In reality, this is really a problem of the marketing staff (not sales personnel!) and hence the key reason why in the majority of companies marketing and sales, as business functions, continue to remain unconnected (in procedural terms). Give me three minutes to explain this thesis …
To increase growth, you’ll have to fill in the gap between promotion (advertising) and sales activities, or the customer’s first contact with the seller
For proactive and sales-oriented companies, inquiries are not enough! Such companies also seek opportunities for successful sales beyond the inquiries obtained. Because they want more, and also because they’re afraid that more active providers have had a significantly greater impact on the customer that submitted the inquiry. Accordingly, they are more or less in the role of the second or third option.
For the sales personnel’s efforts to be more successful, companies must combine marketing and sales into a uniform process. This way, the sales staff will be able to identify the people and businesses that are already thinking about making a purchase or are just about to make one. It would be even better if, before making their first live contact, they could identify how much these individuals are inclined toward them or at least how much they know the product or service they want to offer them. It is significantly easier to transform a person who understands the topic and your product better into a buyer than someone who still needs to learn a lot and has no opinion of his own.
This may sound like utopia, but it’s not.
Well-coordinated cooperation between marketing and sales also means that marketers with no direct-sales contact must be able to identify the leads or contacts that need more information or knowledge—in order to become familiar with the product or service and know how to make the “right” decision in the buying decision process. Only leads like these will be able to understand and correctly evaluate the competitive advantages when the sales staff contacts them. Only leads like these will even wish to be contacted by a salesperson.
To many, this may seem like daydreaming, but with some technology and a systematic approach the companies that understand and practice marketing beyond branding and event management could actually achieve all of this fairly easy. We only have to follow the newly acquired leads throughout their entire customer journey and bring them into the CRM system.
The sales staff isn’t impatient if it aims at the right targets
The task of marketing is to inform and orient individuals in the right direction and to make them love a company or its products and services. The task of both marketing and sales is to then effectively identify these people (or companies). By effectively, I mean in a timely fashion and in the right context. Without that, sales activities simply can’t achieve any meaningful success. At least not the kind that could be (provably) ascribed to marketing efforts.
Accordingly, over the past years many companies have also upgraded their investments in digital marketing or marketing automation in the direction of developing an inside sales team and systematically supported activities, the primary task of which is to detect and qualify new leads. With smaller purchases, these tasks also include closing the entire deal or upselling to a more expensive item for new customers that have made their first purchase through other channels. With more valuable purchases or complex products, booking the first live meeting with the sales representative comes to the fore in addition to lead qualification. We’re (still) afraid to make remote purchases of certain things. For now.
The primary task of the inside sales team should be to identify hot leads—those who have in any way indicated a certain intent to make a purchase. Those are the only ones you can sell something to. The most you can do with the rest is to encourage them to do research and in some way, remind them of your marketing efforts. But if that is your goal, you need to suitably adjust the way you address them when you call them.
Your marketing staff needs feedback on processing leads
Statistics have shown that inside sales development contributed the most to effective (digital) marketing efforts for winning and nurturing leads when establishing a ROPO sales model. In our projects, it is here that we can identify a key difference between our more successful and less successful clients. If the marketing staff knew who processes the leads they brought in and warmed up—and how and when—and if they also had the chance to change the procedural rules, they would be significantly more successful. But most often it’s very difficult for such feedback to reach the members of the marketing staff who make efforts to win and warm up new leads.
Inside sales primarily deals with the leads and customers, whose intent you have identified. Forget about the call lists you’ve been using so far!
It’s very difficult for the sales personnel to convince someone to make a purchase if this person hasn’t thought about it yet. If they succeed anyway, they are basically just lucky. Lucky that they came across an individual who had actually already thought about making a purchase. If that’s not the case and the sellers simply exerted their power of suggestion over a slightly more labile person, they run a great risk of having obtained a customer that in time will “cough up” his or her disappointment in some way or another. This doesn’t do you any good in the long run.
I say that the times are long gone when it was still worth trying through cold-calling. Back then there were not as many opportunities available to inform people as there are today. The salespeople actually played an educational role. They were knowledge carriers. Today it sometimes happens that I know more about a certain thing than the person who’s trying to sell it to me.
The marketing staff should ensure that people start thinking about buying something, and sellers should be able to identify that moment with the right people. The seller who’s only guessing what that moment may be is losing focus and wasting energy in vain.
Today salespeople only seal the deal because customers do research and learn about things on their own using the digital material available to them. They want to do this completely on their own, at least at the beginning of their buying path. They only seek the help of Google and their friends in the social media or online communities.
Intent marketing: focusing on those who “have their wallets out.”
This is not just some new fad, or a brand-new phrase. It’s about the techniques and skills of detecting those that “have their wallets out.”
The clearest message that someone is looking to buy something is when this person actually tells you that. Usually by sending you an inquiry. But another signal is when a person that wants to buy something is making inquiries in the social media and online communities. This year FrodX has identified quite a few leads that way. We made timely contact with them and sort of caught the last train in guiding them towards our solutions. Listening to all the developments in the social media can be pretty painstaking if you’re doing it by hand. But social listening technology is becoming increasingly more available and, more importantly, more effective. Here we’re also getting very close to saying (at least for some systems) that tools can identify a sentiment in Slovenian with which customers mention the keywords in messages we want to read.
But for the most part of identifying intent to buy, it is worth relying on your own digital environments and the visitors that have already been following you in some way and leaving their digital footprints behind. If you interpret that correctly, you receive very reliable signals about when it’s worth calling someone or passing them over to your inside sales team.
As long as your marketing and sales are not connected into a uniform process, you won’t get very far.
There’s a multitude of these and other similar signals, covering anything from monitoring your prospects to seeing who they “hang out” with in the digital environment. I would ask you to bear with me a bit longer, so I can explain all the intent marketing approaches to you, but I know you’ve already run out of patience and so I’ll have to cover that in a different post.
You won’t succeed with the inside sales if you merely expand your marketing by making a follow-up call to all those that you’ve already reached through direct digital marketing. You have to stop seeing this merely as a continuation of your campaign or some additional step or activity on your marketing list. You need to be able to identify currently hot leads regardless of how and when they came into contact with your material or what campaign you used to approach them.
Salespeople who think they don’t need any help from the marketers, bet on their own luck or also take on the marketer’s job by themselves. They may feel they aren’t gaining any benefit from their marketing colleagues. This is most likely because marketers continue to focus more or less exclusively on branding and think that “digital” only covers Facebook or Google advertising and a well-designed responsive website, for which they receive an award from the agency that designed it for them. They haven’t thought about the customer journey yet because customers are only in the domain of the sales department.
A total marketing reset
When I stumble across a salesperson who thinks he can sell his product or service anytime, even if I’m not thinking about buying anything, I know I’m speaking to someone that comes from a company that needs to reset its marketing. As a whole. For me, this is a signal that I need to encourage this company’s management to think about who its customers are and what, why, when, and how they buy, as well as when the company starts tracking its prospects’ buying decision process. During the first few sessions I have with them, we usually don’t even get to the “how.” It’s clear to them that they need a fresh perspective on their marketing and that they must reconsider their sales strategy.