How buyers buy and suppliers compete has changed.
Today, four in every ten qualified opportunities result in the buyer deciding to do nothing. Business leaders across the channel have expressed concern about sales and marketing capabilities.
This is not a problem with sales and marketing people. It is an executive leadership opportunity to shape and develop their businesses to deliver growth.
In this article, I look at today's status quo and then lay out a 5 point plan for business leaders to catalyse more deal wins through improved marketing and sales.
Buyers have become more sophisticated. They use the Internet and peer groups to shape and inform their buying decisions. They are over 70% of the way through a traditional sales process before they engage with a supplier.
As a supplier, if you are not aligned to the buyers' perspectives, you are wasting your time. Executive leaders in today's channel businesses must rejuvenate their ability to engage and qualify these buyers by rethinking, strengthening and updating their sales and marketing strategies.
This doesn't mean firing your sales and marketing people. It doesn't mean "sheep dipping" them through a selling skills course. It doesn't mean hiring more telesales people to make more calls because the numbers doesn't work anymore.
What it does mean is developing your strategies, culture and the way you manage, value and reward your people so that your business can deliver the sales experience that will make buyers buy. This five point plan explains how.
Buyers enjoy being sold to when they feel they have been helped to decide the best way forward, guided around potential pitfalls and closed without feeling under pressure. In today's channel market, this is a sales and marketing deliverable not just a sales one.
Buyers have different expectations about how they should be sold to. By falling short of their expectations you risk losing their business. Four in 10 qualified prospects decide to do nothing and 97% of buyers want fewer interactions with sales. Importantly, buyers are attributing these no decisions directly to the experience they receive from potential suppliers.
To catalyse more deal wins, you need to know what buying experience your company is delivering now. Ask your customers and your prospects. Don't just dispatch your sales and marketing people to do this. The buying experience your customers receive is important to your business. So show it by involving yourself in making buying better. What you need to produce is a map that shows how your buyers buy and the experience they require to make a purchase. Use this to inform how your sales and marketing strategies should evolve.
Sales is about persuading a potential buyer to buy. Marketing is about persuading potential buyers to listen to sales. So it stands to reason that sales and marketing should be fully aligned and work together at every stage of the sales process. And yet all too often this isn’t the case. Sales and marketing are frequently misaligned, out of step and even out of touch with each other. The result of this misalignment is, quite simply, that they’re not delivering. This is your problem, not theirs. As the business leader, you are the one that can bring these two functions together and align them with your buyers.
The best way of aligning sales and marketing is to give them common objectives that are aligned to deliver the right sales experience to customers. Remember that by the time a prospect is talking a sales person, their purchase decision is almost over. So, marketing must understand their role within the sales process
80% of collateral produce by marketing isn't used. Again, this is your problem, not theirs. If you are measuring marketing success on column inches of PR, numbers of glossy brochures, emails sent or hits to your website, then you are missing a trick and wasting your money. The same goes for sales. If you are measuring their success on numbers of telephone calls, numbers of appointments and the number of opportunities in their pipeline then you are compounding the waste.
There is a straightforward solution to this problem. Measure your sales and marketing people on hitting sales targets. In my experience, companies that have implemented this single measure have spent less on marketing and increased sales wins. It's a win-win you can't afford to ignore.
The average channel sales person has just 34% of their time available for selling. The rest of their time is spent in company meetings, post sales activities, research and creating their own sales materials. If you want to catalyse more deal wins, make more time for your sales people to sell. You must lead this change. Create operational efficiencies that free up time for your sales people. Even more important; if you show that you value your sales people's time then so will the rest of your business. This is a perfect opportunity to lead from the front and grow your business.
Every person in your business has some level of contact with customers, partners or other elements of the supply and sales chain. Every interaction an employee makes broadcasts your value proposition. As the business leader, you are in the ideal position to create opportunities for everyone in your business to showcase their commercial strengths - even those they didn't know they had. A great place to begin this journey is by enabling every single person in your company to explain what you do in the same way. Keep the explanation conversational but make sure it is exactly consistent. Companies that have implemented this have seen sales leads increase and employee motivation rise. It's another unmissable win-win and simple to do.
The common thread to this 5 point plan is about adapting your business to thrive in a profoundly connected market place. It isn’t just about communications anymore. It’s about interconnectivity. Success will come from effective interconnectivity between your business, your people, your partners and your customers.