This is a presentation that I have been wanting to record for a while. I put it together after I came back from the Traffic and Conversion Conference in San Diego put on by Internet marketers, and really has impacted a lot of my thinking about what needs to happen in 2014 for sales organizations and marketing organizations.
I have been delivering the presentation for a number of my clients and prospects as well, and I think people can get some good value out of it, so I wanted to actually get it recorded for you. It should be about 30 minutes. I am going to try to move quickly through the slides, and if you have questions or comments, I really invite you to use the comments section below, or you can email me directly by visiting my site there.
So rather than bore you with a lot of statistics and all the stuff out there and conversations on the Internet about how much harder selling has gotten, I figure you can go look at your own but, needless to say that selling as an endeavor has gotten incredibly difficult in the last few years. It’s been getting harder and harder every year, and it’s not going to get any easier. One of the things I would like to share with my clients is the reality that whatever you are doing today will not be as effective tomorrow, and probably by this time next year it’s going to be almost useless or significantly degraded.
One of the frustrations I guess I have is when I am delivering a presentation or talking about the convergence of sales and marketing and what the leading Internet marketers are doing, I get a lot of pushback in terms of “Well, that’s not my industry. You don’t understand. We’re different,” and I sort of brush that aside, but the reality is I have been hearing, “I am different,” and “This doesn’t apply to us for going on 20 years at this point.”
In most cases, frankly in all cases, the folks that said that have come back a few years later and said, “Actually this does apply to us.” So I thought it would be useful and instructive to start with a distinction between sales and marketing. What is the difference?
It’s really not complicated as far as I am concerned. Selling is the stuff that happens when a human being interacts with another human being. It’s when you need to get, let’s just call them, the “expensive people” resources involved. Marketing is the stuff that happens when a human being interacts with content, stuff that is scalable. You can look at the diagram here I think from social media, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, to your website, your mobile, YouTube, landing pages, and even stuff with your name on it; collateral, or logo gear, or things like that. Those are marketing components because they allow you to reach your audience without having to involve a human conversation.
One of the most common questions I get is, “Hey Townsend, is selling irrelevant at this point? Do we even really need salespeople?” And the answer is absolutely “YES.” Fundamentally this whole notion, this wave of sales 2.0 that we’re never going to use salespeople anymore is pretty much nonsense. At the end of the day somebody has got to ask somebody for money, somebody has got to get the pen on paper, somebody has got to take the deal across the finish line. Not in all cases, but certainly when you’re dealing with anything more complex than a simple online transaction, the good ole days of selling are long gone, at least they are in reality.
Not everybody has got the memo yet, but back when I started selling it was pretty simple. You cold called or knocked on the door of your prospect when I started selling. You delivered your elevator pitch. You were trying to get a demonstration and talk about your product or service and weave in a value proposition that was relevant to them. You spent 15 minutes asking, at least seemingly, insightful questions, and then you showed them your amazing product or service.
When they were wowed by how great your service was, you sent a proposal, and then you spent some time checking in and touching base, and badda-bing, badda-boom, one day you got a commission check. Well, unfortunately as I said, it doesn’t work that way anymore, and if you are still selling that way, I have got bad news. You need to stop.
Unfortunately, most salespeople, most people in a sales role have never been taught anything else. They don’t know any better because they haven’t seen a better path, and that’s part of the challenge that we’re still teaching people to sell today like we were 10, 15, 20 years ago, and that’s part of the problem. These days when I am talking to my client about a sales process, this is a simple sales interaction framework.
I say sales interaction framework because I am talking about the interaction between the salesperson and the prospect, and versus the old days of cold call, demonstrate, propose, follow-up, you had four boxes, you got a lot of boxes on the screen, and this is not a perfect or the only sales process map, but it’s a pretty good one, and I have a lot of people take a look at this and say, “Wow! That’s a lot of steps. That’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of meetings,” and the answer is, “You’re right!” If you are selling into a complex world where buying itself is even complex in this day and age, selling is not going to get any easier.
The point I am making here is that buyers today are not only faced with more simultaneous opportunities to better their business, more technologies, more services, more products that they are trying to assess and evaluate or being told to go look at. There’s more information about each of these products and services available on the web. I have heard a statistics that buyers want to be 60% of the way through the sales process before they talk to a salesperson.
Fundamentally that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want to talk to a salesperson. They don’t want to be sold to. They are not ready to enter into a real buying process until much later in the game, and that’s because they have to do much, so much more work to educate themselves. So this is the model that I use to describe the buying process, and it really is a human mind map, if you will, of how individuals come to evaluate a new product or service or really any idea that comes into their consciousness. They start out ignorant of the idea, the process, the service, the situation. At some point they gain awareness, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to do anything about it.
Hopefully, at least from a salesperson’s perspective, they come into a curiosity mode where they start looking to learn. That’s usually when they hit your website, when they download the e-book, the whitepaper, etc, but that doesn’t mean they are buying yet. They are really, as you can see on the left, in the education process.
Initial engagement is how I define the point where they start to think about how whatever the topic is might be currently being used by others. Personal engagement is when they start to bring it internal to themselves or their company, and then full engagement is really when they are entering into the buying process and determining how they are going to buy or invest in the solution, and as you can see, the model moves continually through that into adoption and utilization, and potentially even evangelism, and I guess I’d invite you to think about new products or services, or just things in your life that you’ve come across and, how did you get to the point where you either started thinking about using it or buying it, decided to use it or buy it, and then became a raging fan of it? My guess is it’s something along the lines of this model.
Here’s the real problem that we’re dealing with. I will take a minute on this slide because I think it’s really important. People talk about the sales cycle, and I hear a lot of companies kind of wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth and saying, “Well, how do we shorten the sales cycle?” and the answer for me is, “Well, you first have to understand how sales cycles, how buying cycles work,” and in fact, most situations, the most complex selling environments involve at least two phases of a cycle, and I will walk you through this real quickly.
The green line represents the buyer’s energy output over time. The blue line represents the seller’s energy output over time, and this is a lot how most deals that I see sort of come to be. Early on there’s some sort of initial interest expressed by the buyer. It could be a request on your website, visiting your trade show booth, doesn’t really matter. We obviously take that as a selling motion. Although, it probably is more like an interest in education cycle, and we go along our regular sales process, educate the prospective buyer, do the demo give them the proposal, and then continue to follow-up and try to close the deal.
Well, as you can see, what actually happens is the buyer’s energy actually drops pretty precipitously to almost nothing right after they have gotten the basic information for their education process, the demo and the proposal. We still think they are in the buying process. They have gotten their initial knowledge bump, the information they needed, and they go back to doing their regular job or perhaps they are distracted by something else.
So there’s a lot of wasted energy on buyers who aren’t buyers by sellers who think they are in a sales process. Well, some time goes by, and some time down the road, could be 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, 18 months, the buyer wakes back up from their slumber or they get undistracted from other things, and they decide, “Now we are ready to really buy this for real.” It could be “we were dealing with a budget cycle,” it could be they had to deal with other priorities. Who knows? And they go back into the buying mode.
Well, one of two things happens. One option is of course, they remember us, they call us, and they reengage us in the selling and buying dance. However, even in those cases, the chances are they probably are going to go out and look at a couple of other potential vendors as well. So whether we are involved or not, there’s going to be competition. Unfortunately, what I see more often than not is really the farthest right little, blue box, and that is we call back to check in months later, maybe years later, and they have bought from somebody else, and we missed that window, we missed the second blip on the line.
Hopefully you’ve heard a lot about nurture marketing or in-bound marketing, etc. I put a little line here in orange that represents at least in my mind what I think the role of marketing should be, and that is to maintain a level of presence in front of the prospect through the interest and education cycle into the buying cycle such that when we come back on the radar or this initiative comes back on their radar, that they think of us, that we’re in their consciousness. We’re in their email feed.
That’s no easy task. It’s not as simple as bombarding them with your newsletter or specials or follow-up, and we’ll talk more about that in the next few slides. It’s really not all that complicated. Getting in on the initial wave requires a very focused effort around outbound sales, a lot of cold calling, or content marketing, but fundamentally that outbound effort can’t be around trying to pitch people. It has to be around introducing and educating, etc., or you’re just going to annoy them. The second circle there, number two really requires effective nurture marketing or just dumb luck if you’re going to catch that second wave, and number three is really what happens if you fail to field an effective nurture marketing effort.
The hard part, the part that is complicated, is consistent execution because this represents a simple continuum of the things that we’re going to need to have happen along the path in order to stay relevant in their world. You’ve got to get them to visit your site, open an email. You need to get them to give you their email address willingly and not opt-out. You need a little of their time to spend with a piece of content or perhaps even an initial conversation; their name, their number, permission to call.
That’s a key one in 2014. If your sales and marketing efforts are still based on interruptive kinds of tactics, throughout the process you’re going to burn a lot of good will. Of course, I am a big advocate as you guys probably know of outbound cold-calling and aggressive prospecting, but that really needs to happen at the top of the funnel early, early on and we’ve got to figure out how to get ourselves out of that role of the interruptive person bugging them and now become a trusted advisor along the path.
One of the real challenges I think for marketing and sales organizations in 2014 is getting aligned around language and how we talk about what we have, what we need, what we’re trying to accomplish. So I wanted to put together a set of what I think of as “components” that are going to be absolutely critical for the team to be aligned around and communicate around if we’re going to be successful. Traffic is king, right?
Traffic, everybody sort of intuitively gets as visitors to my website, but traffic to me really represents any movement of a prospect into our field of vision. It certainly could be SEO or pay-per-click, third-party links, social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, etc., affiliate marketing, trade show, outbound prospecting is a traffic source. A lot of people don’t think of it that way, but that’s how we drive traffic.
I will tell you one of the key areas that I am focused on with my clients in 2014 is how to take the really amazing work that’s been going on in the affiliate space, in the B to C and kind of consumer products world, internet marketing world, and apply those principles into the B2B world. I think that’s a really powerful and compelling source of traffic.
Real estate really refers to those properties that you have where your prospects will visit or interact with you. We all understand the concept of a website, but I would say in 2014 your website needs to look very different than it did a few years ago. If your prime real estate (your front page of your website) is still littered with our offers and services, you got to ask yourself, “Is that acting to engage my prospects and bring them in?” The concept of a website as brochure-ware is pretty outdates.
Things like slide-out or pop-up buttons, either to deliver surveys or content offers are a whole new means of creating engagement with your prospects. Content in terms of blog articles, whether they are on your site or third-party sites are critical. Many companies that I have talked to really are just starting to get their head around the concept of a landing page or a squeeze page, which is in many respects replacing the website as the primary vehicle for converting prospects. If you’re not up on landing pages and squeeze pages, definitely worth a conversation.
Finally, mobile. It is absolutely astonishing to me the number of companies that invest lots of money in their content strategy, their marketing strategy, but their emails, their posts, their offers, I can’t read them on my iPhone. If you’re not at least at the point of basic responsive design in your website in ensuring that your emails have high deliverability and readability on a 3 ½ inch screen, you’re probably not up to speed in what’s required for the coming year.
As it relates to nurturing, everybody has used the term, “nurture marketing,” and gets that, and nurture marketing has come a long way from the days when we thought of drip marketing campaigns, and the concept is still there, but the level of complexity around nurturing has really, really upped the game entirely. There still exists basic nurture campaigns, regular weekly drip. However, those emails, those articles, whatever you’re serving your prospects in terms of content, need to have real value to them. It can’t simply be a PR message or a, “Hey, look how cool we are,” message.
The concept of contextual tracks, if you go to my website, what you’ll see is I have organized my content around a couple of, what I think of as, core conversations that my prospects really care about, and what I am trying to do with this is get people to opt-in to, or at least participate in specific content tracks that allow me to understand what is it they care about and how far along are they in their learning process. So the degree to which somebody actually follows a track lets me know both what they are interested in, are they qualified, how far along are they in their thinking process, etc.
Talking about conditioning and segmentation, the concept of using content to get progressively more intimate information about your prospects is critical. These days, you’re lucky if you can get an email address for a download. The days of “fill out these six fields with all this detailed information and your phone number for a white paper” are done. The conversion rates just keep dropping and dropping.
So your nurturing approach has to include getting people in the door with an email so you can market to them, and then serving progressively more valuable content to get additional information, and basically think of it as buying or bribing it from them with progressively more interesting or engaging or valuable information. And then finally, nurturing really has to take into account the concept of conversion both in terms of the depth of the relationship and more importantly, your nurture strategy has to, if you’re running a sales organization on the other side, either incent, or motivate, or lead to some sort of commerce-generating action. That could be a simple hand raise. I would like to talk to somebody, or it could be actually transacting business online.
The last box here talks about conversion currency, and what I mean there is really the stuff you’ve got to, for the lack of a better term, motivate and pay your prospects to stay engaged with you. As I said before, they are going to be engaged with you based on the degree to which you’ve got valuable content, and by “value” I mean things that they can use in their everyday lives, their jobs today. The old days of just “give me information or curate a couple of articles from other sources,” kind of everybody has picked up on that game.
So what are you going to provide for your prospects that is going to add value to their life and will keep them coming back, get you to open their email, etc.? These are things like how-to guides, instructional videos, tools and hacks best practices. I have been having a lot of success with contests and sweepstakes where we’re giving away or basically providing free very specific services that our prospects want that we would otherwise charge for. Those things like non-cash rewards. I have got one client that’s using Starbucks gift cards as a way to incent virtual conversation. “Let us buy you a cup of coffee,” kind of an interesting blending of direct mail with a virtual outreach afterwards.
Then ultimately your conversion has got to be the services and expertise you provide for your existing customers. One of the things I say to my clients all the time is, “Your most valuable knowledge to your future customers is that what you are doing with your current customers.” So how will you take the best practices from the client engagement last week without having to go through a whole case study and legal rigamarole and turn that into content that tomorrow’s customer can use to help their business and will move them along the path to wanting to work with you.
Sales and marketing integration sort of has a conceptual, strategic component, but it also has a very tactical component, and by that I mean when you get that coveted marketing hand raise, or a hand raise from your marketing efforts, how will you then convert that to an actual conversation? In a lot of environments I see sales and marketing so disconnected in that certainly sales will get a lead from marketing, but there’s really very little accountability and process related to what is expected from the sales folks to convert that lead. How many touches? What emails will they send? What other steps do they need to take as part of the sales process?
So this is just a conceptual map, but the idea is if you’re handing leads from sales to marketing, or from marketing to sales I should say, you need to have a very simple but a very structured and agreed upon means for sales to pursue those and hold sales accountable and make sure that your sales and marketing efforts are integrated. Sales may be sending their own emails, marketing is still sending drip emails. It’s very simple to drop the ball. It’s pretty easy to get sideways and start sending mixed messages, so you have to be on the same page.
This is a very simple actually campaign that I am going to be running very soon, and based on when this goes up, you may have already seen this, but the idea is I am trying to use a blog post to convert to more information and then potentially an actual hand raise, and in my case, an upsell. So I have got a blog post, and the topic is basically it’s an email makeover. The client asked me to do an email for them and fix one of their emails. They were setting out to get appointments, so I did that for them. I turned it into blog posts, how I was just saying that you need to use the stuff you are doing with your existing clients. I thought, “Hey, what a great offer! What a great piece of content for my existing audience.”
So I have got the posts. I have got a little video around that. I am going to go to market with a couple of distribution or outreach techniques. So I have got my active outreach, my mailing list, LinkedIn messages, cold calling, and then I have got my passive social media; Facebook posts, tweets, LinkedIn etc. All of this is going to drive traffic to this article.
Well, in the article there’s a couple of links that say basically “click here to receive,” “wouldn’t you like me to do this for you?” “How would you like me to write an email or fix one of your emails for free?” That’s going to take the prospect, if you will, to a landing page, which is essentially a contest opt-in where I am going to give away three of these email makeovers in exchange for, I don’t know, four or five fields of information. I expect a pretty good conversion rate, a pretty good click-through rate because I think the offer is valuable and we’re going to play that up in the landing page there.
Once the person has opted in, they will receive a message that says, “Thank you. Don’t worry, even if you don’t win, you will get one of the, actually you will get all of the other three makeovers that we do.” So you have some good content to work with so everybody wins, but then I am going to go and try to convert these visitors, these prospects to another offer. In this case I’ve got an e-book. It’s not a free report in my case, but there’s lots of things I could convert to. “Would you like to meet?” “Would you like another e-book or guide?” what have you, and then there will be a series of post-opt-in emails, all which drive to the same set of desired results; consuming content, giving me more information, engaging in a way that’s productive for both of us, and hopefully moving to the point of actual commerce. So this is just a simple example of a campaign that I am running.
Measurement, metrics, measures, reporting, absolutely critical, and in today’s day and age you’ve got to live and die by the metrics all across the horizon. So I tried to put together a list of what I think are the most important metrics for the, let’s call it the conjoined sales and marketing organization to measure. Site traffic: Are people visiting your site? Your landing pages: Are they hitting those pages you’ve set up to do the conversion? Are they clicking? Are they converting? Your list: Are they opting in? Are they opting out? Is your content maintaining your audience or driving them away? Hand raises, I define a hand raise as a simple point where the prospect says, “I would like to talk. I would like more information. I want to move over to the human side of the world, “and then the rest of these things should look pretty familiar because they are stuff that are part of my normal sales methodology; scheduled conversations, advances, new opportunities, qualified opportunities, and of course, closed on revenue.
That’s a lot. These are all noble metrics, or metrics you can find out and can trend and track over time, but you have to be focused on these things or you’re going to miss the boat.
A couple of final thoughts. I think the top one is really important. In today’s market, you’re competing against No Decision. Used to be you were worried about your two or three competitors and who would get the deal. Now, everybody is worried that we’re going to invest all this time and energy, and the prospect does nothing. So, you’re competing for time and attention. How will you keep them engaged, stay on their radar amidst all the other things, all the other kinds of services and products and opportunities that they were going after?
In the relationship with the prospect, if you’re starting your conversation at the point where they are, let’s say, going shopping, where the shopping is beginning, my personal opinion is you’re going to lose. I would say it another way, that I don’t think you deserve the business because you’re coming along too late in the game, but the challenge for sales and marketing organizations is really going to be, how do we establish a relationship to build trust and credibility and gain knowledge and intimacy long before they are actually starting the buying process? That presents both the challenge of complexity and also a challenge of economics. How do I invest time and energy maybe 12 or 18 months before they are even starting to think about the problem they are going to solve because if I wait until they have the problem top of mind, they are calling three other vendors, and I am fighting for mind-share.
Content, content, content, content. I can’t say this enough. The fact of whether you have or do not have valuable, relevant, in the eye of your prospects, content, is going to determine your future success. It’s like the gasoline in this engine. If you run out of content that is valuable to them, things you can produce, share, say, tell them, etc., all you have left to talk about is your own product or service, and that’s not going to cut it. Integrate some sales and marketing strategy, not just a meeting once a week, but being absolutely on the same page, and the same metrics, and the same KPI, the same bonus structure, having that integration of the strategy level and the execution level is going to determine your success or failure. Sorry to say but sales and marketing organizations have to move past simply getting along and working together to probably being more like the same organization with the same metrics and the same compensation.
One of the questions I get asked a lot is, “Well, this is a ton of information Townsend. What do I do next? How do I get started?” So I thought I would put a couple of bullet points here that will get you on the path and again, if you have any questions, I really hope you’ll reach out and ask, send me an email, comment on this, and we’ll try to help out.
But first and foremost I think you really need to define your core conversations. What are the things your customers want to talk about? Hopefully know who you ideal customers are, what they look like, your qualification criteria. Put that aside and go to the other side of the table. Go sit in your customer’s chair, your prospect’s chair, and ask yourself what is on their mind. If you are selling analytics or project management software, whatever you are selling, it doesn’t matter. That’s not what your customers are talking about. They are talking about very specific problems that are relevant to their business. So you need to figure out what the conversations are that your customers are having in the language they are having it because that’s going to drive your content strategy.
You’ve got to figure out how to build a content engine and a calendar, and it’s not as hard as you think. It’s just that the source of your best content is going to come from the work you are doing with your current customers. That said, your support organization or your delivery organization may not be the best bloggers or video writers, or they don’t enjoy it. So you need somebody in your organization whose responsibility is to go out, find the content, acquire it, figuring out what the best way to produce it is.
One of the things I have been doing for a number of years now is I don’t write any of my blogs, not that I outsource the writing, but I record them into a some application that’s on my iPhone. I push it up to some sort of server on the web, and I’ve got somebody who picks it up from there and transcribes it and does the SEO tagging, so my investment for new blogs is very, very low. So sometimes simply separating who owns on the content, who’s got the knowledge, from who is doing the actual work of capturing and transcribing is really important.
You’ve got to start learning to convert. You’ve got to think about conversion. Conversion is one of these things that it’s always changing. It’s very complicated, and a lot of people don’t do it well. So, learning conversion as a part of your game and mastering conversion is like any other sport. You have to pick up the batting drill or the throwing drill or the skating drill.
You have to master this as a component, and I think the best way to do that is to figure out how to set up, how to create mini-conversions with your friendly audience. Get somebody in your LinkedIn profile who you already know who will open the email to convert to your opt-in list. That’s one of the things I did a couple of years ago that was very powerful and helped me learn a lot was just, am I doing the right things, am I setting up the right offers, am I putting in the right content, do I have the right landing page to convert somebody I actually know or who should be expecting an email from me? So beginning to take conversion as a discipline and master it and study it. Tons of great resources on the web, so get to work.
Finally, you’re going to need to start researching and planning for what’s your real architecture. Fundamentally the stuff you have today, your CRM, your marketing automation tool, your website. Chances are those are not going to be the tools that are going to work two years from now. You will have to change this stuff over. I have in the past year rolled out two separate marketing automation tools. I have revamped my website three times in the last two years. Okay, I am a little on the aggressive, maybe obsessive-compulsive side, but there’s a whole new wave of technologies that are coming out designed to drive content, engagement and conversion and driving traffic, etc.
So, you’re going to have to start thinking about, “What is my architecture? What is the technology going to look like two years from now?” Probably as far as you’re going to get in terms of an event horizon, but if you’re at least looking two years out, you’re going to start thinking and planning for, how are you going to get the kind of economies of scale necessary to reach the audience and keep them engaged? Hope all of this has been valuable. I hope I kept it under 30 minutes. My website is down there on the bottom. I have lots of content specifically related to sales and marketing integration, lead generation. And finally if I could help in any way, please do drop me a line, leave a comment or go to the site and there’s a “contact me” form. I would love to help you out and send more content your way. Thanks for watching.
By Townsend Wardlaw