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As any good salesman knows, closing a deal is a delicate art form. There is no difference when it comes to empowering your sales team through using marketing automation—in fact, the rules are even more nuanced and important to follow.

Even though technology has empowered us to know more than ever before about who our customer is and how often and when they’re visiting our website, that does not mean that we should tell our customer everything that we know. In fact, calling up your prospect and saying: “Hi there, I see you’ve just been on our website—four times in fact”, is a sure-fire way to ensure they will never come back again. In other words, while it’s hugely helpful to use marketing automation tools, it’s also pretty important to make it look as though you’re not.

There are several ways to do this. The first is to experiment with finding the right amount of automated outreach to prospects. For example, it’s vital to observe what’s happening once you have prospects who have handed over their email and are on an automated lead nurturing pathway; are they quickly unsubscribing from your updates or mailouts very early in the process? If this is happening more often than not, it’s likely you’re being too heavy-handed. Don’t assume just because someone has given you their email they want to be mailed every day. Automating your marketing doesn’t give you the license to lose the human touch.

As a salesperson, you simply don’t want to annoy people and waste your own time talking to people who aren’t ready to buy. You’d rather talk to people who have already identified they need something, as they’re trying to identify who they want to buy from.

In the world of the web and all the freely available information that is there, it is not at all unusual for your prospects to be over 50%, and often as much as 60% to 70%, of their way through the sales journey before they even want to talk to someone in sales. Marketing automation will help you to find these people, and if carefully managed, this type of technology can save you precious sales resources, allowing a smaller number of skilled salespeople to deal with a larger pool of ‘well-nurtured’ prospects.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting you have fewer salespeople, just next time that you are looking to hire another, just make sure that you are giving your existing team all of the sales lead generation and lead nurturing support that they need. In my world, really good salespeople are an incredibly vital part of the business - so use them to engage with the highest quality prospects that you can provide - and marketing automation software will undertake many of the more menial yet important tasks in the sales process, e.g. keeping in touch with those who are not yet ready to buy - nurturing, and alerting the sales team when a dormant prospect re-engages with your website.

The concept behind inbound marketing highlights that your approach to an unqualified or semi-qualified prospect, must be to provide education and advice as the means to engage with and nurture your lead. Once you do get a prospect who is far enough through their journey that it’s appropriate to speak to them, it is wise to finesse the way that you engage with them.

An approach that says: “Can I come to see you?” once you get them on the phone is liable to be received as; “Can I come to sell to you?”. Best practice suggests an educational approach, one that includes content that will help them to qualify themselves as ‘in’ or ‘out’. Once that person has qualified themselves, there is a very strong need for a salesperson to engage and coach them through the rest of the journey, particularly if you’re selling a product or service that’s not one size fits all. Consider that you are a consultant, you have great expertise in providing solutions to people’s problems that they have, so let your prospect know that you are a consultant, someone who wants to help them to solve their problems. Then work on educating them so they understand what they are buying and why you are the right company to provide that solution for them.   

The truth is, though some salesmen may get a ‘bad rap’, we all like, and often need, to be sold to at the right time. You waste your sales resource when it engages with prospects too early in the cycle. The trick is to use these marketing automation tools to flag to your sales team that a prospect is primed and ready to be sold to. Then let them do it delicately and diligently to finish the job.

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