A trend is happening in sales, where the power is moving from seller to buyer. It's called the invisible sale. Buyers self-educate online, and they make their key purchasing decisions before sales teams even know those buyers are shopping.
Unfortunately, even though the buyers' process has evolved, your approach to selling to them probably hasn't. The key to winning these sales is to also evolve. You must change your strategy to match your buyers' process.
Outbound vs. Inbound Marketing
In 2009 (after 15 years in sales and marketing) I made a major business decision: I decided to de-emphasize my traditional, cold-call and outbound email marketing efforts. Instead, I made a shift to focusing on content marketing.
I became a guy who was known for knowledge. By strategically aligning my marketing efforts across search engines, social media, third-party websites, speaking engagements at conferences, and traditional word of mouth, I created a Painless Prospecting System.
It altered my career forever.
To help you understand how this system can work for you and/or your company, let's examine one case, where a single tweet landed me an international speaking gig in Malaysia.
The Tweet That Rewrote My Career
In January 2010, I had just finished a speaking engagement then sat down to catch up on social media. In my Twitter notifications, I spotted something unusual.
This tweet came from a complete stranger named Brad:
@TomMartin That's two recommendations for you. Let's talk! Shoot me a DM, international speaking opportunity for you.— Brad J Ward (@bradjward) January 20, 2010
I had no idea who this person was, how he'd found me, or who had recommended me to him. And yet, here he was offering me an international speaking engagement—a bucket list dream of mine.
I looked back through his tweets and found more information. If the previous tweet rewrote the story of my career, this one was the prologue:
Taking suggestions on speakers who talk about corporate SM strategy for an international workshop in April. @reply me your suggestions & RT!— Brad J Ward (@bradjward) January 20, 2010
The Key Is Content
How did that happen? How did I get from a strategy change in 2009 to an international workshop in 2010? It's simple—through the publications and distribution of helpful, relevant content.
Brad didn't reach out to me simply because he received two recommendations from mutual followers of ours. Their suggestions were just the beginning. They set him on a path to discover my business. From their mention of my handle, he looked at my Twitter bio, which directed him to my blog. On my blog, he found years of writing—literally hundreds of posts about my approach to marketing, my theories and ideas, and who I am as a professional. He also found video samples of previous speaking engagements.
Only after interacting with all the content I had made available online was he hooked. The content ultimately sold my services to Brad.
So, while I was on stage speaking somewhere else in the country, Brad was sifting through years of my work. I didn't even know he was in the market for a speaker, and he had already decided to send me to Malaysia.
My focus on creating a Web presence with an inbound emphasis on content and social landed me an invisible sale I knew nothing about.
Sharing Content Today Creates Sales Tomorrow
Though two tweets made the sale for me without me doing any work that morning, I had put together quite a bit of work leading up to that moment. Between 2009 and 2010, I nearly ditched outbound in favor of a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and my own blog. I built my reputation. A reputation that preceded me.
The inbound approach, not the outbound, caters to today's invisible buyers. You see, all that free information in my digital content archive finds its way to the eyes and ears of self-educating buyers. This information helps them form an opinion of me that is just as strong and personal as if they met me directly.
You can't win if you don't play. If you don't play in the digital field, you'll never catch the invisible sales.
Ditch cold calls. Create content instead.
And note that Google favors (and doesn't forget) old content. Putting in the effort to create rich, useful content today means you'll generate leads tomorrow, and for many tomorrows after. While you're out doing other things—say, speaking at a business forum—invisible buyers will be using your content to make invisible sales. And who knows? You might just get to check an item off your bucket list in the process.
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