Being successful in marketing and sales for business development purposes does not happen by doing the same things the same way with the same customers without some adaptation and evolution of your efforts. Customer buying habits continue to evolve, expectations continue to rise, and competition continues to increase.
There are 12 business trends that are inherent in successful marketing and selling efforts that you can integrate to meet these challenges.
- Marketing and Sales Alignment
- Collaborative Planning and Goal Setting
- CRM Systems and Processes
- Original Content and Marketing Automation
- Face-to-Face Marketing
- Build Repeatable Processes
- Business Skills
- Accountability and Transparency
If you have heard of these 12 trends and you have them in place, perfect! If you have heard of these 12 trends and need some additional information to convince yourself or your executive leadership about why you need to take these serious, then here is a further explanation of of the first four of these business trends to integrate for increased marketing and sales results.
The ability to adapt and evolve are not unique to the theory of evolution, they are important factors for your business to thrive in the marketplace. When was the last time you asked your customers what they wanted versus telling them what you think they want? Sure, some of the things they ask for will not be in your wheelhouse, but if enough of them are asking for the same thing and not receiving a solution from your competition, maybe it is time to innovate or diversify what you do to stay on top.
2.Marketing and Sales Alignment
One of the most pragmatic CEO’s that started her own company from scratch once told my B2B marketing class that until someone gives you money, everything you do is marketing and then you market some more until they give you more money. This makes “sales” a point in time on the spectrum, a triggering event where the stars align and the universe seems to make perfect sense to all of the relevant stakeholders.
My world has three phases to successful business development: awareness, conversion, and account management. Marketing has specific messages and activities aligned on the customers in all three phases just as sales has specific activities and milestones that need to be in the same alignment. Why did you send an email about what you do to a customer that you have had for years? Why did the sales team not follow up with all of the leads from the last targeted campaign? Why, on this earth, are you not communicating with and making visits to customers that just bought from you but then went silent?
Marketing and sales is a world of infinite possibilities but limited resources. Make sure that everything you do in marketing and sales is aligned to create efficiencies that minimize the overlap and maximize the opportunities.
3.Collaborative Planning and Goal Setting
Long gone are the days of leadership informing you of what your goals should have been in the annual company address that is three months into the following year, or at least they should be? If you want your business to grow, why are you not giving all of the stakeholders a seat at the table to set the goals and be part of the planning that it will take to reach your vision?
Wait, you don’t have a vision for the business and have not communicated it? This should not be a new trend and that is the reason there is not a number 13 to this blog. Marketing, sales, IT, finance, administration, HR, operations, and even a few strategic partners should all be at the table to help you determine what they can do and how they are going achieve that vision.
4. CRM Systems and Processes
One of my favorite hot buttons of all time. Did you know that only 10% of companies have some sort customer relationship management (CRM) in place and that only 10% of those companies use the CRM systems to their full extent? My math may not be the best but that means only 1% of companies are using CRM to the fullest extent. The top 1% is called that for a reason, and it is not always because they are lucky. This 1% uses the intelligence from their customers and their business to make smart business decisions.
Your customers are your largest asset and if you do not have a tool in place to manage that asset, then you should not blame internal or external forces for sales declines, shrinking margins, or lost market share. A proper CRM system can be your crystal ball to help you stop all three of those scenarios.
5. Original Content and Marketing Automation
I am sure you have seen or read plenty of white papers on how SEO is positively impacted by the original content you produce about what you do and how it impacts your customers’ business just as much as you should be communicating on every channel that the internet makes possible. I have to say that I have seen the results of this and you need to take it seriously. What have you done to document what you do? Do you even know how you make a positive impact on your customers? What are you doing to tell the world about it? Who are you even talking to?
Here is the answer to the last questions in point five. If you are utilizing your CRM system and marketing automation processes properly, then you should know which customers are ideal, which products are profitable, what market segments are growing, what lead sources are productive, and what activities are working. How efficient would your business development efforts be if you knew who you should talk to, could communicate how to increase your customer’s value to their customers business, and knew what products you need to sell more of? Instead of trying to be something to everyone and doing and saying what you think is right, why not let your customer intelligence and business intelligence tell you what you should actually be doing and saying?
In a previous post about legacy sales teams (link) and in the words of the immortal Montgomery Burns, it is time to “release the hounds.” Is your business development team expected to clock in and clock out on-site, working from desktop based software, making phone calls from a desk phone that is within proximity to 15 other conversations in the background, or do they have tablets or laptops with cloud based applications, have VOIP solutions that make them available seamlessly from anywhere, and have the autonomy to develop relationships anytime and anywhere? It is a 24/7/365 global economy that demands success to let go of traditional management and take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. Why do you think E-Commerce is growing? What time of the day did you place your last Amazon order?
You would be correct to set some boundaries for your mobile business development efforts but you would be foolish not to explore the technologies and practices that have helped the successful 1% we mentioned.
8. Face-to-Face Marketing
While we are on the subject of mobility, how are you incentivizing your business development team members to get in front of customers and prospective customers? Especially in the Milwaukee and WI marketplaces, showing up and talking to people is probably 80% of business development success. Magic happens when people get together and have conversations about what each other does.
With people you know, the conversation should have a point and targeted results. With people you don’t know, there is a different approach. I learned this from Robert Rose at a BMA-Milwaukee event in February of 2015 (I forgot where he stated it was from or if it was original) and it just seemed to make sense. When talking to an individual that you have never met before at a networking event or an event where you have a shared interest, use the (FORM) framework to structure the conversation. FORM is an acronym for (F) Family, (O) Occupation, (R) Recreation, and (M) Motivation. Tell me about your family, tell me about what you do, tell me about what you do for fun, and tell me about what gets you out of bed in the morning. I think your conversation will be amazing and probably lead to a next step with both of your efforts.
9. Build Repeatable Processes
Why re-create the wheel? Doesn’t that work alright? Business development is all about volume and velocity. We’ll talk about keeping it simple in point #11 but I will ask a simple question: What if you could predict results based on what information you have and what activities you executed regularly? Too good to be true?
How efficient would your business development efforts be if you were able to on-board new customers without having to do things differently every single time? I am talking about pricing, contracting, delivering, billing, and even resolving complaints. Did you know that the average person in a business development role is only able to “sell” about 10% to 20% of the time because they take it upon themselves to do everything else because there are no processes in place? What would your sales look like and what would everyone’s paycheck look like if your business development team could “sell” 60% of the time?
10. Business Skills
Have you read the book “The Challenger Sale” by Mathew Dixon and Brent Adamson? If not, you should (link). The book identifies the successful traits and skills of the business development people that have been exceeding expectation since the latest “recession.” Equip your business development team with the tools to understand business, not just the products and services you offer. Give your business development team the ability to understand how your customers make money. Stop talking about your product and service and start talking about how your product and service can impact your customer’s revenues, efficiencies, and profits and add value to their customers. Help your business development team become advisors to their customers and your business relationship with your customers will evolve from a supplier to a trusted partner.
In a previous post, we talked about the four “F” words you should be using when talking about your efforts. Those words are: focus, fill, forward, and finish (link). Whatever your efforts may be, they should be focused on the right activities that are designed on filling the funnel, moving opportunities forward, and finishing (closing) the opportunities that you have been cultivating….keep it simple stupid……that’s it! How much “new” business can you find and how fast can you on-board “new” business and use your sales funnel metrics to help you get better?
However, you need to be aware of opportunity costs your current marketing and sales structure and processes may be producing. Beware of “non-selling” activities delegated to the personnel that are responsible for your business development efforts because they will cost you money. These non-selling activities will impede new business development and should to be reviewed and be delegated to appropriate support personnel. Ask your team about what is keeping them from spending more time in front of their prospects and take the excuses away.
12. Accountability and Transparency
Sales is a team sport. Is everyone rowing in the same direction for the successful growth of your company? The actual activities that are associated with business development transcends just the marketing and sales department. Everyone in your company has an impact on your prospective customers and your current customers. What are the customer touch points? What are the roles and activities that are needed at each touch point? What needs to happen by whom and when to be successful?
Once you get everyone on board, determine what the goals are, determine the metrics to be measured, determine who is responsible for the appropriate activities, and make the results public so everyone holds each other accountable. One of my favorite tools is a “war board” that is visible to everyone. This single tool has aligned more efforts and generated more results than any other tool I have seen. I don’t care if you use chalk, dry-erase, spray paint, oil paints, or even permanent ink. Just make sure you are using something visible to all for documenting progress.
Integrating these 12 business trends into your marketing and selling efforts will make a positive impact on your results in a short amount of time when committed to. If you want to grow your business or even just your individual marketing and sales business development efforts, prioritize which of these 12 business trends could make an impact your marketing and sales efforts and make a plan to integrate them over the next 30-60-90 days.
How many times have you wanted your sales teams to just make more calls thinking that is the best way to increasing sales? Organizations that fail to deliver real-time intelligence to their sales team fail to maximize their efforts and hence get hung up on “making more calls” as the solution.
While most sales managers and owners love reports that measure their sales team’s activities in order to forecast sales, they may be missing opportunities by not focusing on reports that provide necessary information that would allow them to create a better strategy to begin with. Their current strategies and tactics are based upon dated information that could be months old and hence are often useless to make a difference quickly.
So if what gets measured gets managed, what information should you be measuring and delivering real-time to your sales team to be more agile in the field to increase sales?
- Sales of customers by demographic segments
- Profitability of customers by demographic segments
- Sources of new leads by demographic segments
- Dollars in each stage of the funnel
- Conversion rates for each stage of the funnel
- Average value of each opportunity in each stage of the funnel
- Achievement % to budgeted sales and profitability
- Market share % and industry trends
- Distribution by product line and products by demographic segments
- Customer attrition rates
- Customer satisfaction rates
- Production forecasts
- Delivery and project completion progress
Now more than ever, sales managers need to provide their teams with more timely insight and detailed sales analytics that can deliver a competitive advantage to their sales team, allow better forecasting by the sales manager, and increase sales for the company much faster than they would be able to if they were only tracking activities.
One of the most dangerous mistakes a salesperson can make is to go without activity because it will cause major problems in producing results later. As much as a salesperson may want to resist activity goals and metrics, they are necessary, and as much as the sales manager may not want to measure or enforce activity goals, it is necessary that you do so even when the numbers are being made.
The great game of sales is not very different than an athlete maintaining peak performance with the right activity (training). Without the right sales activity (prospecting) for even relatively short periods of time in sales, your pipeline starts to look a little light. Without face-to-face meetings, your deals start to stall and your pipeline looks even weaker. Eventually, your numbers will not be sufficient for the company to consider you a value to the organization, your commissions will sufferr, and a change will have to be made.
Maintaining momentum requires that you keep some standard of activity level, just like an athlete. Your activity goals and metrics are an indication of your future sales results. Your activity metrics are a snapshot of your fitness level as a salesperson and without them it easy to underperform and miss your numbers.
Build a “Model” Week for Momentum
The best way to maintain momentum is to create a “model” week with specific activity goals with prospecting calls and prospect meetings. Every week is not going to look exactly like the “model” week, and some are going to look very different based on the demands of the business you are in. One week of poor activity isn’t likely to make or break your quarterly or annual sales results, so it’s better to look at the averages since some weeks are naturally going to be more productive than others. Activities like prospecting calls and first sales meetings are good metrics and it is important to review your results and make changes to your activity levels as necessary.
Selling is one of those endeavors where it is very difficult to make up for lost time. You can train in the off season and perform during the season. You can also train like crazy in the season but you are guaranteed to produce nothing but a sense of frustration and panic. Activity goals and metrics are what keep you deliberately training for the season and in sales, the season never ends.
Customers are disappearing, buying habits have changed, profit margins are shrinking, marketing budgets have been stripped, and the competition is entrenched. To compound the problem, your sales team is only selling 20% of the time, call reports are fictional, sales are unpredictable, and the training seminar that was purchased has had no impact on results whatsoever. In this day and age, more production is needed from the sales team and they need to be held accountable for results.
To truly hold sales people accountable, organizations have a responsibility to have certain things in place. These responsibilities include:
- Having a lofty goal in place
- Aligning the company on the lofty goal
- Knowing their “ideal” client
- Having current marketing materials
- Knowing opportunities exist in the market
- Being market-oriented and customer-centric
- Being able to measure success
Once these responsibilities are taken care of, the next step is to design a sales system and create a roadmap that is reverse engineered on the lofty goal. This road map should include clearly defined expectations such as:
- Specific activity metrics
- Weekly sales plans
- Public activity calendars
- Expected funnel size and velocities
- Structured reporting mechanisms
- Time bound results
Once an organization has taken care of their responsibilities, developed a sales system to follow and fully communicated what is expected, only then can the sales people be held accountable
|No matter what you offer for a product or service, customer buying habits have changed and organizations are becoming increasingly frustrated by a lack of market understanding, conflicting strategies between marketing and sales departments, and a lack of understanding about buying decisions. These frustrations are leading to unfocused selling efforts and wasting precious marketing dollars.To combat this, organizations must align their sales & marketing process to answer key questions in each stage of the prospect’s buying process in order to convert market opportunities into sales. Here are some pointers about what you need to accomplish when the prospects are asking the following quest Why do I need to solve this problem?
The customer is looking to learn so you should teach them in the way that they want to learn. Connect your teaching to something they’re passionate about but remember to be polite and keep it relevan
Why do I need you to solve this problem?
The customer needs to make a decision so you need to become a trusted advisor by creating relevance, building credibility, demonstrating value, and being honest about limitations
Why should I buy from you now?
The customer is looking to commit so you need to motivate them by providing a reason and making their decision easy by eliminating risk.
How do I get the most out of my purchase?
The customer is looking for confirmation so you need to continually add value, fix all problems as they arise, and inspire them to demonstrate why they made a good decision.
By aligning your sales process to your prospects buying process, you will shorten the sales cycle and utilize your marketing dollars more effectively because your efforts will be focused.