Selling No Longer Works This Way!
This is the first blog in a four part series that talks about how to increase b2b sales volume, including the radical shift in B2B sales and the changes you can start to make to your to B2B lead generation and B2B demand generation tactics, and B2B sales tactics to set a course that can more than double your volume and revenue growth over the coming 18 months.
The series will discuss what has caused the shift in B2B sales (as a hint buyers don’t buy the way the used to), how this change in volume and revenue impacts your business and why you may need to change your approach , why marketers are more important than ever in your sales process and how you can turn this knowledge into a significant B2B sales and B2B lead generation advantage in 2013 to shift your approach to get it right.
And there is no doubt that you need to get it right because according to a recent study by Adam Needles companies that have embraced selling to the buyer the way they want to buy have seen an increase in revenue of 157% over the past 2 years. Companies that continue to sell “old school” (banging the phone, blindly running campaigns, and relying on solely on tradeshows and the occasional webcast) have seen stagnant sales while simultaneously experiencing an increase in what it costs to sell. Double downside vs double upside.
The good news is that, according to Forrester Research, we are still only at 10% market adoption of companies that have totally nailed the new paradigm, so you can turn your competitors ignorance into your gain. The even better news for Small Businesses is that according to the same study it takes a Fortune 2000 competitor 18 months and twice the costs to turn around their culture because of the fiefdoms and resistance inherent in larger organizations.
So what’s changed? Unless you have had your head in the sand you know that its tougher to get your buyer on the phone (our connect ratios – someone picking up the phone on the other end when you dial has dropped from 18%-21% to 6%-11% over the past 2 years). And we all know that the sales cycle has increased volume and revenue by about 1.5X to 2X (that’s months, quarters or even a calendar year depending on your sales cycle. It’s not rocket science to figure out that the buyer and not the seller now controls the sales process. That simple fact is the one thing you need to keep top of mind throughout this series.
Buyers are More Risk Adverse
It’s not 2006 anymore. The stock market bounces up and down daily. Experimental budgets have been cut. There are both real and imagined geo-political and domestic issues that get exacerbated and hyped by a 24 hour news cycle. There is a great deal more that is perceived to be out of our control so if you have a budget you do control folks are now much tighter with it. Buyers want to be smarter and more cautious before they buy.
There are more people involved in the buying process
Since 2009 there are more people involved in the buying process (confirming the point above there is safety in making “group” decisions). According to a Marketing Sherpa Study there are typically three people involved in transactions of 25K to 100K and four to eight people involved in a deal over 100K. And, according to the Harvard Business Review 90% Buying decisions now require both a technical decision maker and business decision maker in the final decision. All this requires your team to educate and sell to more people with different needs. In a nutshell companies are staggeringly more risk adverse and being much more diligent in their decision making process.
Software as a Service, Telco and Apple (among others) are turning B2B sales experience into a consumer sales experience for everyone
SaaS companies have done a great job turning a B2B sale in a “consumer” purchase experience. You come into the website, find the product you are looking for, research it and then in some cases just plug in your credit card. Buyers can in most cases never even speak with a sale rep unless you ‘the buyer’ feel the need to reach out to speak to a sale rep. This coupled with the fact that buyers can now make larger consumer purchases like smart phones, computers, and even cars by doing their own research and placing an order has made them even more comfortable buying without a sales rep. Consider how you purchase your home media now. I personally have bundled phone, internet, a cable sports package and layered in Netflix and Hulu streaming through a Blue Ray and my kids Wii without ever speaking with a “sales person” except to schedule an installation. Finally look at your experience in an Apple store. The “sales” people greet you, let you (and your family play) with the technology, have you queue to get help and then pull out an iPhone to take your $500-$2K. B2B sales and marketing teams have had the bar raised and need to strive to improve the ease of education and purchase wherever possible.
Why digital sales content is now critical
YouTube, Webcasts and Podcasting Twitter and Facebook may feel like they have been around forever but its only been several years. And serious adoption in the B2B sale is less than a couple years old. The average buyer now consumes 12 pieces of digital sales content before they purchase (up from 5 in 2011) and this trend is expected to continue.
Similar to SaaS sales and other technologies we discussed above consider how your family or friends now consume “entertainment” media. When I looked around my living room a couple nights ago my wife was on her iPhone posting videos of the kids for the grandparents on Facebook, while catching up on Twitter, my son was on the iPad checking out 2012 MLB stats, my daughter was self-publishing a “picture book” on the desktop and I was watching an NFL game (while DVRing the Amazing Race), flipping through the Sunday New York Times on my iPhone and pulling Google Analytics report for a meeting on Monday that compared mobile traffic during a time period in 2012 vs. 2011 (see below).
Mobile Traffic Oct 2012
Mobile Traffic 2011As consumers we are used to consuming content where we want to and when we want to. We are consuming across platforms. We are mixing our consumption of entertainment and work related content throughout the day and evening. And it’s easy. We now feel entitled. The same philosophy needs to be applied to how you sell to the B2B buyer. If they want to consider purchasing your solution on a Sunday evening let them.
Bottom line you need digital content because there are more people involved in the buying process. You need to share it effectively and you need to deliver your message in multiple formats so your buyer can educate and buy on their timeline and schedule, not yours.
You need to meet the buyer where they are in their buying cycle and not force them into your “sales cycle”
Inbound leads are coming much earlier in the decision making process when buyers are still at the education phase which means your initial job as a sales and marketing team is to educate first. This means you need to help educate a potential buyer before you “sell”. This gets tricky because this can increase your costs if you are over investing in “selling” to buyers that are not ready to transact. The flip side and potentially even more daunting is that we are now seeing that 25% of your buyers make their purchase decision after self-education and calling a sales rep after short listing online (Sirius -2012). This means that your team needs to be able to quickly figure out where a buyer is in the buying cycle quickly so they can treat them appropriately. So there is both an upside and a downside it getting this right.
If you sell too hard early we know that:
- 70% of leads are passed to Sales Reps before they are ready to engage ( Marketing Sherpa -2012)
- 80% of mishandled leads will buy from a competitor (Forrester -2011)
If you get it right we know that:
- “Well nurtured leads close 23% faster and result in 40% more revenue” (Aberdeen-2012)
What’s happening right now is not a small shift. It’s the final transformation that was the promise of a connected world when the Internet first reared its head in almost 30 years ago. And in the last 2 years the shift is accelerating dramatically. Since the birth of modern banking during the Renaissance (and possibly before) the majority of transactions have been driven by a seller and buyer relationship. The seller had information and shared it with the buyer and then the buyer bought. What we are witnessing right now is the final stages of the seismic shift that has been slowly taking place since we first got the internet in the mid 90s and Google organized it for immediate access 10 years later. They buyer now expects to be able to buy without the intervention of sales whenever possible. They expect honest and authentic information and they want it now. If you don’t get prepared to do this for your buyer – to make this process fast, easy, not deeply sales rep dependent and your competitor does you will lose.
To learn what this cultural shift means for your own sales and marketing culture please check out the next blog in this series for things to consider as you ponder the obvious question What Does All this Mean for Your Business?
If all this seems a bit daunting in the short term you can also feel free to check out our Sell Smarter and Sell Fast Whitepaper to learn about short term tactics you can implement on your own right now.
Here are some quick links for additional reading:
Part 1 – Increasing Your B2B Sales Volume and Revenue – What’s Changed?
Part 2 – What Does Your B2B Sales and Marketing Culture Need to Look Like?
Part 3 – What Core Competencies do I Need From My Marketing and Lead Generation Team?
Part 4 – How Can Marketing Automation Improve My B2B Sales Performance?
Part 5 – Why is Content Marketing is Now Required for Quality B2B Lead Generation?
The entire purpose of a demand generation engine is to align sales and marketing to put more Sales Qualified Leads in your closers hands. To do this requires your inside sales team helps with your marketing automation implementation. As part of this process Gabriel Sales typically executes a 90 day lead generation campaign that can fuel your initial Demand Generation Engine. Your campaign combines email marketing, outbound telesales reps and in some cases PPC and SEO campaigns. Your dedicated campaign helps to accelerate the production of your engine producing “Sales Qualified Leads” ready for your sales reps and increases your initial volume of earlier stage leads to support your telesales and sales team with earlier stage deals if necessary. These 10 tips for a productive marketing automation implementation will also help to accelerate your investment in your marketing automation platform and to help with the cultural shift to a more mature demand generation process. They should help you to avoid false starts and turn quarters of effort into months.
In Marketing Automation Implementation Best Practice – Agree on Lead Definitions we discuss how sales and marketing can quickly reach agreement on early stage pipe. We also discuss scoring criteria so your sales executive can help frame the engine without needing to be involved or distracted by the minutiae of the implementation. In this blog we discuss the simple steps and recommendations to make the effort as productive as quickly as possible and to give your sales team access to the increased lead volume sooner rather than later.
Don’t disrupt what already works – As you implement your demand generation engine we recommend that you don’t disrupt your existing lead flow to sales. If you have SEO, PPC or email campaigns in motion don’t stop that practice.
Involve Sales Executive Early – Get your sales executive involved in the Early Stage Pipe scoring criteria. See Agree on Lead Definition Blogs
Have Your Sales Executive Work with Telesales Team to Develop Smart Questions – By giving your outbound telesales reps the right probing questions, need assessment questions, open ended questions and leading questions you can script and accelerate your telesales ability to effectively score leads. We have a quick 1 hour process to make this seamless.
Use Leads Generated from One Designated Campaign to Initially Feed the Engine – It does not make sense to immediately take all your leads directly into your Marketing Automation Platform out of the gate. We strongly recommend you start with one source. Ideally a campaign dedicated specifically for this purpose. Gabriel Sales has several campaigns designed specifically for this purpose. This allows you to feed your demand generation and Marketing Automation tool in a methodical way with a clean set of leads.
Designate One Person to Assign Leads Coming Out of Your New Program – Typically your SVP, VP or Director of Sales is already assigning leads to your sales reps that come from other campaigns. Its generally a best practice to keep that person designated to assigning leads the same and that this person gets trained in the use of Pardot to assign leads as well so the understand how lead scoring works. In some cases we understand that sales needs more leads faster and doesn’t always want to wait for leads to be Sales Qualified. In some cases Sales Accepted or even new leads to the pipe may meet your immediate needs. During your initial campaign designed specifically to feed your engine the SVP of Sales (or whoever you have designated to assign leads) can assign leads from the initial campaign effort at multiple stages noted above as A, B and C based on their short term lead volume needs. However we simply strongly recommend that you don’t take all the leads and assign them at stage A or B so the engine has time to do its job and marketing can learn how to optimize the engine.
Note – Telesales Engaged Leads typically have indicated they are not ready to speak with a Sales Rep yet as part of their qualifying process so these we would recommend you nurture with telesales reps and your automation platform.
Marketing Should Train your Sales Reps on the New Lead Scoring Criteria – Before handing leads to sales reps it’s important that they understand the new scoring criteria so they can maximize and intelligently approach the buyer in the most effective way.
Marketing Should Train your Sales Reps on the Source of the Lead and How to Use Pardot – Have your marketing manager train sales how to use the insights and tools a marketing automation engine provides. (e.g. how to find the buyer information in your CRM, how to use the lead deck, etc.) Pardot has great online training for this as well.
Execute a Wake the Dead Campaign from your Marketing Automation Platform – Once your marketing automation platform is working and you have your initial leads flowing from Gabriel Sales the first campaign we recommend your marketing team executes with your existing opt in database (leads not generated through Gabriel Sales initial campaign) is a “Wake the Dead” campaign. This is a drip campaign that your marketing team or Gabriel Sales will execute to leads that no sales reps have touched for a quarter or more and/or dead leads sitting in your database that are not currently assigned to a specific rep. Typically the Wake the Dead campaign will parallel the initial drip campaigns that are being created as part of your initial campaign with Gabriel Sales. Companies generally see a solid bump in volume with these campaigns and they are a great way to start to wrap up your initial implementation.
Don’t Over Complicate Your Initial Drip Campaigns – This is probably one of the biggest lessons we learned. When we first started we came up with a very complex IF/ then workflow so if they opened this piece of content on a topic area we would send them another piece of content on topic area B and then if they didn’t open that we would send them content Z. It was too much and just writing about it confuses me. What we found is about 80% of the value you are going to get from your initial drip campaigns is going to come from simply implementing them. It takes time to learn a new software and the biggest value the software provided initially is simply keeping your brand and solution in front of your buyers over time so your reps don’t have to. A simple five to seven touch campaign without any IF/then work flows was enough to get more deals flowing at less cost. Don’t frustrate yourself. You will quickly learn from your wins.
Use Existing Content or Quickly Produced Content to Kick Start Your Engine – The whole point of a marketing automation platform is to drive more business in a more effective way. This starts with how you are speaking with your buyer. If your content is still all about your product – tech sheets, features and benefits etc. its -time to think about being “customer centric rather than product centric.” Your drip campaigns will drive more business if you talk to your customers about their problems and their needs. You may need to look at the “voice” of your messages and refine your language a bit. As a starting point look at how many times you talk about “Our” product, “our” team vs. “your” needs, “your” business and “your” customers. If you are working with Gabriel Sales you can implement Gabriel Sales Digital Sales Base Camp Content Management System you can quickly create context for your existing content. This CMS allows you to immediately take your existing material to start being customer centric by recontextualizing existing offers and content with easy to construct landing pages. Finally we really love webcasts to kick start these programs because you can typically cut one webcast into several blog posts with graphics you have already created.
We hope you find these 10 Tips to align your sales and marketing efforts to accelerate the production of your marketing automation implementation. Hopefully these basic tips and best practices help you avoid some headaches and helps you learn from our mistakes and successes. If you have not checked out what these marketing automation platforms can do and the benefits to your company here is a quick overview from Pardot 5 Minute Overview of Marketing Automation and this post will make a whole lot more sense.
Please feel free to CONTACT US with any additional questions, more tips on your marketing automation implementation, and to see if we can help you as you ramp your sales pipe short term and build for long term success.
I am a huge fan of David Foster Wallace. In a commencement speech he tells the story of three fish:
“There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”
The immediate point of the fish story is that the most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about…A huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. Here’s one example of the utter wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely talk about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness, because it’s so socially repulsive, but it’s pretty much the same for all of us, deep down. It is our default-setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: There is no experience you’ve had that you were not at the absolute center of.”
Wallace’s insight is truly brilliant and something sales and marketing professionals in the world of online B2B marketing can never forget. Stated another way:
Your Customer IS the Center of Your Universe
In the new rules of sales and marketing engagement we need to always remember this universal truth and fight our hard wired biological drive to be the narcissistic self-centered creatures we were designed to be.
Here is a quick and easy test to see if your team is getting it right
Read your sales content and see how many times you use the words “We”, “Us”, “Our”, or your brand or product names and then compare it to how many times you use the words “You”, “Your” and your targets Title or Job Function. Below are two real world examples of a first emails that have gone out from our team.
How this slip occurred in our process is the topic of a second blog (and cautionary tale) entitled Best Practices Integrating Your Outbound Sales Team into Your Marketing Automation Program to be published in a couple of days.
- Narcissistic and Self Centered Being The Creatures we Hard Wired to Be: -11
- Customer is the Center of the Universe Score +2
- Success Score – 9
Date: Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 10:06 AM
Subject: Your Inquiry to Gabriel Sales
Thank you for your inquiry regarding outsourced sales. Gabriel Sales has been helping companies bring their products to market via lead generation, lead nurturing, closing deals as well as managing the entire sales team for over 10 years. We have worked with many offshore companies, U.S. start-ups as well as the Fortune 100. We have deep domain experience selling Marketing Services and Technology. Our most recent success has been bringing an Indian data analytics firm from $500K-$12M in revenue in 3 years. They then sold for $65M.
We are very process oriented. We will develop the best way to sell your product, (messaging, packaging and pricing if necessary), begin selling, track all the ratios related to the sale, and create a repeatable forecast-able sales system and Marketing plan for you to then to run yourself or continue to outsource with us. We will cold call, buy lists, or manage a marketing campaign to get leads; or work leads provided by you.
In regards to selling similar products, we have sold many marketing solutions to VPs of Marketing in the SMB and Fortune 1000 markets.
Our model is based on a retainer and consulting fees. We believe in automating the sales process as much as possible to reduce the human resource requirements. We do this through creating landing pages and content that can “sell” as much as possible as well as utilizing Marketing Automation software.
We look forward to your response.
- Narcissistic and and Self Centered Being The Creatures we Hard Wired to Be: 0
- Customer is the Center of the Universe Score +9
- Success Score +9
Sent: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 10:03 AM
Subject: A Couple Other Recent Best Practices from Gabriel Sales
Hope you find some tips your team can leverage from the “Sell Smarter, Sell Faster” White Paper.
Here is a quick blog post on some Best Practices you can leverage to keep your Email Marketing aligned with your buyers’ goals and your sales team’s efforts Keep it Conversational – Best Practices for B2B E-Mail Marketing that the team put together after receiving some questions from sales and marketing professionals that liked the White Paper.
Also in case you missed it here is 4 minute video How to Accelerate Your B2B Demand Generation Engine that describes how your team can start to align your sales and content marketing to lift your results for both.
Look forward to connecting to see how else we can help. If you have any questions about any of the educational resources we are sending across don’t hesitate to reach out.
With this one simple approach to your outbound communication, from both your sales reps and your marketers, you will see a sales lift across the board.
As a little additional backstory we got this wrong at Gabriel Sales this week because we did not correctly train one of our sales reps when they were promoted. That’s another story for a blog that will soon follow. The incident was also a strong reminder that sales and marketing alignment is not always seamless. Hopefully this post makes it a little more seamless for your team.
For additional Best Practices regarding online B2B marketing, feel free to check out our White Paper – Selling Smarter and Selling Faster.
Also wanted to give a plug to David Foster Wallace and would highly recommend that if you are into literature and great story telling that you read Infinite Jest. Written in the 90s its an incredibly predictive future version of North America, and touches on competitiveness, aspiring to excellence, addictive and compulsive behavior, advertising, media, film theory and popular entertainment. Here is a link to his Wikipedia site. Have fun.
In the last six, months, we have seen a big jump in iPhone and iPad opens in our email blasting efforts. After following up by phone, we have noticed that many of my “opens” did not even see the email. We’ve since learned that iPhones open emails differently than other email applications.
For Mailchimp, per their site, they “use a tiny, one pixel graphic (or web beacon) that gets downloaded when a subscriber turns on images to track which emails have been opened and which haven’t. When someone uses their iPhone to open your email, it automatically opens images, downloading the tracking graphic. Most email applications turn images off by default and force users to click a button to display them, resulting in lower open rates. This can result in an inflated percentage of iPhone users showing up in your User Agents stats. We’ll see every user who uses their iPhone to open your email, but we only catch the subscribers that turn on images in other email applications.”
This completely aligns with what we have seen by follow-up calling. So take it easy on your reps if they are not converting the “opens.” I would not stop calling on them, as the probability that that “opens” actually opened is greater than those that do not show open, and typically we have found that those folks are still with the company. So, this is definitely better than straight cold calling.
Question: What is the ultimate solution?
Answer: Aligned Sales and Marketing Efforts
In a nutshell you cannot give up on any one tactic. You simply need to be more diligent. We do recommend making sure your videos and emails are designed for mobile and as another quick tip you can monitor Google Analytics and the time emails are opened with your email blaster to judge if mobiles are actually opened or not.
If you are interested in seeing if your efforts pay off, Gabriel Sales, outsourced sales company for B to B sales and marketing automation implementation specialists, we recommend indulging in a marketing automation tool. Pardot is our platform of choice. For more information on marketing automation see our blog on Marketing Automation for B2B Sales and Sales Small Business.
Can a Marketing Automation Software make your sales team more productive? Generally we find that the answer is yes. However with all the features offered in these software solutions the more important question from our perspective as a B2B sales and marketing company is where should you focus the software during the initial implementation to gain traction. With the right focus you can start to produce and ROI quickly. We recommend you look at your Sales Process and Marketing Automation in tandem. To decide where and how to prioritize your initial implementation it helps to consider:
- Where you can get the best lift by improving your current sales process
- Are there parts of your process you can automate quickly
That stated here are some questions you can ask yourself to start thinking about where to get started.
ROI around lead volume:
- How effective is your company converting inbound leads into sales qualified leads. How much time/bandwidth does your sales team devote to converting inbound leads? Do you follow up one or two times then drop that effort?
- Consequentially…how many dead leads are sitting in your database?
- How effective is your sales team in prioritizing your inbound requests. Are they pursuing leads and working opportunities that don’t convert.
If this is a challenge you can focus initially on automated drip marketing programs. You can score a leads engagement and prioritize much more effectively.
ROI around decreasing your reps time spent educating the buyer:
- How complex is your sale? Or an even better question how many problem does your solution solve for your customer?
- How much education is required for your customer to become a viable prospect?
- How strong is your brand? Do you even have a brand or do your sales reps need to establish your credibility and thought leadership position with your customers?
- How educated is your customer about your category and solution area? How much time do your senior reps spend educating the prospect?
- Does your sale require a champion on the buyer side to educate their internal team?
If this is your challenge you can focus on creating a series of Webcasts, short videos and if you are working with Gabriel Sales you can implement our Digital Sales Base Camp™ to decrease the amount of time your senior reps invest in educating the buyer while simultaneously watching how the buyer consumes your content by contextualizing your content (including blog posts) for specific customer segments.
ROI from understanding your metrics
- What percentage of your revenue comes from new leads?
- What percentage of total opportunities come from existing prospects?
- Does most of your business come from leads generated in the last 30 days?
- How much of your business comes from customers that first demonstrated interest 3 months ago? 12 months ago?
- What is coming in from cold calling? PPC? SEO?
- Do you offer free trials or evaluations? At what rate do those free trials convert to paying customers? What is the process a buyer goes through to convert post a free trial?
- What ensure a trial implementation is successful?
- How deeply do they engage during a free trial?
A marketing automation software is also a great repository of all sorts of data sets. With a smart marketing and sales analyst you can really drill down into multiple different areas of your sales process in half the time or less it used to take to do serious deal flow analysis. Gaps and future areas of improvement are much easier to identify and get right from incremental and in some case exponential revenue gains. We have also found that this data is invaluable for clients that are getting beat up by Venture Capitalists. With hard data they are able to defend their valuations with hard data.
When approached the right way and asking the right questions of your sales process you can experience some quick wins with your marketing automation implementation. We are experiencing some fantastic initial success reducing cost of sales percentages for both ourselves and our clients. The learning curve is exponential. So pick a lane and get started.
If you have not checked out what these platforms can do here is a quick overview from Pardot 5 Minute Overview of Marketing Automation. If you have a stalled implementation or just want to get more out of your efforts and are curious if an outsourced sales and marketing company can get you on a faster track to sales results feel free to contact us for a quick consultative call.
For more information from Gabriel Sales on business to business marketing strategy, marketing and sales services, please visit our Knowledge Center. We also invite you to check out our White Paper that has several sections that give you some hard ratios on how you can calculate your hard ROI base on sales conversions.
Gabriel Sales helps companies move leads from marketing qualified to sales qualified deals faster. As a b2b sales marketing company here are a several things we suggest you avoid when following up on inbound leads.
- Handing leads to your rep without them being educated on the piece that generated the lead.
- Not leaving a voice mail.
- Leaving a voice mail that just talks about your company. Try something like “This is Mary from ACME, we help companies solve this problem, and I wanted to see if we could share another piece of content about.”
- Always leave your number at the beginning and end of the message.
- Don’t ignore non-business email addresses. Repeat…do not discount these. According to the latest TechTarget Media Consumption research, approximately 40% of corporate IT buyers indicate that they use their personal email account regularly for business.
A marketing automation is also a big help in increasing you ability to generate more business from your inbound leads. If you have not checked out what these platforms can do here is a quick overview from Pardot 5 Minute Overview of Marketing Automation .
If you curious if an outsourced sales and marketing company can get you on a faster track to sales results feel free to contact us for a quick consultative call.