B2B Customers have clearly changed how they buy. Their expectations have changed around the buying process in terms of evaluating product or service options, self-educating, and ultimately deciding on and making a purchase.
Customers now spend significantly more time doing online research, they expect to be served up content aligned to their buying process, at the right time. The last thing that most of them want to do is talk to a sales person.
Because of this change, sales teams are struggling to engage with customers and meet their targets.
- Old Methods Are Proving Hard to Sustain: The customer is increasingly difficult to reach through traditional means, leading sales productivity metrics to drop off a cliff. It took 3 “touches” on average to engage with a customer just 3 years ago. Today it takes 8+ tries to actually get a prospect to engage with a sales rep.
- Sales is Viewed As Under-Prepared: When sales reps finally speak with their prospect, they are viewed as woefully under-prepared, primarily because today’s customer has access to endless amounts of information prior to ever engaging with sales. In fact – only 29% of B2B customers report that sales is properly prepared for sales calls.
- Customers Don’t Have Time to Waste: Customers who are under-whelmed aren’t inviting sales reps back to take the process forward, which means all the money and effort invested in reaching those customers has been wasted.
As a result, sales productivity is suffering, with an estimated 67% of sales reps not meeting their quotas. This is also contributing to higher cost of sale for many organizations as reps struggle in this new environment.
Enter the new “digital” seller.
This rep is empowered with analytics on who to call, when, and why. They are able to leverage the best content for each interaction. They are empowered to engage customers, where they are learning, through new social and digital channels. And they are dramatically outperforming their peers.
So how can you foster this type of digital sales behavior on your team?
The best advice for a sales leader trying to address the new sales environment is to take a breath, figure out the most important problem to solve, apply your energy there to prove it works, and then pull up to do it again.
With that in mind, there are 5 “easy” places to start (“easy” in quotations because if it was easy everyone would be doing it and I only see few doing all of these right):
- Bringing Important Sales Data into One Easy to Use Place: For some sales leaders this is as simple as improving their data asset and customer intelligence to give reps a full profile of each customer. Cleaning out the database, using tools to ensure accurate information, and giving their reps a fighting chance!
- Giving Reps Better Intelligence on Their Customers: Once your data is clean, appending your data assets with relevant intelligence from 3rd party data sources can really change the game for your reps. An example of this is ghostery.com, which tells your sellers what technologies your prospects use to drive their marketing.
- Applying Predictive Analytics to Drive the Right Behaviors: Sales leaders are applying predictive analytics to help reps spend time on the right customers at the right time. Simple scoring at the account, contact, and opportunity level can really improve your reps productivity, prospect engagement levels, and close rates.
- Make Digital Content Available and Easy-To-Deliver to Prospects: Some sales teams are looking at ways to make their digital content easier for reps to deliver the right information, to the customer, at the right time. Not just accessible but actually recommended to the rep based on the customer, their profile, their interested/needs, etc. This can have huge impact on pipeline development and velocity.
- General Workflow Improvement Opportunities: Taking a deeper look at the process or workflow reps use and figuring out where the efficiencies are (like time spent researching or time spent tabbing through CRM). Some simple investigation and best practice sharing can make a world of difference for the average rep in their personal productivity, allowing them to spend more time selling.
At the end of October our team attended the CEB Sales & Marketing Summit in Las Vegas. Over 1,200 sales and marketing leaders convened for, what we believe to be, the most valuable B2B sales and marketing event of the year. (If you are in this space, you need to get to this conference.)
The content was thought provoking, on-point with today’s challenges, and controversial by design. If you’ve read CEB’s The Challenger Sale or The Challenger Customer then you are well aware that the B2B buying process isn’t what it used to be, so we were delighted to return from Vegas with some actionable ideas and tactics to adapt our B2B marketing and sales to the new buyer.
But first, here’s a refresher (not a substitute) on the findings illustrated in CEB’s books:
- Customers are 57% of the way through the buying process before they engage a supplier. They are self-educating online, building decision making groups, and learning about their issues and solutions before they ever reach out to their supplier’s sales and marketing teams.
- There is an increasing number of decision makers within the buying process in complex sales.
- On average, there are 5.4 stakeholders in the decision making group, each with different needs, expectations, and motivations.
- This causes more decisions to end up with keeping the status quo and sales cycles that are 2x longer than they have been in the past.
- There is a selling profile that engages buyers and wins more deals. The Challenger sales rep teaches, tailors, and takes control and is 4x more likely to be a high performer in today’s environment.
- There is a customer profile that is more likely to be sought out by Challengers and to drive consensus buying groups. The Mobilizer is more likely to break through the status quo and drive change with customer organizations. And you can identify them in organizations that you are targeting.
- The way to engage the Mobilizers is by leading with insight, teaching content which re-frames the prospects view on unknown or underappreciated opportunities and risks in their business and which leads to (not with) the supplier’s products and services.
Across the three days, there was tremendous breadth and depth of content and insight – bringing many opportunities to implement these ideas.
Here are our top 3 takeaways from the summit:
Stop “enabling” your buyers
The conventional wisdom has always been to “enable” the buyer. Reps think they need to react quickly to their requests, provide more information (as much as they can), and consider every stakeholder’s motivation and perspective. This leads most reps to push more and more information to their customer (ironically, making the decision process harder and harder). The insight we took away is to be much more prescriptive with what you send prospects, when, and for what purpose. Send them what they need, not necessarily what they ask for. And teach them how to buy as you lead them through the buying process. There is huge potential impact around this insight with implications through the entire marketing and sales organization, from content strategy, to buyer journey, to sales enablement, and sales behavior. Also – huge opportunity for organizations to be prescriptive to their sales reps on what to do, when, and why as they engage customers.
Understand the buyer group, find the “Mobilizer” and empower them to sell for you
The insight uncovered by CEB is that tailoring your message too much for every stakeholder can do more harm than good. It can polarize the decision group and make competing priorities within that group more pronounced. The answer is to understand the buying group (through research, profiling, deal strategy, etc.), find the “Mobilizer,” and coach them (with the right positioning, content, etc.) to facilitate the internal decision process towards your solution. The implications for this are significant (in fact it may create a whole new category of content for marketing to develop around arming the Mobilizer to sell on your behalf). This raises interesting questions like “how do you identify the right buyers to engage” and “how can you ensure that sales uses the right content at the right time.”
Make it easier for customers to buy by reducing buyer options and degrees of freedom
This might not be such a new idea, but CEB’s insight here is valuable. In a world where sales and marketing teams attempt to pack in more reasons to buy (new features, long lists of benefits, multiple purchasing options – cover every need of a prospect), the best organizations and sellers are really whittling it down to a single value driver aligned to the biggest area of priority or impact for the organization. This does a couple things. First – it makes the decision easier to make (because it reduces the degree of difficulty for the buyer group to consider). Second – it makes it easier for the Mobilizer to push forward and sell on your behalf.
Interesting stuff…and important areas for B2B marketers and sellers to focus on.
Would love feedback on what you are doing in these areas, let us know!
Customers have clearly changed how they conduct their buying process. Their expectations have changed as it relates to their process of evaluating product or service options, self-educating, participating in decision making groups, and ultimately deciding on and making a purchase.
Customers now spend significantly more time doing online research, they expect to be served up content aligned to their buying process and on their time frames. The last thing that most of them want to do is talk to a salesperson.
As a result of this change, sales teams are struggling to engage with customers and meet their targets leading to a loss in sales productivity.
The customer is increasingly difficult to reach, leading to sales productivity metrics dropping off a cliff. When sales reps finally speak with their target, they are viewed by the customer as woefully under-prepared, primarily because today’s customer is privy to endless amounts of information and perspective prior to ever engaging with sales. Customers who are under-whelmed aren’t inviting sales reps back to take the process forward, which means the money and effort invested in reaching those customers have been wasted. As a result, sales performance is suffering, with an estimated 67% of sales reps not meeting their quotas.
This infographic outlines the trends and changes in the buyers and also provides some resources to get sales leaders started on the changing journey to realize the potential of re-envisioning the way they engage customers (and achieve improved performance).
The digitally powered sales rep has never had more data and information on their prospects than they do today. With the social web, internet research, just-in-time financial data, buyer intent data, and other available sources, reps can profile their territory like never before. However, most reps lack the ability to navigate these data and the time to do it right.
From basic firmographic data, to buyer intent data, sales people can glean so much information on prospects and customers as they target, prepare, engage, sell, and retain. While this is an effective new tool, it also changes a few elements of the sales rep role.
- Sales reps spend an inordinate amount of time researching, analyzing, and interpreting this information, which prevents them from getting in front of buyers. Recent research has shown that sales people spend 20% of their time alone researching prospects.
- Surprise….but sales people are not professional researchers. Even with all of this research and profiling, customers say that only 29% of sales people are adequately prepared when they reach out to engage.
- And…the expectation around the outreach has changed as well. Buyers now expert personalized outreach, tailored to their individual needs along with the needs of their organization.
Luckily, there are tools in the market that make it simple to aggregate all the data your organization cares about. These tools make it easier to gather this information and tailor messaging to meet individual prospect profiles. Automated customer profiling delivers key data insights to a sales rep’s desk and eliminates the time spent researching prospects. With this feature, it’s now possible to simplify the sales rep research and preparation process by providing deeper profiling information on customers and prospects.
MarketBridge’s SaaS app, Stringer, is one example of automated customer profiling. Stringer performs comprehensive customer profiling on over 100 third party social media and demographic data sources. In addition, it pulls internal data such as CRM, marketing automation, and other internal data sources. The outcome is ease of personalizing outreach and increased likelihood that a contact will engage with your sales rep.
Check out part 4 of the series!
Sales has changed. Because customers have changed. Customers have moved more of their buying decisions online and are less likely to respond to some of the traditional sales tactics that worked in the past. This has led to an explosion of data and technology that has fundamentally changed how we sell. The productivity opportunity for sales teams is massive. In fact, the digitally-powered sales rep has the opportunity to deliver significantly higher revenues at lower cost and in a way that also reflects how customers want to buy.
However, this shift doesn’t come without challenge. Sales people still struggle to reach prospects. They are over-whelmed with data, content, and new communication channels. They are missing their quotas and under-whelming your customers. So what do you do about it?
In the next few weeks, MarketBridge will give you the tools your team needs to help your sales people adapt to this new environment and become more productive.
More specifically, we’ll share how sales people are struggling to:
- Profile the customer using the wealth of relevant and available data
- Prioritize sales activities on the right customers, at the right time
- Share the right content given the prospects stage in their buyer journey
- Track prospects content consumption and use this information to trigger new outreach
- Understand what channel (social, email, digital, etc.) is most effective to communicate through given the nature of the prospect
- Use account and buyer group intelligence to understand and influence today’s consensus buying groups
The Trick? Digitally Power Your Sales Team
At MarketBridge, we are laser focused on helping organizations improve sales productivity. We have the benefit (actually, the privilege) of working with some of the most progressive companies on earth around this topic.
We also see a lot of companies doing it wrong. They rely on more increasing head count, pure activity volume, and traditional training to improve performance of their teams.
We see a different path to revenue growth, one that puts technology, digital content, and analytics at the center of the answer.
We have made it our mission to help reps and companies be more productive, drive more revenue, do it more efficiently, and align to how customers want to buy. We seek to make this transition easier for your team and are hope is that it provides a framework for sales leaders to follow as they look to re-invent their teams.
The opportunity is there, sales organizations just need to seize it. We will show you how. Check out part 2 of the series!
6 Questions to Ask your Sales Team to Get Buy-In Between Marketing and Sales
You’ve crafted a perfect user experience that guides your prospects through the buyer journey and nudges them to perform certain behaviors that will deem them as ready to be put in contact with a sales person. Maybe you’ve even set up your processes correctly to automatically route leads from marketing automation software to the CRM. But after leads are sent to sales, the ball is out of your court and the sales reps will just automatically pick up where you left that lead in the buyer journey, right? Wrong. If you haven’t aligned with your sales team, those shiny new leads most likely come to a screeching halt as soon as they’re passed to sales. In fact, 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales (source: MarketingSherpa). But why?
Perhaps it is because the sales team doesn’t know they’re coming, and don’t have time to reach out to them quickly. Maybe they have a preconceived notion that marketing leads aren’t qualified, so when they come through, they deprioritize marketing leads, burying them in a list titled “To Follow Up.” Regardless of how much research and planning you do to craft a perfect demand generation or nurture program, if you don’t have buy-in from the sales team in your organization, you are leaving a gaping hole in the buyer journey.
In order to close that gap, keep sales involved both before and after your campaign, by asking them these 6 questions:
Questions Sales & Marketing Should Discuss During the campaign strategy and planning phase:
1. Who are your target customers?
Talking to your sales team about your target market is important because they are the ones on the front line, having intimate conversations with buyers. While marketers are able to bring a holistic, “big-picture” perspective of your target customers, sales people interact with them one-on-one, and know them on a more granular level. Customers expect a user experience fully customized to their needs now more than ever, and so it is extremely important to ask them to share their understanding of these lead on a detailed level.
2. What are their biggest objections?
Your sales people hear these objections every day, and when dealing with every-more savvy consumers, understanding your target consumer’s biggest objections to your product or service will help you to craft your camping messaging and assure that you are addressing them.
3. What information did you wish you had about a lead coming in?
While there are many factors shaping your form strategy, you should talk to your sales team to understand which key pieces of information dictate the route their conversation takes. Go beyond the standard demographic information and ask about fields that may be specific to that product, service, or industry that will give the sales person a much better idea of what to expect when picking up the phone to call this lead.
4. What do you consider to be a sales qualified lead (SQL)?
Sales and Marketing need to be in agreement as to what actions or behaviors indicate that a lead is primed to talk to a sales rep. If you take their opinion into consideration when defining an SQL for this campaign, they’ll be more excited about receiving leads from marketing and follow up with those leads faster.
Once you’ve decided on a definition for an SQL, be sure to also communicate during the campaign what route a lead took to get to them. Did they raise their hand and specifically ask to talk to a sales rep, or did they download 2 whitepapers and attend an event? Arming the sales person with this information will give them context and allow them to start the conversation accordingly.
5. How quickly do you follow up with a lead after they are assigned to you?
Best practices say that leads who are expressing explicit interest should always be followed up with as soon as possible (in fact according to InsideSales’ 2014 Lead Response Report , 50% of buyers choose the vendor that responds first) however whether it be due to human or technological constraints, an immediate response is not always the standard. Understand what is feasible, and come to an agreement on a SLA (Service level agreement) for how soon the sales team will follow up with leads, and how long they’ll pursue them for. That way, in planning your campaign, you can ensure to set expectations with a prospect on when they should expect to hear from a sales person should they request to speak to a rep or would like more information.
Questions During and after your campaign:
6. What were the quality of the leads?
Any good campaign obviously requires reporting and analysis. During and after your campaign has run, ask the sales people about the quality of the leads they were receiving. Were they aware of the brand and the products? Were they good prospects that had the budget and interest in buying? How long was the sales process? This feedback can help you to optimize and adapt your strategy to improve both your demand generation and lead nurturing processes and ultimately deliver better leads that will make their jobs easier and more profitable.
Having honest conversations with your sales team about your marketing initiatives and asking their expertise will show them that marketing campaigns are not just cost-centers, but revenue drivers that are working to help make their job, and the entire company, more successful.
Digital Sales: What Does it Mean?
How much time does your company invest landing a single sale? Traditional sales — the phone calls, meetings, and lunches of the past — have taken a back seat to digital sales in the past decade. Now, companies hoping to steadily land new clients must reinvent the sales process to cater to the needs of customers without losing the all-important personal touch. Discover why traditional sales processes are failing and what you can do to change your company’s outlook for the future.
Want more detail? Download the PowerPoint slide at the bottom of the page for a detailed blueprint for a successful digital sales program
The Problem with Traditional Sales
When it comes to selling the traditional way, everyone loses. Why? Because your company invests significant time and resources without an impressive return while your customers are forced to dodge unwanted sales calls and come up with new excuses as to why they’re not “all in” with your product or service. It’s frustrating for both sides, and doesn’t help your company grow in the long run. With more than 2 billion people using the Internet, it no longer makes sense to approach sales with dated ideas. It’s time to innovate your sales process using proven digital tactics.
How to Perfect Digital Sales
Digital sales involves the use of virtual channels to reach out to prospects, provide education, and ultimately offer a solution that uniquely meets their needs. Think of it as 1-1 marketing. Here are three key strategies to complete an effective digital sales model.
Understand Your Customers Through Enhanced Profiling
Your sales department’s secret weapon is using customer data to improve the customer experience.
- Use the Data You Have: Organizations have plenty of insight on their prospects and customers which they can use to make sales more effective. Whether it is providing sales with triggers around specific activity or prioritization of leads/accounts with a lead scoring model, making better use of data can make a big difference in sales productivity.
- Social Media: Facebook alone has more than 1 billion users and LinkedIn has 300+ million. The growing number of social platforms gives your company endless options to listen to what customers have to say and learn more about them through improved profiling.. From reviewing common complaints to addressing unmet needs, building a strong social media presence is essential to digital sales.
- Advocate Based Selling: Online reviews are a great way for customers to get acquainted with your company while researching whether you’ve effectively solved a problem for someone else. Monitoring reviews and providing advocates with the power to share their views will not only offer a snapshot of sentiments about your solutions, but also offer social proof of your value for uncommitted prospects.
Sell Like a Marketer through Digital Channels
- Social. A common misconception about social media is that it’s just for socializing. For brands, engaging customers with social media posts, news, and responsiveness through social media, however, is the best way to build rapport and engage customers (all while in a platform of their choosing).
- Email. Without a doubt your most direct digital channel, email is the crux of your company’s customer engagement. Between drip campaigns, newsletters, and special offers, email simplifies lead nurturing without tying up your sales department’s resources.
- Marketing Automation Work with marketing to gain insights to customers with this tool. Use these insights to offer up personalized content or offers to your prospects.
Educate Your Customers with Digital Content
One of the best ways to communicate value online is by providing education to prospects. Not only does this benefit them without forcing a commitment, but it shows you’re investing in their problems by providing solutions tailored to their needs. Use the following assets to educate via digital channels (and make recommendations to sales on how to use them):
- Personalized Content. Whether creating blogs, white papers, or social media content, you have the power to offer helpful advice and tips through content tailored to your prospects. Incorporate both written and visual content into your sales process to make solutions accessible to Internet prospects.
- Curated Third Party Content. Thoughtfully curated content from third party sources shows you’ve taken the time to cater to your prospect’s needs.
- Case studies. Sometimes it’s difficult to visualize how a solution will benefit your customer’s life, but detailed case studies can add an illustrative quality to the typical problem-solution equation. Create case studies focused on industries you serve by outlining their struggles, failed solutions, effective solutions, and ultimate results.
- Web-based events. Working with marketing to host an event, such as a webinar, is a great way to establish expertise and use digital channels to make a personal connection with many prospects at once. Develop webinars focused on a particular topic, use complementary visual elements (such as slideshows or presentations), and leave room for engagement with customers after the event.
The result of using digital channels: Time and frustration saved
These new channels are making it much easier for sales teams to prioritize their targets and spend time on the right ones. Using digital tactics and technologies allows you to connect with the right buyer at the right time, as opposed to the traditional pure volume metrics of yesterday.
Which of these elements is your digital sales strategy missing?