Don’t Break the NEW Rules of B2B Sales and Marketing

Sales and Marketing RulesThose of us who have worked in B2B sales and marketing for some time agree that the rules have changed. But what exactly are the new rules and how do they differ from the traditional way of doing things?

Rule 1: Selling is not just “Telling”.  As a marketing professional, I always made it a point to understand what my company’s sales staff was learning – so I have attended several internal sales training programs where reps were taught how to identify, engage, nurture and close prospects. Sometimes, this is taught from a linear perspective – First you take step A, then B, etc., until you close the business. But smart sales reps know that the answer is not to find someone who will listen to you, then pitch, demo, re-pitch and so forth.  In last year’s B2B sales and marketing trends report, I talked about the “fuzzy funnel” and how prospects enter and exit the sales process in many different ways. You need to prepare for every scenario.

Rule 2: Your focus should be on the buying process.  Universal access to information and the amount of competition in almost every industry have empowered buyers much more than in the past. The fact is that most people like to buy but very few of us like to be sold. So why not change your paradigm from “selling people stuff” to “helping people buy”? This might sound like a subtle distinction but I assure you it is not.

Rule 3: Your website should do a lot of the heavy lifting. You can find a ton of information online regarding how much time prospects spend online researching products/solutions before engaging with a sales rep. Of course this depends on the industry but it can range from a low of 10-20 percent to as high as 90 percent. Regardless, this is a number that is going to increase over time so get your cyber act in order. Create and publish content that educates prospects and brings them closer to engagement.

Rule 4: Hiding your information is counterproductive. B2B companies are reluctant to share too much information for two primary reasons: 1. Competitors will steal it.  2. Prospects will use the information to build their own solution. But the fact is, there is a lot of information about your topic area in cyberspace and if prospects don’t find it from you, they will do so from your competitor, and even worse, buy from the competitor. Just remember the mantra, “The more you share, the more you receive.  The less you share, the less you receive.”

Rule 5: Nurturing is as important as selling.  Our client research has shown that among inbound inquiries, there are usually as many prospects who will buy in the future (e.g. after six months or more) as will purchase in the short-term (e.g. 30-90 days). In other words, the ability to stay in touch and feed suspects relevant information on a periodic basis can be just as lucrative as the ability to sell your current hot prospects today.

Rule 6: Prepare for disruption. Lots of companies have had their products and/or marketing and sales models disrupted. Sometimes the impact is minor or moderate (e.g. moving some part of sales to the web) and other times it is massive (Uber, AirBnB, self-driving cars). But as the book title suggests, you need to Disrupt Yourself before someone else disrupts your business. You do this by testing your hypotheses, processes, pricing, and so forth, before you are forced to do so.

Of course, these rules are suggested guidelines and not meant to be sacrosanct. As Richard Branson said, “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.”

12 Quick B2B Sales and Marketing Fixes

Marketing FixAt Fusion Marketing Partners, we sometimes deal with clients who have both longer-term strategic issues (business model, lead-to-revenue strategy, etc.) but also a need for tactical quick fixes in the areas of lead generation, revenue and so forth. In medicine, they refer to this as the “chronic” vs. “acute” condition. And the challenge when dealing with both is similar to the expression about rebuilding the plane in mid-flight.

I write a lot about curing the chronic conditions of sales and marketing, but today will address the acute condition — when you need leads and revenue quickly. Here are 12 tactics to get you started:

  1. Stop doing what doesn’t work. Forgive me if this sounds blindingly obvious, but the fact is, inertia is a powerful force. We sometimes get caught up in our routines – even when they don’t produce such great results.
  2. Rebrand or reposition. I am not talking about a total rebrand or reposition here (which addresses the chronic condition), but rather modifying the messaging to match the needs of a particular target segment.
  3. Remarket to past prospects. There may be gold in your opt-in contact list, but you need to get out your shovel and mine that gold.
  4. Borrow an idea from your competitor(s). You may have competitors with large budgets and lots of marketing people whose entire goal in life is to take business away from you. Why not pay them back by borrowing one or more of their best tactics and modifying to your unique needs?
  5. Make a new offer. If your old standard offers are not working, try something entirely different. Do a drawing. Conduct a survey. Buy prospects pizza if they attend your lunch event or a coffee gift card if they talk to you in the morning. Test new offers until you find one or more that work.
  6. Send out a press release (or two). Although they are more of an awareness tool than a lead gen tool, press releases are a fast and inexpensive way to get the word out. And no, “My product is the greatest thing since sliced bread,” is not a proper subject for your release.
  7. Do 20% more. There are two major ways to improve marketing and sales productivity – do what you do better or do more of it. Sometimes the quickest fix is to focus on quantity.
  8. Measure and refine. If you aren’t measuring actual vs. anticipated results, you are likely not going to get better performance. I will be covering this topic in my upcoming webinar, How to Eliminate the “Promise vs. Reality Gap” of Marketing Automation.
  9. Incentivize your sales force. Smart sales managers know about the power of selective incentives to drive short-term gains in revenue. As one of my favorite CSOs often reminds me, sales reps are coin-operated — they go where the money is!
  10. Get rejected. Sales is both a quality and quantity game. If you are not being rejected often enough, you are probably not talking to enough potential prospects. When your revenue numbers are anemic, make sure your reps increase their activity at every stage of the sales cycle (e.g. do 20% more as mentioned above).
  11. Ask your prospects questions and then act on what they tell you. Here are four of the best questions:
    • What are you doing that is working?
    • What are you doing that isn’t working?
    • What is the one improvement that would add most to your success?
    • What does your ideal situation look like?
  12. Hire professionals. This may be a bit self-serving since my company does outsourced B2B marketing, but the fact is, those of us who have practiced these tactics hundreds, even thousands, of times usually have a good track record when it comes to getting results.

How CEOs Can Improve the Value of Sales and Marketing Efforts

CEO Marketing KeysCEOs have likely already conferred with their leadership teams about how they will deliver sales- and marketing-fueled growth for this year and beyond. Yet while no successful leader submerges him or herself in the nuts and bolts, you must have a dashboard, even an informal one, for guiding your team, asking the right questions and keeping your eye on the high-level feedback.

Here are 5 key ongoing conversations CEOs need to have with their sales and marketing leadership to achieve their teams’ visions of revenue growth:

1. Verify that you have strong processes in place for each of the 4 major parts of the marketing and sales model.

Sales Model Steps

The outcomes your leaders deliver will only be as good as the processes within these critical parts of the funnel (and the ones that connect them). It’s not for you to define and build minutiae, but rather to be able to speak to your team’s proposed plan for systematically managing profitable conversations within each part of the funnel and transferring prospects efficiently from one to the other.

2. Keep things simple and focused on as few priorities as possible. CEOs should be on alert when they feel they are looking at a sales and marketing plan with too many moving parts: too many products, too many offers and too many messages. If strategy is clear, the executive leader’s contribution is to provide critical focus so that resources won’t be spread too thin in half-execution of an overly broad plan. Trust your instincts when gauging if a plan will deny you concentration of force and offer guidance on where to pare activity.

3. Forge a service level agreement (SLA) between both departments. Aligning the efforts of your sales and marketing leaders for maximum impact—thereby removing vague areas that will eventually devolve to unproductive finger-pointing—is one of the best uses of your leadership muscle.

The SLA should specify:

  • The number of leads required, and when:
  • What constitutes a sales-ready lead
  • How leads are distributed to the field
  • How sales reps disposition leads
  • How marketing’s contribution is measured through a closed-loop system

4. Ensure that effective sales lead management is built into the process. When asked, your marketing chief should be able to succinctly tell you how he or she is going to qualify inbound inquiries and how they’re going to create an ongoing program to nurture these leads until they are ready to engage in the buying process. Quality sales lead management can boost sales performance by 100% or more. Ask, and if you don’t hear a brief and compelling answer, you’ve got a problem.

5. Require a consistent flow of relevant content. Just as your leadership should be expected to have a process for creating marketing campaigns and guiding prospects through the buying cycle, they should also be able to define and tell you how they are going to execute a process for delivering content that will create higher marketing and sales conversion rates. A systematic and disciplined stream of thought leadership, case studies, blog posts, white papers and more will all be critical to achieving your goals.

Starting these 5 critical conversations and shepherding their progress can have a profound impact on your revenue and profit this year. Executive attention—at the proper level of detail—is vital for progress, as is the ability to be nimble and pivot when market feedback dictates. In a business culture obsessed with disruption and “next big things,” it’s easy to forget the simple value of enforcing a solid sales and marketing plan—and backing it up with efficient processes.

Note: this article was originally posted at Chief Executive Magazine May 7, 2016.

 

Crisp Sales and Marketing Execution – A Key to B2B Success

Marketing Execution

Planning is great, and having the right marketing and sales strategies in place is imperative, but it can be for naught if the sales and marketing execution part of your go-to-market activities is flawed. Unfortunately, this is the case with many companies. For example, MarketingSherpa states that only about one quarter of B2B companies have a lead generation and follow-up process that is routinely observed. And the following chart from Bain & Company shows that while sales effectiveness is a chief imperative, less than half of companies believe their own sales force is operating at full effectiveness.

Marketing ExecutionOur experience in B2B marketing and sales enablement shows that this “goals vs. outcomes” gap is equally true on the marketing side. All the planning on the front end and analytics on the back end won’t help you if you don’t have your act together from an execution standpoint. Once the strategic goals, processes and technology infrastructure are in place, crisp sales and marketing execution is what closes the gap between concept and revenue.    

Execution is not just about doing things right (efficiency) but more importantly, doing the right things (effectiveness). This means focusing on activities that enable reps to either make more sales calls or increase sales close rates. If you study how reps spend their time and find that a vast majority is spent on non-revenue producing activities like support, logistics or qualifying raw inquiries, you need to eliminate as much of this unproductive time as possible.     

One of the most important aspects of crisp marketing execution is to remain consistent. One of our clients had great technology, but also had a very bad habit of changing its product offerings and value proposition every six months or so. The sales team was encouraged to spend their time on the newest offerings instead of what had worked for them in the past. This required extensive retraining of the team, and they never found their rhythm. In a tough selling world, consistency can be the attribute that keeps your team on top.   

Clear communication of the goals and processes is a must, as well as a way to monitor performance. There is a tendency to resist change and keep doing what has always been done. Sometimes this is true because what makes sense at the corporate planning level totally flops when implemented where it counts: dealing with prospects. This is why we advise prototyping new processes on a small scale before rolling out to the larger group. However, if you make exceptions or allow for too much optional behavior, the best strategies and technology won’t save you.

Top 6 Ways that Marketing Supports B2B Sales and Revenue

B2B Sales and MarketingSince the early days of B2B marketing and sales, marketing VPs have been asking that puzzling but oh-so-important question: “What in the heck does sales want from us anyway?”  And the problem is, the sales department sometimes doesn’t know what it wants — or it changes what it asks for on some seemingly random basis. One day it’s, “We need a lot more leads.”  Another day it’s, “We need more qualified leads,” or “We need more marketplace awareness.”  Some days, they want all three.  And there are myriad other requests like sales collateral, website changes, event support, press releases, and targeted campaigns. The list can be endless.

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B2B Sales and Marketing Trends for 2015

badge-2015-marketing-trends-lgAt the beginning of each year, my team and I publish a report on significant trends in B2B sales and marketing. This report is based on our experience with our B2B clients as well as relevant industry research. The purpose or the report is to provide information that is timely and actionable. You can read the full report here.

Trend 1:  Metrics are a major priority. We see many B2B companies adopting an end-to-end marketing and sales framework that:

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B2B Marketing Leaders: 3 Things that Can Hurt You (And Your Company) in 2015

2015-b2b-marketingThe transition to a new year can be a perilous time for B2B marketing organizations. Sales managers, finance people and CEOs are gathered in rooms or on conference calls having tough conversations about priorities and funding for the new year. The output of these meetings can wreak havoc on the unsuspecting marketing department, especially when these types of statements are made:

“Marketing underperformed last year. Why don’t we cut the marketing budget by 20 percent?”

“The sales team thinks it can out-market the marketing team. Why don’t we let the marketing department report to the sales VP?”

“We need to cut marketing staff to afford more sales reps.”

“What’s up with all this social media? Are we really paying people to Tweet and play on Facebook?’

“The website is awful and our leads our worthless. Why don’t we just outsource our marketing?”

“What does marketing do with all that money we give them? Do we really need another $30,000 trade show? How does any of it convert to revenue?”

And the cruelest statement of all: “Do we really need marketing?”

All of these statements and outcomes are driven by three basic problems:

Problem 1: Misalignment between sales and marketing. This gap occurs if your sales leader and marketing leader don’t see eye to eye on objectives, branding, sales support needs, etc.  Because the sales department is closer to revenue, this gap will usually work against the interests of the marketing department. Marketing VPs have been fired because of the failure to achieve alignment. My recent post on how to align sales and marketing plans will help you in this area.

Problem 2: Lack of accountability. Metrics drive the modern B2B marketing organization. Ideally, you have a sales level agreement (SLA) that specifies what your department is expected to directly produce in terms of awareness, inquiries (raw leads) and qualified leads – and also how you will influence metrics like the number of qualified leads, opportunities and even revenue. A lack of accountability can produce issues like that reported by John Staples in his blog post titled Why Don’t We Just Cut the Marketing Budget?: “Lead Generation does not produce quality leads – marketing continues to take the blame for a lack of evolution in many sales forces. “It’s not me, it was a bad lead.” All of us who have been in B2B marketing for any length of time have heard such pronouncements, and regardless of whether they are true, it is often perception more than reality that can sink your marketing ship.

Problem 3: Unachievable objectives. We marketers tend to be optimistic by nature but too much optimism can get us in trouble, especially when it comes to making promises. The sales VP says, “We need 150 qualified leads a month to hit our numbers.”  Instead of a thoughtful response like “Let me run the numbers and get back to you,” you blurt out, “Of course. No problem. We’ll get your 150 qualified leads per month.” Like the coach who promises to win the Super Bowl and only wins a division title, even though you have a good year, your well-intentioned promise will come back to haunt you. For B2B marketing leaders, it is always better to slightly under-promise and over-deliver.

Address these three potential problems early in the year and you will have a more successful 2015 and beyond.

10 Critical B2B Sales and Marketing Metrics – Part 2

In my last blog post, I talked about the first five of the 10 most critical B2B marketing metrics.  Just to recap, they are:

  1. Cost per new inquiry
  2. Conversion of inquiries to qualified leads
  3. Cost to acquire a new customer
  4. Cost per new dollar of revenue.
  5. Sales and marketing cost as a percentage of total revenue

And here are the next six key metrics:

6.   Conversion of qualified leads to opportunities: Once a lead has been qualified, it is up to the sales rep to convert it into a workable sales opportunity. Ratios for this metric can range from 20 to 50 percent.

7.   Opportunity close rate: This number is calculated by dividing the total number of sales in a given time period (e.g. quarterly or monthly) by the total number of opportunities created.

8.   Ratio of pipeline coverage to revenue: This statistic is closely related to the opportunity close rate and refers to the amount of potential revenue in the pipeline needed to achieve a specific revenue target. For example, if your revenue target is $1 million and you need $4 million in pipeline deals to make this happen, your pipeline ratio is 4:1.

9.   Average sales cycle: This number refers to the average amount of time it takes from first contact with a prospect until the deal is closed. The average sales cycle can range from minutes with e-commerce products to a year or more with large ticket enterprise sales.  Effective B2B companies understand how to move prospects through the sales process in a streamlined manner.

10. Average deal size:  Increasing your average deal size is a great low-cost way to improve your revenue picture. This will largely be outside the scope of the marketing department, but you can certainly help your sales colleagues by providing sales support and enablement tools.

The following graph gives you an example of how these numbers come together to provide a holistic view of your sales and marketing metrics. One important thing to note is that a change to any one of the individual data points will impact overall performance.  Good marketers look for the weak links in the end-to-end process and make sure the entire operation is streamlined.

 

 Marketing Metrics

Important Marketing Metrics

 You have the opportunity to improve that which you measure. Use the above marketing metrics as a starting point, adjust as necessary to fit your circumstances and start reaping the benefits.