May 07 2018
There was a time not so long ago when the absolute best marketing a company could employ was B2B sales outreach. Back then, a determined sales team could cold-call hundreds of leads, deliver a well-crafted pitch, and close more than enough deals to make the company profitable. Throw in some client appreciation retreats and liquor lunches, and word of mouth would do the rest.
Those days are gone.
For starters, the B2B sales professional who can successfully make cold calls is a dying breed. If you have a person like that on your team, hang on to them! Those skills are still critical. But the sad fact is that cold calls have fallen out of favor with customers. These days there are dozens of ways to avoid cold callers, and most salespeople don’t like to do it anyhow – so consequently they aren’t very good at it.
The “one-size-fits-all” sales pitch is also a thing of the past. Broad positioning statements and boastful feature-benefit presentations have been replaced with tailor-made account-based sales techniques and inbound lead nurturing that aligns the value of your product with the specific needs of each customer – usually without the assistance of a salesperson in any way.
For business owners in industries who for decades have relied on traditional sales methods, the new age of B2B sales is frustrating at best. Given that each year approximately 50% of all B2B sales teams miss their quotas, it’s high time that companies take a new look at how marketing can help companies close more deals.
Why People Hate Marketing
If you ask the owner of a small to mid-sized business (SMB) what they like most about marketing, you’ll probably get a sarcastic answer to the effect of, “Nothing”.
If you probe the answer deeper you’ll discover that most business owners don’t understand modern (aka digital) marketing. They don’t trust it, and they don’t like dedicating so much budget to a strategy that isn’t yet proven. They’ve bought into the lie that marketing doesn’t work and is really just a non-billable waste of time.
We can’t completely blame the business owner for this deep cynicism. Many marketing teams struggle to demonstrate ROI or clearly illustrate how their efforts lead to conversions – or even assist the company’s goals. This is due, in part, to a breakdown in communication during the strategic phases for setting goals and defining success.
There are also disconnects between the sales team and marketing team whereby each is operating in a silo rather than providing the necessary feedback loop to optimize campaigns. It’s always been our belief that you should tear down these walls if you want to experience greater success throughout the company.
Finally, to bring it back to the budget, marketing is like most complex systems. It requires an upfront investment to set up a successful strategy. You can’t reasonably expect to generate millions of dollar in revenue if you take too lean of a marketing approach. The initial time investment and setup costs alone are sometimes more than a business owner will stomach. But wait, there’s more!
There are maintenance costs – for when steps in the process don’t work as planned or experience setbacks beyond anyone’s control. There are additional costs – for when you suddenly decide to start a new campaign that wasn’t part of the original plan. There are costs to recreate the entire strategy if/when your team decides to go in a completely new strategic direction. Business owners already experience enough “nickel and dime” pressures thanks to taxes, fees, permitting, labor costs, and overhead. However, no one likes to spend additional money on something they already don’t understand or trust.
What Sales Wants From Marketing
So, what can marketing do to help the sales team?
If the question is left up to business owners the answer would be more conversions, bigger deals, smaller budgets, and less competition. Not surprisingly, salespeople answer the question differently. They want:
- More qualified leads
- Better messaging
- Stronger marketing materials and collateral
- More case studies and content
- Greater representation at industry events
These are completely understandable. Salespeople want to spend their time with prospects who are actually prepared to buy, instead of spinning their wheels with people who give false promises or disappear shortly after a proposal.
They also want help discussing the features and benefits of their products, specially tailored to each account. That “discussion” involves a significant amount of storytelling about the company’s brand, successes, and subject matter expertise. If you remember, salespeople are not engineers (or scientists, architects, technicians, etc). But they desperately want to sound like one in order to effortlessly move the sales process forward.
What Sales Also Needs From Marketing
Let’s start with some painful stats:
Only 3% of buyers think salespeople are trustworthy. Ouch. We can thank the bad rap on decades of bad salespeople, scammers, and negative portrayals in movies. Unfortunately, no matter how polished the approach it’s not enough to just have “better messaging”, “more collateral” and “greater representation”.
57% of buyers are less dependent on sales people. Thanks to the internet all of the information is (or should) be freely available to educate the buyer as they move through the awareness and discovery phases. Buyers want to educate themselves before they speak with a salesperson. As the numbers show, this is because they feel too often that salespeople only talk about things that pertain to the sale versus the things that matter to the buyer. As a result, 60% of buyers prefer to speak to a salesperson during the consideration phase, whereas another 20% prefer to wait until they’re ready to make a decision.
72% of companies with less than 50 deals a month did not achieve their revenue objectives. Let that sink in for a moment If you’re the owner of a B2B SMB. “We need more leads” makes a ton of sense.
Sales teams need a greater volume of educated and informed buyers who trust the company BEFORE they ever speak to a salesperson. You won’t get that from the traditional B2B sales model. Only marketing can do that.
Setting up demand generation methods across a variety of marketing platforms allows a company to funnel buyers to various content sources and guide them through the awareness and discovery phase. Along the way they can choose if and when to contact the company to “learn more” or “register now”, but bringing the buyer back into the funnel during consideration is where the most opportunities for salespeople occur. Once the buyer initiates the sales process, salespeople can THEN use all of the great messaging and marketing materials to guide the buyer through to close.
Learn To Love Marketing
Marketing costs money. Marketing takes time. Marketing requires communication and involvement from stakeholders and the sales team. It is what it is. But if you approach the process with the clear intent of giving your sales team the advantage to close more prequalified deals then the benefits of marketing are obvious. The ROI is less about B2B sales directly attributed to marketing and more about empowering companies to efficiently close more deals.
Divining Point is a marketing agency that enables companies to take control of their brand and build greater demand for their products and services. If your company is struggling to tell its story and lure buyers to the table, then call us today.
Dec 18 2017
If your company provides physical objects for money, you sell products.
If your company performs activities for money, you sell a service.
Makes sense, right?
But, these days the line between products and services is blurry. Product retailers often promote a buying experience and invisible benefits. Services companies showcase their skills and solutions. In a competitive market, both types of companies sell quality, performance, service and expertise.
Before we start marketing “intangibles,” let’s define them.
A sale of a physical object with no further client-vendor contact = Tangible.
Long-term client-vendor relationships to perform high-value services = Intangible.
When you buy a bike, you leave the store with a tangible product that has intangible benefits, like a mode of transportation. Unless there’s a problem with the bike, you probably won’t contact the seller again. If you love owning the bike and had a good buying experience, you might return to the same store to buy another one.
If you hire a software developer, you’re paying for an intangible. Their skills produce a valuable product, but you can’t touch or hold it. Initially, they will share their knowledge and experience to build trust. They will offer guidance as you scope out your project. They will complete the project and provide ongoing support. Above all, your relationship with the developer provides the most value.
Cost is another way to define “tangibles” and “intangibles.”
If you sell something pricey, or with a lengthy sales cycle, intangible perks can help convince a buyer to say yes and stick with you. For example, as a car salesman, converting Hyundai buyers to Mercedes buyers would be a boon for your business. But, people buy Hyundais for their good gas mileage and low cost. To sell a Mercedes instead, you would promote luxury, status and a premium buying experience – all intangible benefits.
What makes the marketing of intangibles unique?
Marketing’s purpose is to attract attention, build demand, and lead buyers into the sales funnel.
You can touch, see, and try a tangible product before buying. And a low sales price requires less effort to attract buyers. There are many companies who sell tangible products without salespeople or follow-up buyer support. Marketing for tangibles revolves around efficiency, speed, competitive pricing, and easy buying.
For example, a Mexican food restaurant may receive rave reviews for its service, but at the end of the day, it specializes in selling plates of enchiladas at a competitive price in a comfortable setting that promotes a limited dining experience.
Intangibles don’t work that way.
Intangibles are characterized by being highly experiential, tailored to the client’s needs (or scope) and sensitive to emotion. Your customer chose your firm based on reputation, brand, service, and unique value. Your customers might not even understand what you do, but they’re buying peace of mind. This happens all the time in insurance, custom home building, engineering, and more, where the seller offers intangible hard skills and a relatable promise to improve the buyer’s life.
Beyond Services Marketing
What should you remember after reading this? What’s the main takeaway?
Intangibles are more than just services.
Intangibles are high worth products, software, professional skills, trades, engineering expertise, performers, and so much more. A company selling intangibles must tell a compelling story to attract a buyer. They need a sales process – usually with real live salespeople – to build trust and close the deal.
The answer to marketing intangibles involves knowing your customer and understanding that they don’t buy things, they buy solutions. To properly market your intangible, start by establishing who you are, what you offer and why you’re different. Match your intangible to your customer’s needs, deliver an excellent buying experience and continually reinforce the value of your service.
Want to move forward with your business? Let’s talk.
Dec 04 2017
If you’ve been following along in this blog series, you’ve probably read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, where we talked about the old B2B Buyer’s Journey, the new B2B Buyer’s Journey and why – and how – to align your sales and marketing teams.
In the world of Services, or for companies who provide service long after the sale, the Buyer’s Journey is never done. Keeping a lifelong client requires multiple layers of marketing and relationship nurturing to extend the sales process. In Part 4, we’ll cover B2B customer retention and how you can close the buying loop and keep your customers forever.
Let’s say you’ve successfully joined your sales and marketing teams and are ushering in new customers. Great! But now you want to know how to keep these new clients you’ve worked so hard to convert. You’re not alone in pursuing this goal. In a recent survey of B2B CMOs, 87% of them said that customer retention was their #1 strategic focus for 2017 – beating out revenue growth.
But why is retention so important? Couldn’t you just deploy your sales team to go out and find new buyers? Well, you could. But we’re all about working smarter, not harder. In the long run, client retention ends up being a cost-efficient way to grow your business. According to Hubspot results, it costs about 5 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to generate new business from an existing customer. And a customer loyalty survey from Loyalty360, showed that three-quarters of respondents reported that 20% of their new sales come from current customers.
To help you strengthen your customer retention, we’ve pulled together some best practices.
The best time to build customer loyalty is at the beginning of your engagement when the customer is excited about your offering and the solution for their pain you’ve promised to provide. If they’ve just signed a contract for your services or subscribed to your software, don’t leave them hanging and assume they’ll figure it all out. Now is the time to bring them closer to you.
Demonstrate your value after the sale with consistent and meaningful communication. Send them welcome emails with info on the next steps in the process. Call them to answer questions and check in with their level of satisfaction. Send helpful documents or share how-to video links. It’s during this “honeymoon” phase that you can make the biggest impact on the relationship that follows. Your marketing team should have content ready to support these “touches”, and your sales team should be ready to guide the client through the initial phases of the engagement.
2. Educate with content
Instead of overwhelming your customer with educational material at the beginning, break it up into chunks and deliver it on a semi-regular frequency that coincides with where the customer should be in their experience of your service. Create content that showcases the newest features of your software. Host a webinar to provide more insight into your industry. Publish use-cases showing how your professional service has helped other similar clients. By sharing content that helps them maximize their investment, you’ll prove that you’re a company focused on their success.
Consistent communication is one of the most important aspects of customer retention, but can also be tricky to implement. In a B2B transaction you’re not communicating with a single-buyer, but a whole group of people with different needs and questions. So, remember to stay in touch with stakeholders, leaders, and other employees who will have sway over a future decision to renew a contract.
A good way to keep the communication flowing is to provide multiple channels for discussion and feedback. Include a phone number in your email signature and then be responsive when they call. Send a weekly update/check-in email to report on project progress or answer questions. Create customer satisfaction surveys to gather thoughts and complaints. Maintain social media accounts and quickly respond to any interactions.
4. Listen and act
There’s a popular stat that says, “for every complaint you receive, there are 26 other customers who had the same experience, but just didn’t say anything.” Don’t let this happen to you. Be proactive in asking customers about their experience. Listen to their responses and then take action to ensure future customers don’t have a similar experience.
If you’re an engineer offering consulting services and frequently receive phone calls from clients who are frustrated by a lack of progress reports, do something about it! Listen to their complaints to discover what it is they want to know from the reports and why. Maybe they don’t want to know all of the technical project details but instead merely want someone to keep them abreast of any developments or roadblocks. They just want to feel involved in the process.
5. Grow Respectfully
Repeat customers should be your biggest advocates. They provide the bulk of your testimonials and references, which are critical for service-minded companies. Yet, growing these clients can be a tricky road to walk. In some cases, these clients benefit from legacy pricing or outdated services offerings that are no longer manageable or profitable for your company.
Approach pricing conversations with transparent and appreciative tones. These are your best clients, so highlight that you’re grateful for their business. While speaking of the high points of your relationship you must also explain how the pricing or services they received before are no longer applicable given today’s business environment. Offer to ease them into a new agreement that still offers them favorable pricing but also brings them in line with your new business model. Ordinarily, your clients will understand the value you bring to them and the importance of staying in business. They’re business people, too.
In those cases when you do lose a client, don’t fret. You’ve still got a hand in the game. According to the book Customer Winback: How to Recapture Lost Customers – And Keep Them Loyal, you have a 20-40% chance of winning back a former customer just by trying. Your odds are better at rekindling a relationship than at selling to a new customer, where you’ve only got a 5-20% chance.
At the end of the day, however, your pipeline should be full of new customers to replace those that leave. If your brand is sound and your marketing is in place, you will establish new relationships that evolve into strong repeat clients.
Use your time and money smartly. Instead of reinventing the sales wheel, keep it rolling with smart customer retention. After closing a deal, stay invested in the relationship and start building customer loyalty through onboarding, educational content, communication, responsiveness, and incentives.
This last step in the B2B Buyer’s Journey is critical. To keep the sales cycle running like a well-oiled machine, continuously review all aspects of your company. Refine and improve your intangible offering. Hire helpful and smart front-line team members. Engage and support buyers through the whole journey. This holistic approach to the B2B Buyer’s Journey will ensure that customers come back, again and again.
Want to move forward with your business? Let’s talk.
Nov 22 2017
Sales and Marketing are One Team
In Part 1 of our B2B Buyer’s Journey blog, we covered the traditional, and outdated, journey that looks like Awareness->Consideration->Decision. We proposed that today’s informed buyers don’t always go through the sales funnel in order.
In Part 2 we presented a new B2B Buyer’s Journey with stages fitting of a buyer who has done online research and will respond to engagement and education in a journey that resembles Discover, Explore, Buy, Ask, Use and Engage.
In this blog we ask, how should sales and marketing teams respond to the new, fluid, B2B Buyer’s Journey? The answer is to join forces.
Why Bring Them Together?
Sure, it’s great when team members work together, but why should they? Marketing and sales teams frequently act as independent silos (see our blog on this), with the marketing team working to produce leads for sales and ending the relationship there, and sales standing by waiting for qualified leads without giving marketing any guidance or feedback.
Combining these two groups might seem pointless. Why fix it if it ain’t broke?
Today’s sales teams need content and tools to guide their conversations with prospects. This material turns sales reps into subject matter experts and gives them an edge over the inaccurate and outdated information that turns up in a prospect’s independent search results. As such, the reliance on marketing has never been greater.
For the marketing team, their efforts culminate in conversions. But in the world of intangibles and professional services, that conversion is hard to measure.
A lead may fall into the funnel and land in the lap of a salesperson who is neither prepared nor informed enough to manage the inquiries of the prospect. All of the best marketing campaigns are meaningless if the person guiding the sales process can’t close the deal.
Additionally, if marketing isn’t getting real feedback from the sales team, their perspectives on the market will be skewed. Buyer personas, customer pain points, trends in the market; all of this rich information comes directly from the sales team in the trenches.
Without a cohesive team, the cycle of sales and marketing is busted. It will be evident in the company’s performance and, more importantly, in sagging customer loyalty.
“There is no question that, when Sales and Marketing work well together, companies see substantial improvement on important performance metrics: Sales cycles are shorter, market-entry costs go down, and the cost of sales is lower.” July-August 2006 Harvard Business Review
How to Combine Sales and Marketing?
For marketing and sales to align, both parties have to agree on goals.
This seems fairly obvious. Beyond just focusing on revenue, marketing targets and sales quotas must meld together. The new joint team should ask themselves these questions (in order) to gain a greater collaborative vision:
- What is our company’s revenue goal?
- What is our average deal size? Aka, how much are we currently earning per customer?
- How many customers must we reach in order to achieve our revenue goals? Divide revenue goal by average deal size.
- How many of our leads convert to customers?
- How many leads do we need to reach revenue goals?
Ideal Leads, Defined by Both Teams
The sales and marketing team must also work together to define an ideal lead. The sales team’s experience will be the most valuable resource in defining the ideal lead, because they typically have the highest level of interaction with prospects. They engage leads directly and thus understand the buyer’s pain-points, concerns, and questions.
Marketing’s role in defining the ideal lead can be as a data resource. Using information collected during the sales cycle, marketing can identify certain traits in leads that have historically led to conversion. For example, marketing’s data insight might reveal that a high percentage of conversions start from a prospect seeing a Facebook ad targeted at women, aged 30-40, living in Florida and married with children. Sharing this type of lead information can help the sales team decide which days/times would be best to send an email and what kind of content they need to convert the lead.
With both teams focused on shared goals, the next step is to analyze and score the leads. Evaluating a lead based on fit and interest can help determine their stage in the buying journey. If the lead needs an offering (fit), but isn’t interested, marketing can ramp up nurturing efforts. If the lead both needs (fit) and wants (interest) the offering, sales can quickly deliver a conversion. Each step in the buyer’s journey can trigger specific actions by sales and marketing that continue to bring the buyer closer to the final conversion.
The communication within the joint team can produce better coordination and a far more sophisticated understanding about the ideal lead. Ultimately, ideal leads, or at least better-qualified leads, will reduce the amount of time the sales team spends courting prospects who aren’t ready to buy or have no interest whatsoever.
“B2B sales and marketing teams need to prepare their reps to have high-value conversations with prospects. This includes tailoring collateral and content to meet the needs of new buyers, so that sales reps are providing answers to the questions buyers are asking at each stage of the buying cycle. ”
– Kurt Andersen (@SAVO_Group)
What To Do To Unify
Hopefully by now you’re a believer, and you’re ready to break down the silos of sales and marketing. Embrace the “we are one,” mentality. However, before you send a company-wide email announcing the new “Salarketing Team,” consider some facts.
A survey by Demand Gen found that the three biggest obstacles to sales and marketing alignment were: Communication (49%), broken and/or flawed processes (42%) and working towards different metrics (40%).
Here are some tips for improving communication and operations:
- Embrace Closed Loop Reporting
Marketing shares data/info (such as lead background information) with sales, and sales reports back on the effectiveness of marketing content. “Closing the loop,” means that sales shares with marketing which leads converted, thus helping marketing determine their best (or possibly worst) lead sources. Sales managers must develop accountability processes that keep their sales team engaged in the process.
- Develop a Sales and Marketing Service Level Agreement
Sales and Marketing can create a document that defines what each team will do to help each other. Much like the service level agreement you sign with your clients, the Sales and Marketing SLA is a series of activities and obligations the new joint team carries out in order to respond quickly to daily sales and marketing actions.
- Establish a Communication Space
Move the sales and marketing teams next to each other in the office. Make it easy for them to bounce ideas off each other and quickly share info. In general, the cultures of sales and marketing are not that dissimilar. Both are known for free-spirited demeanors and “work hard, play hard” attitudes.
To better facilitate insight, launch an online dashboard or other tracking system that provides data on leads, results of marketing campaign, sales analytics, etc…anything to keep the communication transparent and flowing.
- Share Success
When sales teams hit their goals, they usually enjoy rewards and accolades. Does marketing? In the new joint team, victory should be celebrated both individually (because salespeople love their trophies!) and together as a team who fought the war together. Marketing may not be as individually competitive as salespeople, but they still experience the “high” of crushing company goals.
In summary, combining your sales and marketing teams won’t be an effortless challenge, but you’ll reap the rewards through better lead engagement and, in turn, higher revenue. In our next blog, B2B Buyer’s Journey: Part 4, we’ll bust the “One And Done” attitude and study the value of nurturing an ongoing buyer-seller relationship. The Art Of Service is in the long lasting relationship, not quick and dirty transactions.
Want to move forward with your business? Let’s talk.
Nov 15 2017
The New B2B Buyer’s Journey
In our last blog, we explored the traditional B2B Buyer’s Journey – Awareness, Consideration, Decision – and argued that it was time for an update. We propose a new B2B Buyer’s Journey that is more fluid with the buyer having the majority control of the journey. Buyers can now decide if – and how – they move through the process, and when and where they get their information.
Gartner’s Hank Barnes had this to say about the new B2B Buyer’s Journey:
“The traditional model is we build awareness, and then, we drive interest, and then that creates desire, and finally, that leads to action. That’s been the traditional model of marketing and sales approaches in technology for a long, long time.
That’s really not what’s going on on the buyer’s side – and it’s particularly not what’s going on given how the availability of information via the web and social networks has changed. What we see is a buying process that’s much more fluid, and there’s a lot of complexity…
We don’t compartmentalize. While I’m exploring, I’m also evaluating. In many cases in technology, earlier in the buying process, I may be engaging with providers to learn about new ways to do things. We see these as streams that ebb and flow throughout the buying process.”
This shift in power means that the seller’s marketing team is now much more involved in the lead-to-revenue cycle. Instead of just focusing on getting leads in the door, they now have to produce content that drives awareness, answers questions, provides support, and delights and retains.
Instead of assigning a stage to the buyer, the new B2B journey should focus on answering: Who? Why? When? What? Where?
Who? As we mentioned above, B2B purchase decisions are made by teams. The new B2B Buyer’s Journey should consider the customer not as an individual, but as a group of individuals with different needs and desired outcomes from the transaction. A CEO might want the product/service for a reason completely different than a Project Manager, but both people could be involved in the final decision.
Why? When thinking about the buyer, it’s best to determine why they’re interested in your company. What pain-point does your company offer to resolve? How do you compare to competitors in your field? What unique value do you offer to the buyer’s company?
When? Meet the buyer at their stage in the buying process. What questions does the buyer currently have? Are they just doing some comparison research? Or, have they decided to hire you, but are just evaluating which services they need? Have they already purchased your software, but aren’t sure if they want to subscribe for another year? By understanding their motivations you can then provide answers to help move them along in the buying process.
What? What can you do to support the buyer’s decision? Do they want regular how-to emails? A downloadable ebook with case studies about your service or product? The buyer’s role should also be considered when deciding what content to deliver. A CEO may want a printed proposal with examples of previous projects, whereas a marketer may want a photo-heavy case study.
Where? And, finally, think about where your buyer discovers information about your company. Did they meet your Business Development team at professional events? Are they following your social media profiles? Tailor your content offering to match the buyer’s stage, location and role.
Asking the 5 W’s above results in a B2B Buyer’s Journey that’s more fitting for today’s environment. Forrester Research suggests that an updated version of the journey would include 6 stages: Discover, Explore, Buy, Ask, Use, Engage, where the journey is always in flux and the buyer is getting information from different sources during all stages.
The chart below shows how the different stages of the new B2B Buyer’s Journey interact. Each of the 6 rings (Discover, Explore, etc.) represents a stage, but the buyer does not necessarily pass through them in order or in a vacuum. For example:
During the Discover stage, the buyer may be doing research on a mobile device and the web, while also browsing print material and social media.
Listening to peers and sales people – they’re also processing input from many sources and discovering information on their own terms.
From the Discover stage, the buyer may jump to the Explore stage and start doing in-depth research on the seller’s company website or at events, among other channels.
It’s even possible that the buyer may altogether bypass any further research/evaluation and move straight from the Discover stage to making a buying decision and becoming an advocate.
There’s no one predetermined journey for today’s B2B buyer; each will have a unique timeline, budget and desired outcome. The best thing for a seller to do is to keep their marketing content up-to-date and to support the new journey in a nimble fashion.
As a seller, it’s crucial to accept that the B2B Buyer’s Journey has changed and resulted in the buyer having more power in the buying process. This is a good thing. Sellers may feel powerless in this new era of B2B sales, however, a cohesive marketing strategy that understands the new buying process can help you determine how to successfully engage buyers. Stay tuned for B2B Buyer’s Journey, Part 3, where we’ll discuss how your marketing and sales team can work together.
Want to move forward with your business? Let’s talk.
Nov 02 2017
The Traditional B2B Buyer’s Journey
Modern-day Business-to-Business (B2B) buyers are better-informed and more-capable than ever before. Thanks to the internet and online research, B2B buyers are no longer dependent on sellers to provide information or to help them evaluate products. In fact, 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer even reaches out to a sales person [Forrester].
What does this mean for the seller? It means that the traditional B2B Buyer’s Journey – Awareness, Consideration, Decision – is no longer relevant and that a new B2B Buyer’s Journey needs to be embraced. The traditional B2B Buyer’s Journey had the right goal, which was engagement, but the approach was wrong. It was too simplistic and suggested that B2B buyers operated in a vacuum and were only going through one buying process at a time.
A leading apartment developer might see a Facebook ad for a local civil engineering firm and be prompted to contact the firm to ask some questions about an upcoming project.
Assuming the apartment developer had already been through the awareness stage (Facebook ad) and the consideration stage (phone call to get answers), the civil engineering firm would start trying to push the decision stage by having their sales team send emails to the apartment developers with project quotes and deadlines for taking advantage of their proposal.
However, what the civil firm doesn’t know is that the developer is still in the budget planning phases of the project and working with an internal team to consider their engineering needs, while also managing the buying process of professional services for other development projects. The buyer doesn’t want quotes, they want an informational resource to help them evaluate options.
Phone calls from an engineering sales team and aggressive emails to close a deal would be invasive and not considerate of the buyer’s stage, which may be fluctuating between awareness and consideration, as the buyer does more online research and asks the engineering firm more questions.
Like the apartment developer example above, most B2B buyers don’t act independently when it comes to making a purchasing decision. The traditional B2B Buyer’s Journey implied that a salesperson could work solely with one B2B buyer to complete the transaction. In reality, a buying team is usually involved in the process, and it’s not an easy one. A “decision” typically requires multiple stakeholders to have all of their questions answered and for purchases to be approved on different levels.
Even if the seller has a great product that matches the buyer’s needs, patience may be required as no amount of sales content can speed up a buying team’s process. In the meantime, the seller’s marketing team can champion initiatives to support the buyer: create valuable/informative content (FAQs library, how-to guides, etc.) and make it easily accessible, host a free Intro webinar, develop a detailed post-sale customer support policy, etc…anything to help the buying team feel confident in their choice of working with you or purchasing your product.
How can sellers better plan for the B2B buying transaction? The new, updated, B2B journey takes into account the buyer’s knowledge and the fact that they’re more in control of the process. Stay tuned for our next blog – B2B Buyer’s Journey, Part 2 – where we’ll talk about a journey more fitting for today’s digital environment.
Want to move your business forward? Let’s talk.
Mar 15 2017
Tell me if this sounds familiar:
The sales department is frustrated because the leads coming in are unqualified and unprepared to pay the rates set out by upper management. This in turn affects their ability to hit their sales goals. They blame the marketing department for not listening to their feedback about the services and products qualified clients are buying. Even worse, when the sales team closes a deal, marketing tries to take some of the credit.
The marketing department is frustrated because they are building demand for the services and products defined as top objectives by upper management. They blame the sales department for not converting more of these primed opportunities that come through the funnel. Even worse, when the sales team closes a deal, marketing gets none of the credit. Even upper management questions their value.
See the problem? A disconnect is causing significant friction and a toxic environment.
Upper management is handing down goals, objectives, and rates that appear removed from facts on the ground.
Sales sees Marketing as disconnected from the reality of the marketplace.
Marketing sees Sales as inept and unable to close qualified opportunities.
In this example there is no cohesive set of guidelines or principles guiding the various teams in the organization. Moving forward is like herding cats. Everyone is running in different directions. The consequences of this dynamic are obvious.
Sluggish sales performance occurs in key service and product areas that results in missed revenue targets
The company experiences turnover from frustrated and unsatisfied team members
Company culture deteriorates and begins to affect other areas of the organization
Even the brand itself starts to lose equity with customers
How On Earth Did We Get Here?
There are countless reasons why an organization dissolves into tribalism and internal competition, but the process of disintegration happens so slowly that most teams don’t recognize the breakdown happening around them. Teams fracture and drift apart into independent silos free from distractions from the other departments.
You may recognize many of the attitudes that occur inside the silos.
- “This is the way we’ve always done it!”
- “I don’t trust .”
- “I don’t want anyone messing with my . I’ve worked hard to get things running smoothly!”
- “What if we miss our goals?”
- “They have no idea what they’re talking about.”
Once an organization loses touch with one another it takes a seismic change to bring the various components back into (buzzword alert!) synergy.
Get the Band Back Together
Say the word “synergy” in a room full of your best employees and watch their eyes roll back in their heads. The mere thought of cohesive communication conjures up images of fruitless meetings, memos, and inaction; and for good reason. The old “Death By 1000 Meetings” phenomenon can be just as unproductive as internal tribalism. Or worse, companies talk a good game about bringing teams together, but then no one really follows through. Within a couple months things return to how they were before.
It doesn’t have to be that difficult, and it doesn’t have to devolve into feigned kumbaya team building. Start by reexamining the company’s brand strategy. What are the company’s values, mission, and overall plan for connecting with clients? Explore these together as a cohesive team. Encourage each member of sales and marketing to consider how their current activities propel the company forward towards revenue goals, or conversely how their silos hold the company back.
Establish channels of communication and strategies that allow sales and marketing to give valuable insight and guidance to one another. This may come in the form of joint sales and marketing meetings during which productive conversations can occur about goals, training on new products/services, methods of reaching customers, and how each team can contribute to the success of the organization. These meetings could even act as a brainstorming session that provides valuable feedback to upper management or other departments in the company.
Note: these meetings don’t have to occur all that frequently. They just need to happen.
Another activity is to map the customer journey together. Explore how each team engages the customer as she moves from Awareness to Conversion. Provide updated information about buyer personas, buyer behavior, and what truly motivates the buyer to make a purchase. Sales and marketing teams have unique perspectives on this, which can be incredibly informative for the other team.
The aforementioned process should also include an exercise that defines a qualified lead versus an unqualified lead. This is a helpful characterization for just about everyone on the business side of the company. If you can’t identify a qualified lead you will find yourself dedicating time, money, and resources to people who have no intention of buying. This activity alone could reduce headaches and heartbreaks across the company.
Embrace New Tools And A New Future
I expect many leadership members to read this next section and say “AHA! Let’s buy new software!” But it’s not quite that simple.
Don’t be afraid of new technology or new methods of reaching customers. If your company holds the mentality of “This is the way we’ve always done things”, then this definitely applies to you. The fact of the matter is that society and buyer behaviors are changing very rapidly thanks to technology. For better or worse, old tools may still “work”, but they may also be inefficient, provide no security, or (even worse) don’t adapt quickly to changes in the market.
Embracing new tools may mean investing in updated software like CRMs, marketing automation, or interdepartmental communication platforms (like Slack…. We LOVE Slack). But before you open up your wallet and throw money at the problem, think critically about what bottlenecks occur in communication and with executing a cohesive sales and marketing strategy. Compare that with the brand strategy and the buyer journey. If you see pain points that prevent you from motivating buyers or converting leads in ways that are consistent with your core values, then find solutions to fix those kinks. That may also include replacing team members that are toxic to the overall mission.
Finally, don’t accept mediocrity. Your customers deserve better, and frankly so do you. The silos in your organization may be delivering “just fine” for now, but better teamwork is always a good thing. We may not have covered your unique problems within this article, but that shouldn’t be grounds for giving up and accepting the status quo. Eventually your silos will run out of grain and your company will be just another rusty relic on the horizon of the past.
Want to move your business forward? Let’s talk.
Feb 07 2017
How many times have you heard “Advertising is dead”?
If you own a business or have spent any time in the tech industry, probably hundreds of times over the last 10, maybe 20 years. And yet, here we are.
The prognosticators predicting the doom of traditional advertising have been both right and wrong. Yes, traditional advertising has certainly fallen on hard times, and the overall digital media spend continues to grow every year. However, no, traditional advertising has not disappeared. In fact, combined traditional advertising spending continues to be substantially larger than combined digital advertising.
TV still exists. Every year traditional cable hemorrhages paid subscribers while streaming continues to grow – even on a traditional TV set and in some cases with local and regional ads.
Radio still exists. Every year terrestrial radio stations continue to lose listeners, but not nearly at the rate that loyal listeners continue to tune in. And while streaming content, like Pandora, continues to grow among younger listeners, this behavior drops off as driving habits increase. More people still listen to the radio in their cars.[nbsp_tc]
With exception of a small amount of cities, billboards continue to stand as strong as ever. Population growth and aging highways help outdoor advertising make its case. A captive audience and astronomical traffic counts still make billboards one of the most powerful tools for mass marketing and branding.
Think print is dead? Perhaps for newspapers, but print magazines continue to thrive even in the face of declining print revenues. The model has changed and the media has evolved, but regional, local, and niche magazines continue to keep readers.
The key is evolution.
Let’s look at those relics of the advertising world that failed to evolve:
Yellow page directory… if not dead, then certainly in its last throes. Internet search demolished the industry. What used to be a massive paper block of ads and phone numbers has now been reduced to a smaller, slimmer version of itself not even suitable as a booster chair or doorstop.
Newspapers… the print newspaper is a dinosaur headed for certain extinction. Ad sales have grown primarily online for many of the major legacy newspapers (think: New York Times), whereas smaller newspapers continue to see revenue shrink both online and in print. Consumers today just don’t read the news the same way they did 30 years ago.
So how is it that traditional advertising continues to survive while digital advertising evolves and devours more of the annual ad spend?
The answer is simple: consumers live in reality.
Reality is filled with multiple forms of media broadcasting thousands of messages every day. Until the time comes when consumer noses are glued to their phones all day, life outside of the Internet will continue to make an impression.
A hypothetical day for your buyer may unfold like this:
Your buyer checks social media and email first thing when he wakes up. If he has kids, chances are he doesn’t have much time for surfing the web during breakfast. More likely he has a TV or radio on. He hops in the car, drives the kids to school, and then gets stuck in traffic during his morning commute. The radio is on, and he drives past 40 billboards and three buses with ad placards. Once he arrives at work, he sees two copies of a print newspaper in the break room as he makes his coffee and eats complimentary donuts.
Before getting too deep into work, your buyer opens social media again, visits multiple news sites (blogs, online news organizations, maybe even the local TV station’s site), and is treated to videos and display ads. He gets countless spam emails that morning and discovers promotional pens in the copy room that were left behind by the insurance rep. Someone hung a poster for Girl Scout Cookies next to the water cooler.
While running errands during lunch your buyer listens to the radio, drives past 20 billboards, gets stuck behind a bus with a gigantic ad wrap, walks past a kiosk, sees ads on the gas pump, and notices flyers for discounts at the store. A man outside of the store hands him a branded koozie and a flyer. He marvels at the Budweiser wallscape two blocks from the corner store. Upon returning from lunch your buyer repeats the same online media consumption of blogs, news, videos, and email. His phone nearly died, so he took a magazine into the bathroom.[nbsp_tc]
Once the end of the day rolls around, your buyer spends a solid hour coasting through the afternoon watching YouTube, reading social media, and listening to Pandora with his headphones on. Back in the car, drive time radio, 40 more billboards, four taxis with placards, and another bus with an ad wrap. That night he checks the mail, from which he saves his favorite magazine, a catalog for an outdoor sports shop, and a handful of coupon mailers for his wife. When 8pm rolls around, he divides his attention between the TV, his phone, his new magazine, and the catalog. Just before bedtime, he checks email and social media again.
Were you counting the traditional advertising versus the digital advertising?
Guess what, neither was your buyer.
Want to move your business forward? Let’s talk.
Jan 12 2017
Prior to a decade ago, impersonal advertising ruled the world.
At the time, wizards of promotion reached massive audiences to tout brand authority or product reliability as the key benefits for the buyer. With a relatively captive audience, marketers achieved tremendous success using well-produced advertising to generate demand for their goods. Then came the fragmentation of the market, and nothing has been quite the same since.
As a proponent of Advertising, I’m happy to say that broad messaging still delivers results when executed with the right strategy on the right mediums at the right time. Expansive campaigns still move the needle very quickly. Otherwise, major brands wouldn’t invest their money in general market advertising.
The same can be said for Sales.
A massive outreach campaign using cold calling, promotional events, and outside sales teams can quickly increase revenue when executed correctly and for the right reasons. That’s why telemarketing and door-to-door sales still exist today.
Given the above information, it will seem odd to hear us recommend that you should think twice (or three times) before taking a “one size fits all” approach to your sales and marketing. Whereas cold techniques can still generate measurable results, they also fail to produce a long-lasting, loyal connection to the buyer. They lack warmth. They lack empathy.
Empathy is the biggest missing ingredient of most Sales & Marketing campaigns.
Empathy is defined as:
“Understanding and being sensitive to the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another person.”
In a marketing context, lack of empathy manifests itself in campaigns that manipulate the buyer using misleading information, assumptions, and crass persuasion.
“9 Out of 10 Doctors Recommend…”
“Best Pizza in Town”
Without truth in advertising or any oversight, companies can say just about anything without immediate recourse. As a result, today’s buyers are shrewd and highly cynical of the classic push model of advertising that employs catchy slogans and a litany of broad benefits. They want to be understood, spoken to directly, and (dare I say it) informed and entertained.
For a good example of a company that understands empathy in marketing see Chubbies shorts.
While Chubbies’ marketing still features a list of qualities one might expect from their products, the models aren’t showing off six-pack abs in exotic locations that are financially out of reach for their target buyer.[nbsp_tc] As the name implies, Chubbies models are just as likely to have a beer gut or dad-bod as they would a fit and trim physique. Chubbies understands that everybody is different, but everyone needs comfortable and durable shorts when it’s hot outside. Warmth. Empathy.
Let’s apply this to Sales.
How often have you received a phone call from a stranger asking you to buy something you either didn’t know about or don’t really need? How frequently did you buy from that person? We bet it’s far less than 10%… maybe even 1%. Those are still good numbers for companies who live and die on sales volume, but selling a widget over the phone for less than $100 requires a completely different sales process than selling someone $100,000 worth of intangible services.
As with everything, the need to cold call or use telemarketing largely depends on your product, your goal, and the needs of your buyer.
Start by empathizing with your buyer. Who are they? What do they want? What do they need? What value does your product provide? How does your brand connect with them? How does your sales team bond with the buyer to build trust? How is your product priced relative to the needs, values, benefits, and competition? If your buyer doesn’t feel compelled by your offering, it’s going to be a tough sale. And when the sale is done, will your buyer stay loyal?
A good example of a company that uses empathy in sales is Sparefoot.
Self-storage is a purely transactional purchase determined by some basic criteria, like price and proximity to the buyer. Sparefoot understands that researching self-storage options is a huge hassle. More importantly, they know that people who rent storage are either moving, running out of space in the home, or in some kind of emergency to store personal and professional belongings. Their first step is to recognize the emotional state of the buyer and guide them to rent the storage unit that meets their most urgent needs. Warmth. Empathy.
What happens when a company ignores empathy in their sales and marketing strategies?
The first sign of problems usually occurs in response to advertising or online media. You may have a problem with messaging and content if your brand isn’t attracting bees to the garden. It’s also possible you’ve selected a media mix or program schedule that doesn’t reach your audience at all. You may be missing the mark entirely. These are easy mistakes to make if you don’t understand your buyer.
Beyond that, lack of empathy typically results in slower sales, shorter engagements, or, even worse, disloyal customers. As soon as another company comes along that connects with your customer you’ll see sales start to drop.
Think it can’t happen to your company? See what happened when Coca-Cola rolled out New Coke in 1985. The company thought their consumers demanded a sweeter cola like Pepsi, so they attempted to regain market share by changing their core formula. The result was disastrous. They cut off their most loyal customers who were emotionally connected to Coke’s classic taste and style.
You may think your product is transactional or too technical for all the touchy-feely science of Empathy, but when buyers are faced with so many cold options you can bet they will gravitate to warmth. Build a fire, friends!
Want to move your business forward? Let’s talk.
Nov 16 2016
You worked hard for this appointment.
You sized up the prospect, researched the company, and determined how you could help their business. It took weeks to hunt down the Decision Maker. You made it past the Gatekeeper. You set up the meeting, and much to your relief they didn’t cancel at the last minute. This is a big opportunity that would help you go from red to black… or hit your monthly quota.
Five seconds into your meeting Bob Decision-Maker drops the bomb on you:
“Okay, whatcha got?”
If you’re like most people, you freeze.
It wasn’t supposed to go like this. You were hoping to get to know them more before jumping into your presentation, maybe even ask a few personal questions. This bonding exercise is the first step of the sales process. Under better circumstances you’d establish a connection with them, build trust, learn about their business, and guide them to the next steps in the process. [nbsp_tc]
Experienced salespeople have had dozens, maybe hundreds of scenarios just like this. Even though you’ve set aside enough time for a complete appointment, your prospect immediately ambushes you in an attempt to get information.
Unless you’re careful you’ll fall into the conventional Buyer-Seller model:
Buyer rushes the process.
Seller goes into “Sales Mode” and starts guessing at what the Buyer wants to hear.
Buyer asks all the questions.
Seller spits up Features and Benefits in the hopes of wowing the Buyer.
Buyer builds up hope.
Seller likes what they hear and doesn’t attempt to rock the boat with any deeper questions.
Buyer ends the appointment.
Seller never hears from them again. Misses quota.
Don’t take the bait. Instead, pivot to an agenda.
“Bob, we set this appointment for 30 minutes. Does that still work for you?”
Let Bob answer. Yes, no, it’s all the same. If he’s really pressed for time you can decide if you should reschedule your appointment. But if you engage Bob in a compelling, mature business conversation, he’ll make time for you. He may even cancel his next appointment with that other salesperson you passed in the lobby.
“I’d like to use our time together today to ask you some questions, hear more about your company, and discover why you’ve invited me into your office. I’d also be happy to answer any questions I can about my company’s services and see if we’re a good fit for you. If at the end of this appointment it makes sense for us to continue talking we can schedule next steps. If not, it’d be great to know that, too. Does that work for you?”
Let Bob answer and start your line of questioning.
Just like that you’ve regained control of the call.
This is not a power struggle. This is not manipulation. This is not jiu-jitsu.
You are a professional. You have an agenda, and you’ve asked for a commitment. Bob now knows your time is valuable. He also knows you have a process, and from process comes order.
Let’s unpack this idea a little.
Bob may not realize he’s put you on the defensive. He may genuinely be in a hurry, or he may not really be all that invested in the outcome of your meeting. There are endless reasons why Bob skipped the usual chitchat and rushed into a conversation. But he invited you into his office. It’s up to you to find out why.
By creating this initial agreement and setting an agenda you can start the process of assessing Bob’s needs. The agenda lets Bob know there will be a two-way discovery that helps both of you determine whether you’re qualified to move forward. If so, there will be more work to do. If not, each of you can respectfully pull the plug and move on. As a bonus, you’ll establish the trust and personal relationship you’d hoped to achieve up front.
If only all of Life’s relationships were that honest.
What if Bob continues to throw you off?
“I was hoping to learn about your rates and services. I don’t have much time today.”
This is your first red flag about Bob, but it’s not a cause for concern. Go back to your agenda.
“Great! Let’s use our time today to determine exactly what you need…” and go right into your questioning. Once again the outcome is the same:
You stand your ground and get right down to business.
Want to move your business forward? Let’s talk.