How to Choose the Right B2B Sales Model

Sales ModelA big factor in the entire lead-to-revenue (L2R) process is making sure that you start with the right marketing and sales model. In our initial engagements with B2B clients, we are sure to ask them the types of questions that let us know whether their go-to-market model needs just a tune-up or a complete overhaul. See related blog post on this subject.

Before you evaluate a new way of doing business, it is very helpful to make sure you fully understand your current situation. Here are six key questions to ask:

  1. How did your current marketing and sales model evolve? We find that many of the go-to-market models we see happened over time because of ad-hoc actions – and not a well thought-out and top-down strategic plan.
  2. What is your motivation for keeping the status quo? Sometimes people that want to do better stick to their current model because they know that change will be long and painful or because a CEO, founder or board member wants to keep it despite the flaws.
  3. Are you doing things out of habit or by deliberate choice? A lot of what we do, and not just in marketing and sales, is done out of habit. If that is the case at your company, ask the question: If we were starting over, would we design the system in its current form. If the answer is no, ditch the habits and implement a better model.
  4. Are your sales force and marketing teams earning their keep? We work with some great companies that have solid professionals in the marketing and sales ranks. But I have seen others where the team is just not up to the task of creating and implementing an optimized sales model. This question may lead to some tough decisions but it’s better to get this figured out early.
  5. Are your current processes helping or hindering progress? When designing a lead-to-revenue framework, you should start with processes. Here are seven items to confirm:
  • You use conversion ratios to monitor results at every step of the process and you utilize this data to consistently produce greater results.
  • The system produces a high percentage of qualified leads relative to raw inquires (this is a key conversion metric).
  • You follow up all leads in a timely manner (within 12-24 hours), except those that are obviously unqualified.
  • The inbound lead flow is balanced by territory, sales rep, and product line.
  • You produce inquiries/leads at a reasonable average cost per lead. These vary by industry and sales model.
  • You capture all information generated from inquiries and from follow up efforts immediately (and preferably automatically) in a database system.
  • You have a systematized nurturing process that converts a high percentage of today’s B2B sales leads to future customers.

You should also consider whether there any time bombs at your company? Time bombs are those issues that, if not addressed, could have serious consequences downstream. If you prefer a different analogy, think of time bombs as the potential “Achilles heels” of your organization – where you are most vulnerable to atrophy or attack.Here are a few of the most insidious time bombs:

  • Metrics that are way below standards – for example, a high cost of customer acquisition.
  • Good products, but a sales team that is stable, comfortable, and inefficient.
  • Channel partners that are leaving you for the competition.
  • A prohibitive cost-of-goods.
  • Products that are more than one generation behind the competition.
  • Staff that is mediocre or undependable.

Ask the tough questions early, decide whether you need a marketing and sales model tune-up or overhaul, and then take action to ensure a more successful 2018 B2B sales and lead-to-revenue model.

Six Problems that can’t be Solved with Marketing Technology

Marketing Technology BarrierIn my column for CustomerThink last month titled, My Love/Hate Relationship With Sales and Marketing Technology: 6 Lessons Learned, I talked about the reasons why so many of us have been frustrated with sales and marketing technology. One of the primary reasons is the huge imbalance about what is promised and what is delivered.

This overselling of benefits is a boost to the bottom line of technology providers but offers pitfalls for B2B companies and their marketing organizations. One example is a recent conversation I had with a software company CEO who had been talking to one of the more prominent marketing automation companies about installing their very expensive marketing suite. I was amazed that this very technically-smart CEO was made to believe that the new software would be the answer to his marketing challenges.

In this particular case, the software company had poor messaging aimed at the wrong audience as well as several other significant challenges. Here are some of the common barriers that I see that need to be addressed before implementing marketing technology.

Six Barriers to Marketing Technology Success

  1. Poor messaging. As in the above example, if the messaging is wrong or just substandard, new technology is not going to make everything right. It takes creativity and a good amount of elbow grease to figure out exactly where the right fit is between what you are offering and challenges faced by your target audience.
  2. Siloed data. In a recent CustomerThink article, A Customer Data Platform (or Any Technology) Can’t Solve Your Organizational Problems, author Buck Webb made an important point about technology limitations: “What a customer data platform cannot do, however, is solve the organizational problems inherent in breaking down data silos and closing the gap between customer engagement strategy and execution.” The article continues: “Every organization has functional data silos, which have grown organically over the years. For example, sales owns sales data, service owns service data, and marketing owns marketing data.”
  3. Ineffective lead-to-revenue (L2R) model. Lead-to-revenue is a marketing and sales framework that optimizes people, processes and technology in a synchronized manner to produce higher revenue, shortened sales cycles and improved close rates. Lead-to-revenue spans every activity from initial marketing outreach, to lead nurture, sales engagement and close. L2R success is measured by revenue and profitability metrics. Get your L2R model right first and then implement the appropriate technology to support the model. Please don’t start with the technology.
  4. Broken marketing processes. If your processes (e.g. campaign management, email marketing) are not following industry best practices and your human resources don’t have the right expertise, you need to prioritize this before buying any software. Automating broken processes only leads you to failure faster!
  5. Mediocre product marketing. This is such an important barrier to marketing and sales success that I will write about it in detail in the next few weeks. Basically, the person(s) who owns product marketing is responsible for a number of important functions, whose critical failures will become apparent when technology is introduced.
  6. Organizational roadblocks. Two critical organizational components are necessary for marketing technology success. First, buy-in from the executive team. I’ve seen marketing teams go “rogue” and implement solutions despite a lack of support from the C-suite. This almost never ends well. The other issue is the ability and willingness of the marketing team and other staff to embrace the new solution, even if it means a major change in the way they are doing things.

Just to be clear, I am not advocating that you not implement marketing technology. Heck, I’ve worked in three companies (including my own start-up) that provided this type of software. In fact, implementing marketing automation technology can force you to address the six issues above. But there is no doubt you will be a lot more successful if you address and overcome these six barriers as early as possible.

8 Essential B2B Marketing Questions: Ignore these at your peril

B2B Marketing Questions“Good questions outrank easy answers” – Paul Samuelson

Asking the right questions is crucial to your ability to optimize or turnaround your B2B marketing and sales operations. But even if things are going well, it is a good idea to periodically test your assumptions. Competitors are not standing idle and technologies, channels and customer needs are constantly shifting. Here are eight important questions to get you started:

  1. Do you understand your own value proposition? This question concerns the big “Why”. Why you are doing what you do, why anybody cares, and why they should buy from you. Your value proposition is the essence of why you are in business.
  2. What is the highest purpose your business serves? You can discover this by asking a series of “Why” questions until you get to the core. By the way, making money is not an acceptable answer because your prospects care about what is in it for them, not for you.
  3. Do you really understand your customers and prospects? By understand, I mean that you need to know the challenges they face, both personally and professionally, as well as what motivates and inspires them. Deep knowledge about your prospects will help you organize messaging and offers that more often result in a successful engagement.
  4. When people visit your website, do they understand what you do? This is not such an obvious answer. Generally you have just a few seconds to get your point across to prospects or they are off to the next website on their list. Your hero image, slider, brand promise, etc. must state two things very quickly and clearly: exactly what you do and exactly how you benefit customers.
  5. What is the focus of your content? Good marketing content is highly focused on the reader not the writer. A good ratio is 75% about the prospect and 25% about you. This is where knowledge of your target audience can help. Without this knowledge, the tendency is to make it about me, me, me, not about you, you, you.
  6. Do you have an achievable plan to find, educate, engage and convert prospects? All the great content and a first-class website are insufficient unless you have the right lead-to-revenue (L2R) processes in place to hit your revenue targets. For more about this, read: The Importance of Processes in Effective Lead-to-Revenue.
  7. Is your sales model built around the needs of the seller or the buyer? For years, we have been talking about the sales and marketing funnel. But the funnel that really counts is the buyer’s funnel. Instead of forcing customers/clients to do it your way, figure out how they prefer buying and align your processes accordingly. Change your mindset from “we need to do a better job selling” to: “we need to do a better job at helping people buy.”
  8. What are you measuring, and why? The ability to keep good metrics and improve based on the results separates the good from the average B2B marketers. As I pointed out in my recent article, 10 Critical B2B Sales and Marketing Metrics, there are tons of potential items to measure, but a handful will give you the bulk of the benefits.

Worthless Questions

The above are good, important and relevant questions – and the answers will contribute to your B2B marketing and lead-to-revenue success. However, all questions don’t hold equal value and there is a class of questions that are so bad they are actually counterproductive.

“Agree with me” questions: This category of question is phrased more like a statement, and is designed to elicit only one type of response – for example, when your boss, the CMO asks: Our new website looks great, doesn’t it?

Questions that are not actionable: All of the above questions are useful because you can take action depending on the answer.

Harmful sales questions: Sales reps can hurt themselves by asking the wrong question at the wrong time in the sales process. For example:

  • What is your budget (before the need is established)?
  • Is this a good time to talk (it’s easy for the prospect to say no)?
  • Are you the decision maker (far better to ask, who will be involved in the process)?

Overly broad or vague questions: These are meaningless questions where the person you are asking figures that you are being polite and don’t really care. An example of this is to ask something like: How was our service (good)? Or: Do you have any questions (no)? Or: How are you doing (fine)?

Burdensome questions: This category of questions includes anything that requires more effort to answer than the payoff from knowing the answer.  

To boost the success of your B2B marketing and lead-to-revenue programs, ask the right questions, ditch the worthless questions, and remember the advice of Lou Holtz: “I never learn anything talking. I only learn things when I ask questions.”

Matching Wits with a Sales Lead Guru on Live Radio

Have you listened to what your peers (and bosses) say is keeping them up at night? We did.

Today my company is making a podcast available to the public that captures my live, January 19 radio interview with Jim Obermeyer of the Sales Lead Management Association. We discussed my company’s research on lead-to-revenue strategy in the age of digital disruption, plus our 2017 State of the Industry Report: B2B Marketing and Lead-to-Revenue.

I’ve been a public speaker for decades and have been a guest on numerous national and international programs discussing everything from marketing and sales strategies for SaaS software companies to how my local business association can create more jobs in the region. But I’ve rarely enjoyed a chance to communicate more.

Sales Complains, Marketing Disdains?

Jim and I think about and act upon these topics all day, every day. Some of the topics we discussed were hard to talk about, chiefly because they represent the customer pain points that we see over and over again when dealing with B2B marketers. Our new survey research uncovered why these problems are perennial and, frankly, a little bit exhausting to tackle year over year, quarter over quarter (except, of course, when we get to solve them for our clients). Here are some of the chief issues:

  • Only 41% of respondent companies were somewhat or very satisfied with the amount of leads generated by the marketing teams. Why do sales teams complain so much about both lead quantity and quality? And what is preventing marketers from solving this issue once and for all?
  • Why do marketers have to come up with new and even more compelling KPIs to justify their existence? What can we measure (conversion rates, brand awareness) that will actually get us more budget next year instead of less?
  • What can be done to alleviate the “ineffectiveness of lead management” that so many B2B companies are struggling to overcome? Is the solution more technology, better people or more efficient processes (or perhaps all three)?

We were a little surprised about what our survey said people were spending on marketing in relation to revenue—and that it mostly fell in line with industry standards as outlined by Gartner. We also engaged in a discussion about the “red-flag” warnings that tell marketers when they have lead conversion issues that will drive up their costs to acquire customers (CAC). CAC is a common KPI that most research respondents noted was flat or would only rise slightly in the year to come.

I also shared with Jim what was perhaps most disappointing about our research findings: The fact that (as alluded to above) a majority of companies felt that they are lacking in three huge indicators of B2B success: marketplace awareness, sufficient lead flow and sales and marketing alignment.

I was happy to be a part of a broadcast that challenged and galvanized me about the topics that I have spent a lifetime learning to tackle. Although the survey results were a bit discouraging, my plan for 2017 is to challenge myself, our team and our clients to become better and better at what we do. You can now download the podcast and see for yourself how we did. I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed participating. Please download a copy of the survey report and let me know your thoughts.

Marketing Technology – Your Best Friend or Nightmare?

Technology NightmareOne of the most important enablers of an effective lead-to-revenue framework is marketing technology, which, combined with CRM and a great website, gives you a powerful platform for growing profitable revenue (always the best kind of revenue). And the good news is that there is a proliferation of solutions available, driven by the need for better planning, execution and tracking. But this can also be a bit of bad news because too many choices can lead to confusion and inaction. Worst of all, it can lead to the digital version of what we used to call “shelfware”; software that was purchased but unused (sitting on a shelf).

The following graphic illustrates the problem.

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The Importance of Processes in Effective Lead-to-Revenue

Process OptimizationComponent 3 in our recent eBook The Essential Guide to Building Your Lead-to-Revenue Machine is optimized marketing and sales processes. You can read lots of articles and white papers about the various technology options – CRM, marketing automation, sales enablement etc., but in my experience, unless you get the processes right,  even the best people and technology will just help you fail faster and more expensively.

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Criteria of Efficient B2B Lead Generation Processes

Lead to Revenue ProcessesMy team and I are always preaching the doctrine of the consistent and predictable lead generation engine as a key part of the Lead-to-Revenue Machine. In my recent book, The Essential Guide to Building Your Lead-to-Revenue (L2R) Machine™, I included a chapter on how to build efficient lead generation processes as a key component of L2R success.

The fact is this: Even the most creative branding and awareness-building program won’t produce the desired results unless you can efficiently work prospects through the system and produce revenue at the other end. But like everything else in marketing, you can’t improve

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Why a Powerful Brand Strategy is Crucial to Your Lead-to-Revenue Plan

How Branding Supports Lead-to-RevenueWhen I published my recent book, The Essential Guide to Building Your Lead-to-Revenue (L2R) Machine™, I chose brand strategy as the first key component of the framework because of its extreme importance to L2R success. Building the rest of your marketing and sales initiatives on top of a weak brand is akin to building a house on a bed of sand. It may work for a while, but will have no chance of sustainable success. We find that clients who focus on the brand early in the process have a much better chance of hitting revenue targets quarter over quarter and year over year. This is why it is so essential to define your brand promise as a guidepost against which you can gauge all of your tactical activities.

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Does Your B2B Sales Model Need an Overhaul or a Tune-up?

When designing a new, or optimizing an existing, sales model, you will be faced with some tough but extremely important decisions. The lifeblood of your business is not only in creating valued products and services, but also the ability to acquire new customers at a low cost relative to the average transaction amount. When you can do this, you get positive attention from the CEO and investors.B2B Sales Models

The adjacent graphic shows the major B2B sales models and how they relate on two important criteria: the cost per transaction and the amount of personal interaction required. When you include hybrids that combine elements from more than one model, there are dozens of possibilities.

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Nine Critical Criteria For Selecting Lead-to-Revenue Technology

B2B Sales MachineMy team and I write lots of content for our B2B clients. We also keep our own content stream flowing with fresh and relevant content related to B2B marketing and sales.  To this end, I started writing a white paper on the Lead-to-Revenue (L2R) strategies we use to help clients meet their revenue objectives. 9,000 words later, the white paper has turned into an eBook, which we expect to have published in early May.

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