Many B2B companies are struggling at the top end end of the sales funnel—they’re just not getting enough new opportunities to achieve their growth objectives. The problem is not the number of opportunities that exist to close business, they’re just missing out on opportunities because they remain stuck in a long-engrained sales culture.
Further complicating the problem, management doesn’t look for a solution in marketing because branding a positioning initiatives have failed to produce leads in the past and measurement was theoretical at best.
Salespeople have a difficult time these days controlling the entire process with any kind of predictable results. They used to be the gatekeepers of information—if you wanted to find out more, you talked to a salesperson.
But because buyers are shopping for solutions online, if you haven’t developed a strategy to put content out in front of them, you’re missing opportunities. They’re shopping with or without you. The result is missed quotas, missed revenue goals, and a revolving door of salespeople who can’t make the money they were once used to.
Here’s some tough love: It’s most likely not their fault, it’s yours.
Think about how your own buying process has changed—let’s say you are going to buy a flat screen TV. Is your first step to go to Best Buy and talk to a salesperson? Probably not. I know I don’t. I research options online first, see what deals are out there. I may still go to Best Buy, but when I do, I’m fully armed with information.
The same is true of any large, complex sale - especially in B2B companies.
For you pragmatists out there, (the "let’s wait and see how it works first" crowd) I get it.
I never enjoyed making cold calls, but 10 years ago it used to be predictable and reliable. It was just a numbers game; if I made enough dials, I’d have enough appointments to fill my pipeline. And yes, the work sucked—but at least I knew what I had to do.
But today, you won’t get those same predictable results. Yes, you’ll get a hold of people, but they won’t want to talk to you—and they don’t have to anymore. You’re not the gatekeeper of information that you once were.
If adding sales people is your strategy for growth, I predict that you will fail to meet your objectives (assuming that you’re actually committed to it).
And what’s more, you’re wasting money.
Commissioned salespeople cost a lot of money—do you really want them spending all that time to find prospects and nurture them through the funnel? Before you say yes, realize that the number of touches that it takes to convert a prospect has gone from an average of 7 to an average of 25. And typically, commissioned sales people give up after 3 or four tries.
Join our webinar “The 90s Called and They Want Their Sales Plan Back” on July 30 at 12:00 CT where we’ll be discussing this in much more detail with two experts on modern sales structures.
Marketing Mavens to the Rescue
The answer for many B2B companies is to create compelling content and let prospects come to you. In hunting terms, it’s more like setting traps than showing up with a shotgun.
Content needs to be developed in the form of marketing white papers, infographics (replace the sell sheets) videos, articles, and blogs (like the one you’re reading right now). But the content must demonstrate thought leadership and the fact that you have a solution for the prospect’s pain and not “buy from me now messages.”
Because this is the way successful companies are engaging prospects in the 21st century, enter the marketing maven as the new sales hunter.
So,There's Good News and Bad News
The good news is that when you engage with a prospect, they will be farther down the funnel than used to be making it easier to close deals—they already know they’re in pain and want a solution. It still takes a consultative salesperson to foster them the rest of the way through the sales cycle, but at least you’re better allocating your resources because your experienced salespeople give you the best opportunity to close that business.
What’s the bad news? This process is not easy. It’s not fast. It takes consistency and often requires a change in process. If you take your foot off the gas, your pipeline will suffer.
It’s time for the pragmatists to get on board with what many successful companies are doing. The chasm has been crossed (read Predictable Revenue), and it looks like this:
Marketing creates the demand through content development, distribution, conversion and measurement.
Business development/Inside sales nurtures the leads by providing more information, reaching out having both live and digital conversations, and setting appointments.
Sales further qualifies, creates opportunities and consults on a solution.
When done well, you can expect at least 50 percent or more of your entire sales pipeline to come from marketing. Ours does.