B2B marketing teams need to think about sales as another marketing channel - just like the website, or PPC, or email, or social.
It's easy not to think about sales like this because you're not responsible for sales in the same way you're responsible for other channels. However, because the greatest thing B2B marketers can do is create leads that turn into business, if you have a mind-set of responsibility for sales, then you have a much better chance of delivering real success.
Having a mindset of responsibility for sales doesn't mean telling your sales team what they need to sell. This rarely goes down well!
What goes down well is asking your B2B sales team what they need to support them in selling. They may not know – in which case you can suggest things – but your suggestions will always go down better if you've asked first.
This is a bit like when we are designing websites – the web products we build are always better if supported by customer research.
Your sales team are your customers so ask them what they need.
Understanding the world of B2B sales
B2B marketing teams need to try to understand what life is like for salespeople in their organisation.
Whatever the image or reputation of salespeople, the vast majority are just products of the organisation they work for, which more often than not, is driven by the capabilities of the marketing team, and of course, budget. Yes, there are good and bad salespeople, but most are just somewhere in the middle. Typically the things that mark out the high performers are the ones that work really hard, the lucky ones allocated that great lead, or those that have been there a while.
Get hold of the sales path in your CRM system, the one which outlines the activities that move a lead to an opportunity and manage it through to its close. There should be key steps, and ticking off these steps equals a stage in the pipeline, and a percentage, which is used to forecast. Forecasting is important but fraught with challenges.
By doing this you'll get valuable insights into how salespeople qualify leads, the key trigger points that enable them to move them to the next stage of the funnel, and why they would commit an opportunity to close.
Talk to your salespeople about B.A.N.T. and R.A.F.T.
Moving a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) to a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) is often defined by these acronyms. At the MQL stage, you rarely know the Authority (budget holder) or if any Budget is in place, but provided there's a requirement you can fulfil, and a reasonable timeframe to deliver, it's generally worth qualifying.
Forecasting is the bane of many salespeople's lives, particularly in larger organisations. Sales is a great job, but one down-side is being asked to predict the future, which is notoriously difficult. You'll be asked what will close this month or quarter, and if this is not deemed to be enough you'll be asked to forecast things you know won't close. At the same time, you’ll be told how important it is to forecast accurately. Then at the end of the quarter, when you haven't met your forecast, you'll be criticised one way or another. But ultimately, this is just the pressure coursing downhill from wherever the top of the sales organisation happens to be. Showing empathy towards the salesperson’s position will be much appreciated.
You may find salespeople qualify leads that seem great MQLs – often this is because their potential close date is too far in the future, and as soon as the salesperson converts it to an SQL, their director is all over them to get it closed. Or if they accept it they will then go to the back of the round-robin queue.
So, if you can understand how the sales team are managed, and how leads are allocated, you'll better understand how to provide the sales team with leads at the right point, with the information they want to know so they can qualify them accurately.
The power of influence
Another way to better understand sales is to understand the power of influence, which you can do by reading a book called 'Influence' by Dr. Robert Cialdini. You can gain some insight into his work on his Influence at Work website.
'Influence' gives a good insight into the work of Sales
Cialdini talks about 6 principles of persuasion – things that make humans respond positively, psychologically – and the book considers how these principles are used in a variety of selling situations, sometimes almost unintentionally, and often without an awareness by the customer that these principles are having an influence.
When you look at these principles, it becomes obvious how they're being used, at scale, digitally, by many of the organisations we engage with online. And of course, salespeople have been using these principles in one-to-one situations with their prospects since the dawn of time.
Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Persuasion
You can start to consider how to use these principles within your organisation, aligning your use of them across your digital marketing channels with your sales teams and processes.
From a B2B marketing and selling perspective, Authority, Consistency, and Consensus are particularly key elements. These are things your salespeople are keen to reflect, and things you should want to represent from a marketing perspective. For instance:
- Authority being reflected in thought leadership articles
- Consistency in terms of how the brand is reflected across different channels
- Consensus in terms of case studies or testimonials
Thought leadership articles, case studies, and testimonials are all things you want to make available to prospects via your marketing channels.
It's also information your salespeople would want to share with leads at key points in the sales process. And the fact that prospects have engaged with the content digitally is something a salesperson is going to want to know about as soon as it happens.
It's common that prospects aren't really 'sucked down' the sales funnel as soon as they show an interest in something.
One of the big differences to the B2B sales process the Internet has brought about is that it has lengthened it. These days it's less effort to investigate something that might be of interest in the future and show an interest in a product or service by reacting to a piece of marketing material.
This ‘above the funnel’ area, most commonly referred to as the Nurture phase, is where many future leads could lie. But due to the sheer volume of them, they're very difficult to nurture manually. If you pass them through to your sales team as MQLs at this point, they'll most likely struggle to keep on top of them all.
When a prospect is ready to move down into the funnel, they'll likely return to the website or open the emails from the organisations they consider Authoritative and Consistent, with lots of happy customers.
It's the first few organisations to pick up on that renewed interest, provided they can continue to harness the power of influence throughout the buying cycle, are the ones in the box seat.
Codehouse helps B2B businesses
Over the past fifteen years, we’ve helped a large number of B2B organisations join together their sales and marketing approach, and harness the power of digital influence to drive differentiated and personalised digital experiences.
Whether you need a new website platform to personalise content and the customer experience, you’re looking to integrate your website with your CRM system, or you need help driving people down the funnel with marketing automation, we can help.
To talk further, get in touch.