Regenerating the badlands between sales and marketing

sales marketing badlandsSalespeople get paid a lot; more than the average marketing professional at any rate. And they’re worth it too. You need those deals closed or your business doesn’t have revenue.

So why is it that in many organisations, a desert separates those fertile pastures where marketers busily qualify and escalate ‘leads’ from the carefully tended fields where sales grow qualified ‘prospects’ into customers? In that parched and arid landscape lie the bleached bones of misunderstood needs, unfulfilled expectations, and unexplained jargon. If you’re really unlucky you’ll discover the desiccated carcass of a CRM system, starved of data and left to die of neglect.

Identify shared objectives and process

Now, a big part of salesmanship (…Salespersonship? Try getting that by your spellchecker) is investing time in knowing lots about your most important prospects, and using it to your advantage. We applaud the salesperson who remembers your husband’s name, knows you follow the football, that you just attended the big Cisco conference. He or she is well placed to apply that knowledge to gain the trust, rapport and credibility required to sell the hind legs off your proverbial giraffe.

Make the trip to the content marketing corral and understanding the lead is a big part of the science here too. Remember though – we’re starting a lot further back in the process, where any kind of trust, understanding and rapport are still largely aspirational. We share interesting content to our leads, and we watch how they consume it. We map their digital body language and at an appropriate point, we ask them to trust us with their identity and their specific interests, in the promise of ever more specific content. When we think they’re ready (usually because they hit a lead score; hopefully tracked by a marketing automation tool ) we cast them a proposition and see if they bite.

To follow that analogy through; we’ve watched as prospect number 1 started out in a group of several thousand and – like a fish egg floating in the Pacific – has survived improbable odds to be graduated out of the marketing ocean and into a salesperson’s fish pond. Goodbye marketing lead, hello sales prospect. Textbook.

Know your resource limits

Or is it? Up to this point, while the lead has been given personalised and relevant content, they’ve not been given anything designed explicitly for them. It’s not surprising really, because how could a marketing operation scale its finite resources to this level? Traditionally this job therefore falls to the salesperson. Over to you, Joe/Joanne…

Just like the marketing professional, the salesperson is going for maximum efficiency from the outset, with a view to narrowing opportunities down to what’s really worthwhile. He or she is going to check them out on online, look at their social profiles, and try to call them up in order to determine if they really ARE worth investing time in selling to. It’s time-intensive and still relatively high risk. Is there nothing further that marketing can do to boost their success ratio?

VoxGen: A cohesive strategy for social selling success

We worked with VoxGen on a new lead nurturing approach combining the best practice from content marketing and social selling. This relied on a close partnership between marketing, content and sales professionals and led directly to sales opportunities and conversions worth many times the value of the investment.

If you’ve ever phoned a bank, utility company or retailer and had a breathtakingly fantastic automated customer support experience, then the chances are it was designed for them by VoxGen. IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems have an appalling reputation, but those that VoxGen have influenced are quite the opposite. Check out this microsite we created for them to understand the pitch.

Most companies have some sort of IVR and the majority of them are terrible. Some don’t, but desperately need them in order to reduce waiting times for call handlers. All were opportunities for VoxGen. While the wider content marketing effort continued to fill and filter the lead funnel, VoxGen drew up a highly refined and targeted list of less than 100 prospect accounts for the sales team to focus on. The decision was taken early on that these accounts would get dedicated marketing support.

Using LinkedIn Premium accounts (and exploring Twitter and other social accounts connected to LinkedIn profiles), Voxgen heavily researched prospects at each of the target businesses in small groups of three or four at a time. Initially a laborious task led by the Sales Director, a streamlined and repeatable process was developed so that the load could be spread further through the organisation.

In parallel with each research effort, senior VoxGen consultants were asked to complete ‘mystery shopper’ assessments of each target organisation’s IVR system and publish these (at private links) as interactive presentations. These brief insights from some of the world’s leading voice interaction experts were of direct and specific value to each prospect – and also gave a very strong flavour of the Voxgen zeitgeist.

So, at no cost to themselves, our carefully selected prospects would soon receive a summary of how their existing IVR systems compared with best-in-class, plus recommendations for improvements that would maximise their customers’ experience and improve satisfaction metrics such as Net Promoter Scores (NPS).

Individual, highly personalised emails were created; not only would the email read as though it had been sent as a personal message by an individual, it would also look like it had been sent by an individual. Except these ‘individual’ emails would be closely tracked for opens, click-thus and so on.

With each email loaded and ready to launch at a specific time agreed with VoxGen’s sales team, open and click results monitored in real-time meant that the Sales Manager could intervene as needed while the content was still ‘hot’. Rather than barge in with a phone call, the sales team would leverage social media to make contact where necessary e.g. to someone who had opened/clicked the email several times but had not hit reply to the email. Also any new email correspondence enacted by the salesperson would feel to the prospect like a logical extension of the exchange begun by the initial mystery shopper email.

The results of the exercise were outstanding, with campaigns regularly reporting open rates of 20-40% and click rates of 10%+. On one notable occasion, an email to the CEO of a major mobile operator elicited 45 opens and over 20 clicks, indicating that approximately 44 colleagues had been forwarded the email and instructed to view its contents. This led directly to the person responsible for procurement (someone not originally identified in research) making themselves known and requesting a meeting.

All data was input to Salesforce and used to develop follow-up campaigns. New content could then address relevant matters that were demonstrably important to the prospect and their organisation.

After an initial three-month exercise focused on a small subset of the target 100, VoxGen had sufficient forecasted pipeline to achieve its sales target with nine months of the year remaining.

Sales and marketing teams have long created friction, but the way to bring them together is through valuable content, long-lasting sales intelligence and proven process. VoxGen is just one example of how this philosophy can be put into practice.

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