things:
As transit software vendors, it is fairly simple to work within our industry to come up with quality content. Not every industry is as passionate about expressing the relationship between efficient transit service and the need for automated transit software.
We run into our prospective leads at tradeshows featuring transit software and hardware vendors. Maybe you’ll encounter your leads at symposiums, in online chat forums, social media outlets. Perhaps you’ll visit them in person at their site of business. In all these places, you have an opportunity to learn more about the needs of your leads. Rather than simply trying to force your logo, your brand and your product into their line of sight, consider asking them questions instead. Take the time to discover what pain points are the most relevant to their business. Uncover problems that they may be encountering for which you have a solution.
In the end, it’s not about selling, it’s about giving. So what do you have to offer? If you don’t know, find out. Along the way, you’ll find incredibly valuable insight that can be used for incredibly valuable marketing content. So by the time you think you’re at the “Always Be Closing” stage of the sales cycle, you will realize that you have already surpassed it.