Years of living during more prosperous times caused many organizations to overlook the fundamental role that prospecting plays in the effectiveness of any revenue creation strategy. Now, as this slow, uncertain economy pushes these organizations to urgently redouble their focus on prospecting, they are beginning to realize that their prospecting muscle memory has deteriorated and needs to be rebuilt.
While many sales and marketing teams were previously enjoying the benefits of an expanding economy during the last and middle of this decade, creative and forward thinking organizations broke down the traditional segmented sales and marketing process that had endured for most of the past century and reshaped it into to a seamless, integrated and highly efficient new revenue creation engine. Today, these hyper efficient organizations are continuing to drive significant amounts of revenue and close new business, even in the midst of the most difficult economy we have seen in decades.
Out with the old
The traditional sales and marketing process relied on marketing to create and launch complex campaigns that positioned products around a specific message as a way to create brand identity and drive customer interest and demand for these products. Sales organizations were then charged with picking up all of these leads and converting them into paying customers. Among the drawbacks to this process – and they are numerous – are the fact that it is slow, cumbersome, disconnected from what is happening in the real world of sales, and often failed to create enough qualified prospects to move the needle when it came to driving revenue and closing new business. The inefficiency of this approach inevitably created internal friction between sales organizations – who often complain that marketing’s strategy did not result in enough good leads – and marketing organizations – who complain that sales simply wasn’t working hard enough or smart enough to convert the leads into customers. Either way, that argument is now moot, because the paradigm is no longer suited to reaching customers in the 21st Century. Customers have changed the way they approach the buying process.
In with the new
The Sales 2.0 revolution, driven by the fact that the world has migrated to a digital and social communication culture, has forever altered the way business is done. Today, the Internet supplies customers with immediate and highly detailed information about your company’s products and services, along with information about all of your competitors. The advent of social media accelerates this process by giving buyers real-life and real-time reviews and opinions of your products and services. Now, rather than waiting for marketing to come up with a product campaign or waiting for a sales person to approach them with something that they might find helpful, customers are proactively scouring the Internet looking for the product or the company that appears best suited to meet their needs. In addition, these web-savvy customers prefer to do business online, using the tools, interfaces and amenities available through the Internet to do business their way, according to their schedule, to meet their specific needs.
Today’s more sophisticated customers have a sense of power and entitlement, which means they are likely to already be fully aware of the options and solutions available to them. They are no longer willing to settle for a product just because a sales professional says it is a good choice. Most customers these days aren’t necessarily looking for products at all. What they are interested in finding is a specific outcome.
For this reason, marketing and sales organizations must stop thinking about simply pushing products or solutions. The way to close more business and drive more revenue today lies in adapting to the way customers are doing business now, becoming more accessible and responsive, and being sensitive to the customer’s needs by adopting a flexible, creative approach to customizing products and solutions that will help customers achieve their desired outcomes. There are four critical steps involved in making this shift.
1. Eliminate the chasm between marketing and sales – The sibling rivalry between sales and marketing must end. The old disconnected, cumbersome system in which two independent divisions both fight to achieve the same goal must be replaced by a fully collaborative, integrated approach where Sales and Marketing function as one seamless team, supporting each other and sharing information with each other in real time as they work together to deploy and close focused sales plays in shorter sales cycles. This will involve:
- Both teams considering themselves fully integrated members of the same revenue creation process, rather than members of distinct groups operating from separate missional perspectives who are simply collaborating to create an opportunity for ultimate mutual gain
- Having a tightly integrated communication and feedback link between Sales and Marketing that regularly accesses and updates information about the type of leads needed, the strategies being deployed to deliver and develop those leads, the process being used to follow up those leads, and the progress being made to follow up on those leads
- Rigorously following a highly collaborative model requiring Sales and Marketing to work together to formulate all strategies involving the assessment of potential opportunities, as well as the design, deployment, monitoring, measuring and review of all sales plays
- Having clear rules of engagement that define things like hand off points for important tasks
- Creating a clearly defined decision chain to specify who needs to be in the loop from both the Sales and Marketing functions in order to initiate, review, and adjust ongoing sales plays
- Managing sales plays according to a clearly defined cadence that stipulates what will be done by Sales and Marketing each week to support each other’s efforts
- Relying on the same set of metrics, goals and timelines to guide them in the management of all sales plays
- Everyone involved in the play having access to and leveraging the same metrics in the CRM in order to successfully manage all sales plays
2. Migrate all activities to the CRM – The final bullet point above makes a nice transition into the next step, because it is imperative that the company’s CRM becomes the bridge to map, drive, monitor and measure all activities relating to sales and marketing. The CRM must not be allowed to run in the background as a contact database or a sales accounting tool. The entire organization must begin to see the CRM for what it really is – a vital source of urgent, insightful, real time intelligence that can help every function of the organization nimbly and rapidly adapt to changing conditions, adjust goals, identify customer trends, and uncover and coach to team skill gaps. With everyone accessing, analyzing and acting on the same just-in-time information, the entire organization will be able to fine tune strategies, boost efficiency, scale resources up or down more economically, boost productivity and drive revenue and grow business faster.
3. Embrace Social Media – It is time to face facts; not only is social media here to stay, it has altered the DNA of cultural communication. People who didn’t even know what a smart phone was two years ago are now texting, tweeting, digging, friending, sharing, linking and just generally interacting with the rest of the world at almost the speed of light. The world has become one giant digital brain, and the Internet, with its intricate technological network, contains the neurons and synapses that define what the entire world is thinking and talking about every second of every day. Another word to describe that world is: Prospects; prospects who might very well love to become your customers if you were only able to log in to their world and tap into what they were thinking about their needs and outcomes.
Sales and marketing organizations must immediately and decisively act to leverage the capabilities of resources like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, not to mention search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo, in order to penetrate your customer’s world and learn what he is thinking, feeling and needing. When you do this, one of the first things you will be able to learn is what customers are saying about your company, your products, your competition, their products, and — most of all – their needs and desired outcomes. An important part of integrating sales and marketing is a strategy for positioning your company right in the middle of this raucous, wide open, no holds barred, world-wide conversation, and learn how to use it to driver more revenue.
4. Invest in Technology – Of course, adapting your prospecting strategy to the 21st Century carries its own built in opportunity costs. A lot of them are associated with creating and maintaining the infrastructure that will nurture your presence on the Internet and keep it viable. Search engine optimization alone requires a significant monthly investment if you want to make sure your customers are able to find you in the midst of all the clamor the Internet can create in your market place. Also, new tools and technologies for interacting with prospects are being developed all the times. More to the point, new technologies are being developed to work in tandem with and leverage existing technologies to expand the efficiencies and increase the impact of both. (One example of this phenomenon is the way third-party applications are being created for the iPhone as well as for cloud-based business platforms like salesforce.com.) The good news is that in the new world of sales and marketing integration, the increased efficiencies and greater productivity also saves/generates a lot of money that is usually channeled straight to the bottom line. If you are forward thinking enough to take some of that new revenue and invest in new technologies, you can create even more scalable solutions that will help your organization keep pace with the new wave of changes no one has even thought of yet.
There is one thing about sales and marketing that hasn’t changed and never will. The prospects are still out there. What they are looking for is a sales organization that is accessible, flexible, informed, responsive and willing to help them achieve their desired outcomes. The sooner you begin to aggressively, persistently, creatively invest in making the changes to catch up with the way the world is already doing business, the sooner you will reap the rewards.
- Is your company still operating under the old, segmented sales and marketing system? If so, why? How is that working for you today?
- Does everyone in your company who is involved and sales and/or marketing use the CRM to access the same data at the same time, and use the same metrics to measure the effectiveness of sales and marketing activities?
- How robust is your company’s presence on the Internet? Aside from your website, do you have a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or other social media sites?