Monthly Archives: December 2015

In the battle for success, two opposing forces will both claim that they are in the right. For example, one country will start a war for a reason that they believe to be justified but the country being attacked will believe that they have every right to defend themselves. This is the state of the current relationship between sales and marketing. Neither has the monopoly, neither is in the right and yet neither is in the wrong either

The reason for this is that their identities are confused. They are confused because clear job roles have not been defined and in order to be identified, you need a definition, right? Moreover, the two departments do not seem to be recognising themselves as parts of the same company. Rather, they see themselves as competitors.

For the most part, the tension is derived from the fact that marketers will readily provide sales teams with a long list of unqualified leads, expecting them to sell effectively off the back of it. This is unrealistic. As a result, sales reps question the validity of the information given to them by the marketing department and do not even attempt to follow-up on the leads. Additionally, in cases where leads are successful, marketers do not get any credit for them.

Consequently, specific job roles need to be outlined by management.

Prevention, Not a Cure

Gaps are filled, solutions are found and questions are answered in all corners of society: Businesses are born by identifying a gap in the market, PhD students base their theses on previously unexplored research and journalists make pains to investigate a potential front-page finding. In the majority of cases, this all takes time and research.

The process of generating leads should not be any different. Marketers need to provide sales teams with more information and sales teams need to use several approaches when following-up. Both of their efforts then need to be audited as constructive feedback is invaluable.

Moreover, there is a conflict of interest because the two teams are working towards different goals. One department may be rewarded for one thing and the other department may be rewarded for reaching an entirely different target. Consequently, employees are going to work in a way that naturally benefits them instead of seeing the greater good, so to speak.

More than a Phone Call

In a world where we are bombarded with a number of media on a daily basis, it is nonsensical for a sales team to use a single form. Whilst telephone calls can produce effective sales, the negative connotations attached to sales calls mean that it is unlikely they will be listened to.

In addition to this, many companies are now taking a cost-per-lead (CPL) approach to marketing, which is an expensive approach, meaning that many companies are placing themselves in a position where they have to outsource certain areas of work.

The problem here is twofold; outsourcing work to other countries may lead to a communication failure and companies are not choosing to outsource in order to gain results but to cut initial budget.

Of course, all of this results in a reduction in the standard of service produced. It is a fact that people are now so habituated to low-quality leads that they simply expect that to be the case from the outset and generally ignore them.

Coming full circle then… if people are expecting poor quality then they will use the variety of media accessible to them at the touch of a button in order to search for a better service.

Demand generation

We are talking about the modern day demand generational funnel which is important to understand for both the B2B (business to business), B2G (business to government) and B2C (business to consumer) markets.  The traditional marketing funnel is simplistic and puts prospects into buckets and with presumption that buyers will act in the same way.  Its starts with the marketing campaign then the sequence of awareness, interest, evaluation, commitment, referral and finishing with repeat.  The thought process revolves around messages and responses; this is way too basic as it gets you thinking that all buyers want the same thing.  The modern day demand generation funnel allows buyers to follow a conversation which is unique to them and put them in control a acquiring the information they need to move forward with a purchase.  We can therefore stop thinking about this process as a funnel and instead replace it with a number of overlapping circles with buyers resembling pond skaters floating on the surface of water sensing vibrations and ripples in the water with sensitive hairs on their legs and bodies.  It is also worth remembering Pond skaters are very agile on the surface of the water and can jump to evade a predator.

Demand generation is seen as the marriage of marketing programs coupled with a structured sales process.  It is a number of targeted marketing programs driving awareness and interest in a company’s products.  The internet has changed the process with vast amounts of interconnected information which is both relevant and up to date.  If done intelligently both the sales and marketing efforts allow the buyer to engage with the company using their preferred communication channels at a time and location of their choosing.  The concept of demand generation can often be recited by a marketer but is often misunderstood or neglected by sales teams.  The intelligence gathered by sales can prove very valuable to the marketing process.

Creating awareness

The efforts to create awareness are often most viable to those external to the organisation and often seen regarded as a function of marketing.  However the sales team can play a very important role by increasing awareness when interacting with prospects for is unfamiliar with the company and its products or services.  Marketing often take the view that the prospect is aware they have a specific problem and are looking for solutions to address the problem.  Sales might take the review that the prospect is unaware they have a problem and need educating.  Traditional marketing programs and processes should be combined with highly targeted lead generation activates to form an advanced demand generation program.

The activities that can be used to create awareness include

1. Branding.

2. Inbound marketing including SEO (search engine optimization), Viral marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, PPC (pay per click).

3. Outbound marketing including inside sales/telemarketing, outsourced lead generation, outsourced appointment setting.

Supporting discovery

Buyers now use the internet as a preferred tool for researching solutions to specific problems.  Marketing have a number of advanced tools to facilitate discovery of their product or service when a prospect seek a solution for there problems.  The most commonly used marketing tools include SEM (search engine marketing), SEO (search engine optimization), free trials, demonstrations, webinars and seminars.

Once demand has been successfully generated it is up to the lead process to convert the demand into sales.  Sales play an important role in the later stages of the buying process especially for complex product and new technology.  The sales team will support the solution validation process by leading scoring, lead ranking and lead routing.

Demand generation has become more important as the internet has changed the way people buy.  It is an area that is likely to evolve as new technologies and social media increase the knowledge of buyers.

We’ve all sat in front of BBC One’s ‘The Apprentice’ thinking, and frankly, saying out loud, “What are they doing now?” At times, it’s like watching a bunch of untrained monkeys running around searching for different bananas, even though they’ve been told to buy the same one.

A similar thing is happening with lead generation in companies all over the world.  Managers at the top of an organisation often disagree about exactly what a lead is.  This causes confusion within sales and marketing because they are struggling to understand what a lead is, what it involves or how to go about finding one.

In an age where most things are within our reach, we are becoming more and more obsessed with defining everything around us and if we can’t define it then we don’t want anything to do with it… And the alarming thing is that if it’s happening at management level then it’s happening throughout the entire business.

With 80% of buyers now claiming that they purchase from vendors they have actively found themselves, people are no longer buying products or services in the traditional way; the internet has become the first point of call for any buyer.

It seems that confusion, miscommunication and a recent focus on other business processes have overshadowed the importance of lead generation.

The argument between sales and marketing

Like the latest celebrity couple playing out their downfall in the public eye, the tension between sales and marketing is no secret: Marketing departments believe that the low budget they are given is unjustified and sales teams feel the pressure pushing down on them when it comes to converting leads to sales.

The majority of people side with marketers since sales teams refuse to follow up on leads for ridiculous reasons such as the length it would take for the deal to close, not bothering to make a telephone call or the fact that they are too busy doing something else (usually something that generates commission).

But is it really all their fault?

To answer this, we need to go back to the lack of clarification on what leads actually are. Of course, if something is never defined then companies are at risk of believing they have more leads than they actually do; unsuccessful leads that have not been followed up by sales teams do not count as leads after all. Arguably, if leads were defined by management then the sales teams would follow accordingly, right?

It comes down to the fact that the two departments need to be working together but nobody seems to be working towards that goal. It is therefore up to the managers to clarify the process and support the effective collaboration between sales and marketing.

Different leads require different approaches

Sales reps are taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to identifying prospects; they presume that the same type of deal is appropriate for every target company when in fact, as with everything in life, culture varies between businesses.

It’s the age-old quality vs. quantity debate: Using one approach is seen as the easy route to making sales which is all well and good if you know what approach to take in the first place. The literature seems to suggest that successful leads arise from several contact attempts by sales teams but this is not currently happening. Therefore, without a quantity strategy, there is no quantity.

Imagine instead that a sales company goes the extra mile, tailoring their approach to suit the target sector – would this not be preferable?

To take an example:

Let’s say you want to buy a new laptop. You would begin by doing some research – talking to friends, looking online, visiting stores, etc. You would probably do this several times with different people and over a substantial period of time. You would consider what is best for you. You would list the advantages and disadvantages of your options. You may even make a shortlist and repeat this process. All in all, you would get to know your prospect.

You wouldn’t purchase a product or service in any other way so why should selling be different?

Aiming for quality over quantity will always produce relevant, suitable and effective results but it’s tough and so sales teams often dismiss leads if they are hard work or if they are going to take too long to close.

Networking is a powerful way to build your business. An important component of networking, particularly in today’s world of social media, is Six Degrees of Separation.

The idea behind 6 degrees of separation is, through “friend of a friend” connections, everyone is only 6 steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person.

The theory was originally presented by Hungarian author, Frigyes Karinthy, in a 1929 short story. It was first tested by Stanley Milgram’s 1967 “small world experiment”. Milgram asked 96 randomly selected people around the country to send a piece of mail to an acquaintance, who would send the mail to another acquaintance, in an attempt to reach a designated “target” person in Boston. The messages that actually made it to their destination passed through an average of six people.

However, four more recent studies show that social media is playing its part in reducing the number of degrees of separation:

1.   Facebook – 4.74 degrees of separation: A study by Facebook and the University of Milan in 2011 reported the average number of acquaintances separating any two people in the world was not six but 4.74. The experiment took a month and involved all of Facebook’s 721 million users.

2.   Twitter – 4.67 steps: In a 2010 study of 5.2 billion Twitter friendships (friend and follower relationships), Sysomos, a social analytics company, found the most common friendship distance is five steps (the average being 4.67 steps).

3.   Microsoft – 6.6 steps: In 2008, Microsoft conducted research analysing 30 billion conversations among 240 million people from its MSN Instant Messenger product. It found that most people are connected by 6.6 degrees.

4.   2003 email study – 5-7 degrees of separation: In 2003, Peter Sheridan Dodds and his colleagues at Columbia University conducted a modern version of 6 degrees of separation through studying e-mails on the Internet. They recruited over 60,000 participants from 166 different countries for the experiment. By factoring in the rate of dropouts, the researchers calculated a median chain length of between 5 to 7 people.

Last month, LinkedIn introduced a new “How you’re connected” tool, which aims to make it easier to find the best path to a new connection. LinkedIn was, perhaps more than any other social network, set up around the idea of degrees of separation (in LinkedIn’s case, three degrees of separation). The value is not only less degrees of separation but more opportunities to form relationships, and its new tool will make it easier not only to identify how you are connected to someone, but also how they know each other.

For example, one of your own connections may have attended school with the person you would like to be introduced to; but another may have recently worked with them and therefore is likely to have a stronger, more relevant connection and be the best source for an introduction.

By understanding and utilising the power of networking, you can build a valuable network of contacts. Who is in your network? Who are they connected to? And how will you leverage your network?

There is a growing amount of buzz about “social selling” and many will say it has replaced outbound selling as the go-to sales tactic in the modern buying process.

In the last five years the notion of social selling has changed dramatically with the adoption of Web 2.0 and social media. Social media has greatly increased the scale and reach of our relationship networks and peer networks, and Web 2.0 technology has changed the way in which we collaborate online, with most B2B buying decisions starting, progressing, and often even closing online without any face-to-face meetings.

According to ComScore, 82 percent of the world’s online population is reached by social networking sites, and more than 33.4 million professionals visit LinkedIn each month to build and maintain professional contacts, bounce ideas off industry experts, and generate sales leads.

But it’s not just the reach of social media that makes it so important. It’s also the quality of data that prospects and customers voluntarily offer. Prospects and customers are sharing what content they are consuming, who is influencing their thinking, and what products they are considering purchasing. This kind of data is invaluable in the sales process.

So what do you need to do to be effective in social selling?

1.   Pick a channel: Understand which social channels your potential customers are regularly using. For B2B, LinkedIn is probably the most relevant platform.

2.   Build your profile: Create a complete, compelling profile with your photo, skills and experience.

3.   Build your network: Reach out to peers, friends, customers, coworkers and ex-coworkers. Ask people to add a recommendation to your profile.

4.   Connect with influencers: Who are the people driving conversation around topics that matter most to your customers? Follow them and get their attention by spreading their content.

5.   Create your own content: Share content, comment on blog posts and articles, and join groups and discussions relevant to your area of business.

6.   Keep listening: A fundamental aspect of social selling is listening. Social media offers unprecedented insight into what the market is saying about their needs and wants, and about you and your competitors. Check in regularly on the groups you have joined, sign up for weekly e-mail updates on the conversations taking place there, and follow your competitors to see what they’re saying and how it’s resonating.

If you use a systematic social media marketing process to educate your target audience and identify sales opportunities, you will be rewarded with business growth.

If you want to know more about social selling, and how you can use it successfully in business, Eloqua’s Grande Guide to Social Selling is a good place to start: http://www.eloqua.com/resources/grande-guides/grande-guide-to-social-selling.html

 

With companies increasing their revenue targets this year despite the competitive market place and difficult economy, the big question is how is the increase in revenue targets going to be achieved?

A good starting point is the closer integration of the sales and marketing teams as their roles have become more amalgamated.  They may be talking more but often, their definition of what makes a good lead is worlds apart.

There are new tools out there that could make a big difference to future performance. One of the biggest opportunities is presented by big data.  This allows you to optimise your spending by analysing company-generated data to make better decisions and operate in a smarter way.  This goes back to really understanding who your customers are and what defining characteristics they share.  Armed with this clear understanding, the sales and marketing teams can then go out into the market place and identify prospects that have got the highest probability of becoming customers.

A ‘lead’ is difficult to define nowadays as the way prospects consume data has dramatically changed. This is due to multiple touch points such as conferences, webinars, word of mouth and white papers, etc.  This makes it difficult to determine how the lead was generated.  Consequently, it is advisable that lead-nurturing should play a key part in the sales activity with prospects being engaged via their preferred communication channels.

Change is in the Buying Process

The internet has revolutionised the buying process: Companies now have access to increased information and faster market analysis.  This has meant more investment in SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and page search to increase the likelihood of reaching the prospect at the right time. Another big change can be seen in the internal decision-making process with more and more stakeholders becoming involved in this area.  Whilst it used to be the case that a single director would approve a project, current practice is to bring in multiple decision-makers from several different departments.

A Shift in the Sales and Prospect Relationship

With the introduction of the internet, prospects are now much more informed than they were previously; they are able to access product and service information for themselves without needing to consult a the sales person.  Companies can now use videos, search tools and their websites to quickly inform prospects of their product information. Additionally, this can be done in a more engaging way online than in person. Sales teams therefore need to deliver meaningful dialogue to prospects, add value, and show how to solve problems or make gains with the product or service.  Engagement also needs to occur much earlier in the buying cycle otherwise they may be frozen by a fast-moving competitor.

It is now possible to use sales intelligence tools to support the efforts of the sales team.  Triggers can be put in place to alert the sales team to relevant changes within companies such as a change in CEO, new funding, mergers and acquisitions, etc. In addition to this, monitoring and engaging in social media can often yield results and highlight buyer activities in real time.

Sales management should now focus on metrics to clear any confusion about business performance.  The correct use of metrics will make the relationship between sales and marketing clear and prevent a vanity parade conducted on false pretences.  The average forecast deal-close rate is lower than 50% so expectations need to be realistic in relation to industry standards.

In conclusion, lead generation is not a simple process but there are many things sales managers can do to improve its predictability and success.

Wahoo Sales provides business support services in sales optimisation and offers lead generation on a pay-per-performance basis.  If you want to know more about how we can help your organisation with lead generation, please get in touch.

This year is the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web. Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989, about 20 years after the first connection was established over what is today known as the Internet. Since that time, the Web has changed the world. And many industry experts believe Web 3.0 will change our lives even more.

To understand Web 3.0 and what it will do for us, we need to look at where it has been.

Web 1.0 “The Static Web”: Back in the 1990’s, we had static HTML pages that were found predominantly through directories and bookmarks, essentially a library – you could use it as a source of information, but couldn’t contribute to or change the information in any way.

Web 2.0 “The Social Web” or “The Collaborative Web”: Web 2.0 was about people and systems being able to communicate across multiple platforms. Users could make changes to web pages (for example posting reviews and comments, or updating sites such as Wikipedia); social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace made it easy for users to find each other and keep in touch; sites such as YouTube allowed users to create and share content; and RSS feeds made it easier for users to get information.

Web 3.0 “The Semantic Web” or “The Intelligent Web”: There is much debate about whether Web 3.0 is here yet. Or whether Web 3.0 is the Semantic Web. To many, Web 3.0 is something called the Semantic Web, a term coined by Tim Berners-Lee. In essence, the Semantic Web is a place where machines can read Web pages much as we humans read them, a place where search engines and software agents can better troll the Net and find what we’re looking for. For example, if you wanted to book a weekend in Paris, and wanted to compare hotels and flights, as well as find restaurants and museums close to your chosen hotel, you wouldn’t have to conduct separate searches for hotels, flights, restaurants and museums. The web would simply deliver search results for all and categorise it in such a way that you would know which places are more convenient. What web 3.0 promises is a more personalised, faster method of search that is tailored to your needs. And experts predict that this could also simplify the current problem of sifting through pages and pages of irrelevant web search results. While Web 2.0 uses the Internet to make connections between people, Web 3.0 will use the Internet to make connections with information. Some experts see Web 3.0 replacing the current Web while others believe it will exist as a separate network.

Web 3.0 is still very much in its infancy stage but it is coming so get prepared!

If you want to find out more about Web 3.0, take a look at this excellent video http://vimeo.com/11529540 and article http://computer.howstuffworks.com/web-30.htm.