A survey was issued by Corporate Visions this month to 420 B2B marketing and sales professionals. It was reported that only about 1 in 10 B2B marketers and salespeople from across the globe say there is complete coordination between their B2B demand generation and sales training teams. However, it’s not all bad news as approximately 85% report at least some degree of coordination. The results were as follows:
- Uncoordinated – 15.4%
- Somewhat coordinated – 43%
- Coordinated – 31.1%
- Completely coordinated – 10.5%
The survey respondents were then asked about the impact that this coordination, or lack thereof, had on their organizations:
- Our alignment leads to better lead conversion and closed deals – 40.2%
- Our alignment has no significant impact on lead conversion and closed deals – 10.9%
- Our lack of alignment leads to lost lead conversion and closed deals – 24.7%
- Our lack of alignment has no significant impact on lead conversion and closed deals – 2.6%
- Not sure about the impact – 21.6%
What may be most surprising here is that more than 20% of those surveyed are unsure about the impact. What?!? How can it be that companies may not even measure this crucial information at all? Baffling.
Organizations mostly seem to be aligned on sales and marketing messaging, go-to-market plans and training initiatives, but fall short in the categories of content development and analytics:
Further general findings:
- Sales and marketing alignment was predictably tied to performance, with 40% saying that their alignment results in better lead conversion and closed deals
- One-quarter of respondents reported that their lack of alignment leads to lost lead conversion and closed deals
“These survey results support our contention that there’s a potential ‘conversion gap’ in companies between demand generation and sales follow-up conversations,” said Corporate Visions’ Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer, Tim Riesterer. “Marketing and sales teams must work together to create a more integrated, customer-centric approach to message development and sales conversation delivery, because only those companies that can effectively tell an engaging and unique story across the buying cycle will be successful in creating and closing the opportunities needed to meet their revenue goals.”
For more on B2B Sales & Marketing Alignment, download our free whitepaper:
I recently had a very revealing conversation with SalesStaff’s Vice President of Production Management, Eric Nichols. It’s always an incredible experience to pick the brain of our senior executives, because they have so much B2B demand generation knowledge that deserves to be out there for our audience to read.
On this occasion, Eric and I were chatting about the topic of B2B sales process, specifically how B2B sales professionals often mistake a raw Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) as an invitation to close the deal.
In its simplest form, the B2B sales process generally looks like this:
Eric went on to talk about how, all too frequently, B2B sales teams simply skip the Sales Appointment step in the process. They see a B2B sales lead come in, distribute the lead to a sales rep, and that sales rep immediately begins to pitch the prospect on his wares.
It’s a symptom of entitlement. The sales rep, by virtue of his skill set, feels entitled to close the deal when a suspect displays the smallest indication of interest. Ultimately, the science of Demand Generation is not about closing deals; it’s about teeing up a qualified opportunity for a B2B sales rep to BEGIN the sales process.
Often, sales teams will omit Step 3 above and attempt to bridge the gap between Steps 2 and 4 with sales activity of some sort. You simply can’t skip the step of having an inside sales rep qualify the MQLs, and tee up a sales appointment (either for himself or for a field rep).
As a B2B sales rep, when given an MQL, you have to view the relationship as merely informational and interest-based, rather than immediately action-based. Basically, there’s still some work to be done before the sales process even starts; you have to, in effect, earn the right to close a deal with them. If there is anything you should get from this article, it’s this: A request for more information is not an invitation to close.
Guest Post by Michael Cupps from WorkiQ
When we were approached by SalesStaff to write an article on back office productivity, we jumped at the opportunity to put our expertise on display, because at our core, WorkiQ is in the business of true and accurate visibility into employee productivity.
The truth of the matter is employees perform at varying levels of productivity and efficiency. But do you know on a granular level who is performing at their highest potential? Do you have a highly engaged and a culture of accountability?
- How much time is spent in productive vs. non-productive applications and websites?
- Who are my most productive employees?
- How many productive hours do we get by individual and by team?
According to a 2013 Gallup poll, companies with “highly-engaged employees outperform other companies by 23%.”
Employee productivity can be extremely volatile, especially in back office operations and call centers world, where employees are sedentary and the work can be repetitious at times. You have to be able to answer these questions to gain true insight into your employees’ productivity.
What are agents actually doing?
Are they working on assigned tasks or checking their Facebook page? What applications do your employees actually spend their time in? Many of our clients rely on self-reporting to determine where their agents are spending their time. In order to get a clear picture of what employees’ workflows really look like, you must have some visibility into what they do. From there, you can diagnose issues prominent with underperforming employees – from the general (i.e. staying on task) to the specific (i.e. trouble working with a certain application). Answering this question is at the heart of why we created the WorkiQ solution. WorkiQ automatically captures all user activity, even those of at-home or remote workers, to identify productive and unproductive practices. Automatically track counts, time, effort and the outcomes of activity so work can be categorized and managed. You gain valuable insight into the work each employee does, how long it takes them, and the outcomes of their effort. WorkiQ makes it easy to understand and visualize employee performance. It enables the organization to go beyond simple statistics and self-reporting, creating actionable insights that drive real improvements within your business.
How long do their work tasks actually take?
Once you’ve comfortably answered the question of WHAT agents are doing with their time, then you can begin to analyze the efficiencies and identify top performers to build around. When they complete a task, was it your expected time-frame? Maybe they are jumping from screen to screen and application to application unnecessarily. Perhaps, by analyzing the time to complete tasks, you can expose weaknesses in your processes. If an agent tells you that solving a customer service case usually takes an hour in total, do you have a way to determine if that’s accurate? Like any set of business processes, in order to assess efficiency, you need to have visibility into the steps in those processes and the time it takes to complete key milestones. WorkiQ allows companies to compare employee performance and time-to-task-completion with accurate standards and true group performance to identify the top and bottom performers.
What does their work day really look like?
If you, as an operations or call center manager, have a clear line of sight into what your employees are really spending their time, you can start to “coach in the moment” to improve weaknesses in key business processes. Are employees constantly sidetracked in the middle of tasks? How do they manage multiple tasks to completion? Are they frequently interrupted with less-essential tasks during their normal workflow? In today’s flex hours mode of operation, often there are a number of remote employees who telecommute. Do you have insight into the differences between the work time of remote workers and office workers? Can you manage remote or at-home workers to the same standards and with the same processes as in office workers?
WorkiQ is a potential solution for you and our customers are typically seeing a complete payback within 90 days.
Michael Cupps serves as Senior Vice President at OpenConnect/WorkiQ. His responsibilities include go-to-market strategy and execution across all worldwide channels. WorkiQ (the latest innovation of OpenConnect Systems) is a real-time, workforce analysis solution that provides visibility into employee work and productivity. It is available as either a cloud-based or behind-the-firewall software appliance. WorkiQ helps answer the question "All of my people seem busy, but how productive are they, really?" Connect with Michael Cupps on LinkedIn. Connect with WorkiQ on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Guest Post by Kalen Kimm from LoadDynamiX
A long B2B sales cycle can be relative. Generally, there is a positive correlation between the average deal size and the length of the sales cycle. The heavier the investment, obviously, the longer the sales cycle tends to be, as pointed out by MarketingSherpa. They also go on to state that about 40% of marketers surveyed cite “marketing to a lengthening sales cycle” as an important B2B marketing challenge.
So how long is long? A general consensus might agree that a sales cycle of 12 months or more would tend to be a somewhat long sales cycle. Either way, the length of your B2B sales cycle can vary according to the immediacy of the buyer’s needs, but you must at least know what your baseline (or average) sales cycle length is.
The question then becomes for those B2B companies engaging in a longer sales cycle: What is the best way to work within the framework of a more lengthy B2B sales cycle? At LoadDynamiX, as a leader in storage workload modeling, analytics and performance validation, we tend to work in a 6-18 month sales cycle, so we have specific experience in this arena. Here are a few ways we choose to manage an extended B2B sales cycle.
Let the Sales Cycle Run its Course, But Position Your Pawns Accordingly
Some products and services (especially those that represent a relatively ample investment) simply take longer to make their way through the B2B sales funnel. It’s usually best to accept that you are working within a longer sales cycle and pursue the very best strategy to move the deal along at every juncture. Many B2B sales managers spend resources attempting to shorten their sales cycle, and we’re not advocating that those attempts are futile. By all means, if quicker cash flow is important to your revenue cycle, go for it. Realize though that there are diminishing returns with these efforts. You can likely never get a $100,000 purchase to happen in a few days. The advice is to recognize what the baseline is for your B2B sales cycle, accept it, and operate as best you can within that framework.
Go the Extra Mile in Painting a Clear Picture of How Your Solution Solves the Buyers’ Challenges
This should be a heavy focus of your presentation and further communications with B2B sales prospects throughout their path through the sales funnel. When you as a seller can speak in terms of the buyer’s specific challenges and how your solution can be a solution to those issues, you’ve already won half the battle. We recently posted an article on the LoadDynamiX blog that speaks to this issue. In the article, we talk about the importance of benchmarking storage technologies, not only before a purchase, but during the lifecycle of firmware updates. In our world of Enterprise storage technology, there is no better way to show how the solution will solve challenges in their technology environment than to benchmark and test it in the environment.
Stay Top of Mind by Surrounding Your Prospects with Information on Your Solution
B2B sales professionals can take a page out of the books of their marketing counterparts, and institute various tactics to stay top-of-mind with prospects who are top-of-the-funnel. When working within the framework of a longer B2B sales cycle, it is absolutely crucial that you stay top of mind as they make their way through the pipeline. With elements of social selling, marketing automation campaigns, and other marketing methods, you can ensure that your prospects think of you when they are ready to enter “buying mode.” At LoadDynamiX, often we’ll use a soft approach in our communications with our prospects and surround them with information on data storage technologies. One of the key phrases in these soft approach type emails is, “Hey Mr. Prospect, I saw this piece of information and thought of you…” It conveys a personal touch without the components of a hard sell.
Engender Trust and Confidence in Your Company and Your Solution
One of my favorite Zig Ziglar sayings is this: "If people like you they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you they’ll do business with you." This is key to maintaining a positive relationship with B2B sales prospects throughout a longer sales cycle. There are a few key ways to engender trust and confidence in your company and your solution. You have to be seen as an authority. When you can incorporate elements of consultative selling, you position yourself as an “assistant buyer” instead of a salesman. If you can get the buyer to see you as an ally who has their best interest at heart instead of a B2B sales pro chasing a commission, you’ve built confidence with the prospect. Another way to build confidence is to expose the prospect to case studies where the challenge solved may be similar to theirs. The prospect can then proceed through the life of the sales cycle with the confidence that, “Hey, these guys have solved my problem before.” At LoadDynamiX, we feature a number of Case Studies about how companies are using Load DynamiX to save money, optimize performance, reduce risk, and accelerate time to market. (View our Case Studies here.)
Make Sure that There are Next Steps in Your Communications, Where Appropriate
Where appropriate… That’s the key phrase here. When you send communications as part of the top-of-mind soft approach mentioned earlier, that’s a touch point designed to give the prospect more exposure to your solutions, and not necessarily deserving of a call-to-action. However, when engaging the prospect with specific bi-lateral communications that are addressing, perhaps, the proposal you sent, or the presentation meeting you just had with the prospect, it’s usually a good idea to include a firm call-to-action. For example, instead of sending a proposal and ending the email with, “Let me know what you think when you get a chance,” it’s better to include a firmer next step. Alternatively, you might write, “I’ve taken a moment to outline some of the finer points of how our storage solutions might solve some of your challenges. I’d like to schedule a follow-up to outline some of these and go over the proposal together after you’ve had a chance to digest it a bit. How is next Wednesday at 3PM?” In a longer sales cycle, the mantra of “Always be closing” changes a little and becomes “Always be advancing.”
Photo credit: ProteusB2B
In reviewing some articles from the recent past in my Feedly, I landed on one of those “must-click” headlines, this one from MarketingSherpa… How a B2B Marketing Team Used Zombies to Win Over the C-Suite
Uh, yeah. How could you not click on that, right?
What I found was a short explanation of a unique B2B marketing campaign by Christine Nurnberger of SunGard. She goes on to say how, when she arrived to the SunGard team in 2012, sales and marketing alignment at SunGard left a little to be desired. Marketing wasn’t holding up their end of the bargain, contributing only 3% to the sales pipeline. Sad… considering they executed well over 1000 marketing campaigns the previous year.
I don’t think they’ll have that problem anymore if they keep rolling out awesome B2B marketing campaigns like the one below, though.
Christine told the audience at the 2014 MarketingSherpa Email Summit about some of the factors that turned it around for SunGard marketing. She explained that they put increased emphasis on intuitive content marketing, with some campaigns having an eye towards creativity.
And for one of their greatest campaigns… a press kit aimed at C-level technology executives that had them buzzing about SunGard and feeling more prepared for the impending zombie apocalypse.
Check out the video clip below from the summit, where Christine tells us about that two-node direct mail campaign, targeting 56 CTOs in the later stages of the buying cycle:
- The first node was a direct-mail campaign made up of an eye-popping box with a single thumb drive – on it, a personalized video announcing that, in the coming days, they would receive another package with everything they needed to survive the zombie apocalypse.
- The second node was a zombie apocalypse survival kit… specifically a copy of World War Z, two tickets to the movie and “zombie repellant” (silly string) – all in a strange camo backpack.
The result? “We had sales people for the first time calling us up and saying, ‘Can we do more of these? We walked in to close the deal, and we saw it on the CTO’s desk,’” Christine said. By the end of 2013, marketing’s contribution to new revenue had ballooned to 40% with the average deal size tripled. Great results I’d say. Kudos to you from one marketing nerd to another, Christine.
When it comes to B2B sales reps, the old maxim that 20% of the sales team produces 80% of the business is somewhat true. But what makes that 20% shine over and above the other 80% of their peers?
Quite a few traits make up a great B2B sales rep. These are a few you should look out for. Whether you’re a B2B sales manager recruiting talent or a B2B sales rep looking to better your productivity, these are the traits you should look to progress:
Always Advancing Deals
The old adage that B2B sales personnel should always be closing has been officially modified. Especially in the context of a complex sale, the goal of the B2B sales rep should be to advance deals wherever possible. Closing too early can actually be a detriment in a complex sale. But if you are consistently asking the prospect questions that move the deal along, you’re already winning. Questions like:
- Would it make sense if we outline our service offering in a proposal?
- Would it make sense if we summarize our terms in a Service Agreement?
- Should we start allocating resources for your program now or wait until next week?
In bilateral communication, always ask for the next step and never ask what the next step should be. Guide the prospect down the path.
Setting Well-Documented Goals
In B2B sales, goals are not just pie-in-the-sky numbers. B2B sales closers are defined by their numbers, to a large extent. The sign of a great B2B sales pro is one that’s not shy about publicizing their goals… extra points if they write their goals down in a place where they can see it every day.
Consistently Asking Questions of Successful Peers and Managers
If you want to be the best, ask the best how they managed to realize so much success. A dead giveaway of a great salesperson is if they buddy up to their more successful peers in an attempt to follow their blueprint. B2B sales managers often find it to be a sign of strength when their reps ask about closing strategies, or possible paths to take to close a deal. These are the questions B2B sales managers love to answer. It shows that the rep has initiative enough to ask what’s been successful in the past, rather than be a “lone wolf” sales rep.
Preparation and Research for Every Call
Sometimes B2B sales reps have back-to-back-to-back calls. It’s a busy job. But a successful B2B sales rep prepares for presentations by researching the prospect’s company, at a very minimum, despite their busy schedule. Additionally, they will identify past clients they’ve served that have a similar situation or challenge that the company has solved.
Even When Marketing Provides Leads and Appointments, the Rep is Still Hunting for Self-Generated Opportunities
This is the hunger factor. These days a well-oiled marketing machine churns B2B sales leads and appointments for their Sales department to put into their pipeline. An exceptional B2B sales rep will look to augment the influx of Marketing Qualified Leads with appointments of their own that they’ve generated from networking, hunting, calling, emailing.
This is our second year at Dreamforce, Salesforce.com’s annual conference for users and developers. Last year, we were new to the party, but this year, we had much better expectations of the goings-on in San Francisco.
Below are a few key takeaways from our first full day at Dreamforce:
- Transactional, off-the-cuff sales prospecting is alive and well. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve been engaged in conversation with friendly, like-minded sales and marketing professionals. Whether there’s an opportunity to do business or not, we always approach networking activity with an open mind and a smile. You never know when you may be able to help connections down the road, and vice-versa.
- Badge-scanners are everywhere. They’re like zombies. Rarely has anyone in the expo asked a qualifying question to see if I’m even a prospect. It seems they just want to give me a foam football and scan my badge. More on this concept here: 3 Ways for B2B Sales & Marketing Pros to Work Tradeshows & Conferences
- Apparently, the term BANT is growing stale. As sales professionals, we’ve all heard the acronym BANT (Budget, Need, Authority, Timeline) used in terms of qualifying prospects. We sat in a session hosted by Ken Krogue of InsideSales.com, and one of his slides was about the semantics of the term BANT and how it’s becoming obsolete. He prefers the term ANUM (Authority, Need, Urgency, Money). He mentioned that in a study InsideSales released, budget for projects was rarely a consideration for buyers anymore. They either have the money or they don’t and less often are working in a stringent budget.
All in all, it’s been a great show so far. This entry may be a little tongue-in-cheek, but after the conference, we’ll be issuing some hard-hitting takeaways here on the blog so stay tuned.
If you’d like to connect at the conference, click here:
It’s about the time of year that B2B sales managers and executives start thinking about projections for 2015.
It’s the time of year that we ask questions like:
- What’s our revenue goal in 2015?
- What are we going to do in terms of sales enablement to get to that projection?
But we all know that B2B sales revenue is a direct result of the number of “at-bats” your sales team can get with prospects. Specifically…
According to current closing ratios, how many B2B sales appointments do you need to reach your sales revenue goal?
One of the many resources that we happily share with the B2B sales & marketing community is our super-simple Sales Appointment Calculator that can help forecast roughly how many sales appointments you’ll likely need to reach those 2015 target numbers.
You may bank on your internal team to generate leads and appointments, or perhaps your company uses appointment setting companies like SalesStaff. Either way, the number of sales appointments you will likely need in 2015 to reach your goal is a number you should know… by heart.
Simply enter a few figures in the formula below and we’ll output an approximation of the required B2B sales lead/appointment volume to reach your 2015 revenue target:
Above all the clanking of glassware, and the chorus of the crowd, “One more, please” will be heard continuously throughout a tireless tavern. Foraging for alcohol is not the only reason they flock to the bar top, nor is the alluring ambience of flickering lights, sticky floors or smoke-filled rooms. Patrons will be found perched upon their stools for hours on end, chattering about with their comrade and friend, the bartender. He listens to their issues and satisfies their needs all without burdening them with his own; and in return they remain loyal and devoted patrons.
Is there something to be learned from our trusty bartender when it comes to B2B sales? We think so.
- Meet their needs, not your own. Part of being a bartender is becoming observant of your client’s needs, listening to their story, and understanding what they want. Your business is to meet those needs and what they desire is what you should provide. Would a successful bartender serve a colorful, fruity and decorated martini to a stout, bearded bear of a fellow? Perhaps they would, if that is what he enjoys. Not all of your clients will fit into a “perfectly shaped box”, learn to think outside of that and focus on each individual, each desire and each need. Severance will gain trust, and you will find that they will respect your decisions and keep coming back.
- More listening, less telling. When we begin to feel the pressure of making the sale and the stresses of meeting goals, it can easily become nothing more than a game, a hunt for the biggest payoff. We ruffle up our tail feathers at one another and we begin to lose sight of what connected us in the first place. We strive to have a kinship with someone who will listen to what we need, who will be the friend that we can count on without worry. Don't be that guy. Your client did not take time out of their day to hear about how you need to get that last commission in before month-end; they want their needs to be understood.
- Keep their drink full. By that, I mean, be attentive to their situation and take your cues from the prospect. Figuratively, if all that they want to do is stay perched on their stools and bicker about the weather, then so be it. Let them stay, and soon they will begin building their basket up to the rim. Take that time to pay attention to those small details that are often overlooked, keep a log and take great notes. If a new product comes in that you think might help them, pass it on and make them feel fuzzy that you thought of them.
As B2B sales pros, sometimes our end game should be listening to the call of “One more, please.”
With Dreamforce just around the corner, tradeshow marketing is top-of-mind for us.
If you spend the time to maximize your efforts, marketers can see a clear path to revenue with tradeshows and conferences. But, if you fail, you could blow a huge portion of your marketing budget on fruitless activities. Some tradeshow booths will be successful and some will bomb… the worst of the bunch will fail miserably and be tens of thousands of dollars poorer for it.
You need to make sure you know what you're doing and that you have a solid strategy. Firstly, you must dodge these five easy ways to fail miserably at tradeshow marketing.
Meh… Don’t worry about pre-marketing for the event. We’ll have plenty to do while we’re there.
Wrong!! You need to shout about your presence at the tradeshow from every mountaintop available to you. Blog about it. Include items in your email marketing campaigns. Blast it out on social media. Have Inside Sales Reps identify likely prospects and call them directly to set up meetings. All of your pre-marketing efforts should be geared to advancing likely prospects into some face-to-face meet-and-greet at the tradeshow. Get that calendar full. (For more see our article: 10 Ways to Pre-Market for Dreamforce (or any other conference for that matter))
Let’s just pick an event that looks pretty good and go.
Wrong!! This one is probably the easiest mistake to make, but on the bright side, it’s the easiest to avoid also. You have to do your homework. First, identify why you want to exhibit. Identify what your goals are (ie. Bring home 50 qualified sales opportunities). Then do some research on what the profile of attendees is. Will your prospects be there in large enough numbers to justify the lead potential? What is your cost-per-lead going to be if you meet projections for the show? For any show you're evaluating, look at the demographics of past attendees. Call the event organizer and ask pointed questions about attendees. Another clue is to take a gander at past exhibitors. Are similar companies exhibiting at the show? Do they continue exhibiting?
Let’s not drop too much into the booth – my presence and the foot traffic should be enough... I’m a master salesman.
Wrong!! I’ve seen tremendous, dazzling booths and I’ve seen a booth with a dude and a clipboard. If you’re going to invest in having a booth at a tradeshow, don’t skimp on the booth part. At the end of the day, you are competing in a sense with the other booths for a certain share of attention. You literally get only a glance to impress attendees. Include bold images to catch the attention of passers-by. By focusing on what you can do to help prospects with their challenges (at a glance), you stand a much better shot at landing some good B2B sales leads.
Let’s scan the badges of everyone that walks by… we’ll sort them out later.
Wrong!! You have to attract the right crowd or you’ll be spinning your wheels tirelessly following up with unqualified leads. It’s a result of anxious exhibitors wanting to draw everyone with a pulse and not losing sight of the fact that they came here for qualified prospects. Keep in mind that the booth visitors you really want are the attendees that you may be able to turn into clients.
Man, I have like 400 leads and 200 business cards. It’s just too much. I’ll get to them when I can.
Wrong!! If you’ve done well at point number 4 above, you should be excited to follow up with all of the attendees whose info you captured, because most of them will at least be qualified. Quite simply, failing to follow up effectively after the show is a nail in the coffin. You can all of the other things right, but if you fail at this one, it was all in vain. You need to follow up on the leads you gathered at the show. If you can’t, employ some help from other team members. The faster you touch your leads, the more recollection they’ll have of meeting you. There's always a justification in your mind to follow up on leads tomorrow… but, if you’re not careful, tomorrow can turn into the day after and the next week.