This is the plea being heard in many of today’s sales organizations! Much like Alexander Graham Bell’s first words to Dr. Watson signaling the “new normal” in telecommunications, there is a new normal in business-to-business selling and marketing. B2B sales and marketing organizations need to adjust quickly! The old ways of selling simply don’t work the way they used to. Approximately 85% of phone calls go to voicemail and are never returned. Only 50% of B2B sales people are achieving their quotas. Nearly 80% of buyers state that they found their vendor rather than their vendor finding them!
The World Wide Web has given B2B consumers unprecedented access to information about you and your products as well as your competition. It used to be that a good sales professional could control the pace of the sales engagement by dispensing information at his or her own pace. Those days are long gone. Prospects are avoiding the sales interaction for as long as possible. Simply stated, your prospects are shopping without you!
Successful companies are “retooling” their marketing and sales approach:
1) First of all, they are implementing sophisticated Marketing Automation solutions. They continually dispense targeted content to thinly sliced market segments. They score the leads, and continue to nurture these prospects until their digital behavior indicates they may be ready to speak to someone.
2) Next, they deploy inside sales teams to qualify these highly scored leads, determining if they are ready to speak with the sales professional. If they are, then they pass on a highly qualified lead to a “closer”, if not, they are returned to the automated nurture process.
3) Finally, only the sales ready leads are passed along to the sales professional, or “closer”. But, at this point in their discovery, the prospect is very well educated and wants to speak with a senior person.
Our experience indicates that it is critical to follow this three-step process. Many companies try to skip step two, and the results are disappointing. The reason for this is that the sales professionals discussed in step three are only interested in speaking with active shoppers. They want the “now deals”. If marketing asks them to follow up with prospects that are not very qualified, they will quickly sour on their marketing partners, and declare that none of the leads are any good. This information spreads rapidly within the sales team, and it will take marketing months to dig out of this hole.
One analogy that we like to use is a pitching staff in baseball. Years ago, one pitcher would complete an entire game quite often, much like the traditional sales pro running their entire sales cycle. In today’s game, we will see a starting pitcher, one or more middle relievers, and “the closer”. This was started by one team, the Oakland A’s in the 1970s and rapidly spread throughout baseball. This approach called for a realignment of resources that revolutionized the game of baseball.
It is time for Sales and Marketing leaders to look at their processes in a similar way. The old ways will not be coming back. Marketing and Sales need to work within the same “business process”. Their success depends on it!