In the B2B World, Market Awareness Trumps Sales Skills
Earlier in my career, I was VP of marketing for a mid-size software company in the content management space. There were a couple of very large competitors, who we termed “gorillas” in the marketplace. The VP of sales used to say something to the effect of: “When we get invited to the dance, we can beat our large competitor, but too often, we don’t get invited because they don’t know who we are.”
In this case, the big companies got the business not because they had better products and services, but because they were better in another respect: name recognition. The marketplace gorillas got invited because potential prospects knew who they were, and they did not know our company. Although our sales force was just as talented and experienced, they could only win if they had the opportunity to compete. A big part of our job was to create enough market awareness to get our products and services onto the consideration list.
Remember that not all sales result from a paid sales lead. Ideally, a fair portion of your revenue occurs because a prospect finds you. In other words, they have market awareness about you. This doesn’t mean they know exactly what you offer, or why you are better or worse than your competitors, but simply that they know you exist and have a vague notion about what you do. Sometimes, this is all you need to get that invitation to the dance.
Here are some of the non-paid ways prospects can learn about you:
- Referrals (the best source of all)
- Press releases
- Product review sites
- Cyber mentions
- Word of mouth
- Organic web search
- Industry analysts
- Community outreach
- Reputation of your key staff
- Social media
Don’t overlook the power of the last two items. The known talent and experience of your staff (especially executives) can be leveraged to drive business. Similarly, a strong social media initiative can get your name and brand position disseminated to a wide audience. For example, Fusion Marketing Partners and our clients, have both generated significant revenue (and great new clients) by making ourselves known through free social media sources.
Yes, sales skills are important, as is lead generation, and many other attributes of a finely-tuned marketing and sales operation. But market awareness is often the factor that decides whether you get a chance at the business. Get yourself known. Get invited to more dances. Close more business.