Posts Tagged 'relationship selling'

Is your marketing process delivering “high quality” sales leads?

As a businessman, would you say that “maximizing” your sales is revenue important? If it is, you need to make certain your sales and marketing folks are “knowledge brokers”.

In my previous post I wrote about the need for your sales team to become “knowledge brokers”. Recent studies have confirmed that buyers today are often 70% of the way through the “buyer’s journey” (http://bit.ly/tvENtn) before they engage the salesperson. This means your marketing process needs to become focused on delivering relevant information, rather than simply creating awareness.

The power of the internet has clearly changed the buyer-seller dynamic and a new approach to sales and marketing is required. The buyer suddenly does not need to rely on the salesperson any longer for much of their information gathering. They simply go to the web and conduct research. They communicate with peers about solutions and ROI. They read informative articles in trade publications. They utilize social media. This means that the marketing effort must extend much further down the sales funnel then ever before.

Up until five years ago, marketing’s role was to create awareness through advertising, PR and other conventional means. Their goal was to find prospects that might fit the customer profile and then pass that contact information to sales. These are still important functions of a well designed marketing process. Today however, the buyers are looking more and more to gathering product and supplier information through an informal research process without contacting the supplier’s sales organization. This means the marketing message needs to be smarter, deeper and more directed at creating the customer relationship. They need to help deliver high quality sales leads.

There is no time or place any longer for internal arguments between sales and marketing and their respective roles. There is no place left for complaining about the quality of the leads (from sales) and the quality of the selling process (from marketing). It is time to become aligned and jointly engaged in the process that delivers a “customer”. This situation also means that management of the process must be shared by the sales manager and the marketing manager and in time we will begin to see the new role of Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) take the place of these two positions.

When I say that marketing needs to become a “knowledge broker”, I am suggesting that the marketing process needs to deliver more and more of the product and service information that the salesperson used to deliver. The marketing team needs to extend their reach. They need to create awareness just like they always have. They need to advertise in less traditional ways (search engines, ads on web pages, etc). They need to publish product and corporate information brochures but more in an electronic form rather than paper. They need to conduct PR campaigns, but cannot limit them to trade and newspaper print media. They need to create highly informative web site content and ease of navigation that will capture the reader’s attention and provide a deeper level of knowledge about products and services. But all of that is what was always done except in a different form and process.

Now product and service information needs to be much more about how the product or service fits into the buyer’s business, how it works for other industry leaders. It is about how to implement it quickly easily and with as little business interruption as possible.

But the real change is how the marketing team engages the buyer on his journey. Marketing needs to develop new ways to track the buyer’s activities, learn more about their needs and more about how (and by whom) decisions are made. The final outcome must be that the sales “lead” that is passed to the salesperson has already become a highly qualified prospect. The lead must include “in depth” information about the buyer’s needs and process and hopefully an established relationship.

In order to accomplish this, management must be willing to extend the marketing budget (some of which may come from the sales budget since the work requirement has shifted). Management must make certain that the sales and marketing teams are fully aligned and understand the corporate strategy. And finally there must be solid agreement on the definition of what constitutes a quality lead. If you have the lead defined properly, you can work backward through the process of delivering knowledge to the prospect that turn him into a customer.

If you want to “maximize” your sales revenue, you can begin by assessing your marketing team’s process based on the discussion above.  If you are not sure how to do this or don’t have the time, there are professionals available to guide you through the process, confirm your present impressions and provide a roadmap for change.

Please let me know if I can be of assistance.

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Are your salespeople “knowledge brokers”?

As a businessman, would you say that “maximizing” your sales revenue important?

If it is, you need to make certain your sales (and marketing) folks are “knowledge brokers”.

I have been reading a lot lately about how sales people need to be “challengers” and that there is no time left for relationship building with buyer’s busy schedules. My perspective is slightly different, but I understand where others may be coming from.

The power of the internet has clearly changed the buyer-seller dynamic and a new approach to selling is required. The buyer suddenly does not need to rely on the salesperson for much of their information gathering. They simply go to the web and conduct research. They communicate with peers about solutions and ROI. By the time the salesperson gets engaged in the process, the buyer is often on their way to a final decision. For additional insight in the “buyer’s journey”, listen to Christine Crandell’s presentation (http://bit.ly/tvENtn)

So, what is the role of the salesperson on today’s marketplace? I believe it is one of maturing to a higher level of competence.

I have been selling for more years than I care to discuss and throughout my career, my position has always been to act as a “knowledge broker”. It was (and is) always important to have some amount of information about my product or service that the buyer could not get easily. In the early days, it was all about features, functions and benefits. Now it is much more about how the product or service fits into the buyer’s business, how it works for other industry leaders. It is about how to implement it quickly easily and with as little business interruption as possible. It is about value added partnering.

Additionally, the salesperson of today needs to have enough business background to demonstrate competence and make the buyer feel like he/she is working with someone who understands their business.

The competencies required to mature and become a “knowledge broker” include:

                        Knowledge

                                    Of general business process and strategies

                                    Of the prospect’s business process and strategies

                                    Of the industry’s needs and direction

                                    Of the competition’s offering and how it is different

                        Questioning and Listening Skills (selling – not telling)

                        Strategic Thinking

                        Conviction, Confidence and Integrity

                        A Higher Level of Relationship Skills

 

So, if you want to “maximize” your sales revenue, you can begin by assessing your sales organization’s qualifications based on the requirements above.  If you are not sure how to do that or don’t have the time, there are professionals available to guide you through the process and confirm your present impressions.

In my next BLOG we will discuss what the marketing department needs to do to become “knowledge brokers” as well.

Thanks!

So They’re saying “Selling is Not About Relationships”. I’m saying Bulls..t

 According to their new book “The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation” Matt Dixon and Bret Adamson tell us that “Selling is not about relationships”. The writers attempt to shock us with that headline in their Harvard Business Review synopsis so that we will read it and it works. http://bit.ly/nDVpkt

When I read the article (after being shocked by the headline) I realized that these two guys were not describing relationship selling in the same way the rest of the sales world does. They took the liberty of redefining sales types into five new categories including a.) Relationship Builders b.) Hard Workers c.) Lone Wolves d.) Reactive Problem Solvers e.) Challengers.  I have never heard of these profile types before and my impression is that they invented them to create a different perspective.

Their analysis shows that the group called “Challengers” is the most effective of the five types. But the sentence that grabs us is “Relationship Builders come in dead last, accounting for only 7% of all high performers”. They go on to say… “Why is this? It’s certainly not because relationships no longer matter in B2B sales–that would be a naïve conclusion. Rather, what the data tell us is that it is the nature of the relationships that matter”.  They contradict their own headline.

So what is the meat of the matter? They believe that sales people who rely solely on the value of the relationship to drive sales are not effective. I agree that the relationship is not enough to drive the sale and certainly you need additional skills to close business. But all sales begin with and depend on the building of relationships. Without relationships none of the other categories above would be successful.

In my mind relationships are at the heart of all sales strategies and processes. If you are not a relationship builder, you will not be successful in sales. In my own experience over the last forty years I am convinced that strong relationships with my clients has been key in delivering all of the sales I have made. More importantly, the relationships have allowed me to secure additional sales year after year from the same clients rather than delivering one sale and walking away.

I have seen tweets and BLOGs lauding these two writers for their insight and offering up a new present day perspective on selling. I have seen other articles and BLOGs lately questioning the value of relationships in selling. My advice to my clients is to be certain their sales personnel excel at relationship building, because in the end you can’t sell without that skill.

And of course my own view of the thought “Selling is not about relationships” is…..bullshit.

Thoughtfully yours

Todd