Want Better ROI on Your B2B Marketing Strategy Ditch the Sales Pipeline and Focus on the Customer

You probably don’t need us to tell you that buyer behaviour has undergone a revolution over the last few years. B2B companies have been aware of the change in consumer habits and preferences for some time now. But, for the most part, this hasn’t been reflected in their B2B marketing strategy. One area that is seriously due for an overhaul is the way in which sales teams interact with customers. Companies that have been successfully navigating this new consumer landscape, where the customer is in charge, have largely been those whose sales teams have learned to loosen the reigns, and let the customer take the lead while they listen, learn, engage, and follow up.

Such changes can be unnerving, especially if you are a salesperson who has been poring through the likes of Inc. and Forbes and reading headlines like ‘Are Salespeople Still Necessary?’ that put your existence into question. While your anxiety is understandable, there’s no need to panic just yet.

Sales is never going to be dead. Because without sales, there is no business. What IS dead is top down persuasive selling that is carried out in the field to customers that have stopped listening.

The new customer can easily reach a sales person if they want to. But they can just as easily browse our website, our competitor’s website, hunt around the Internet for reviews or look at our profiles on social media in private, without having to sit and listen to a sales presentation, and feel obligated to the person who took time out to come and see them, or be interrupted by a cold call.

A recent blog post in HubSpot expressed this perfectly, ‘Customers don’t want a salesperson to come visiting unless they conclude that a face-to-face visit is absolutely critical (and they rarely do).’

Technology has torn down the walls between us and our customers, even going so far as to invite them into our organisations. And customers have been keen accept this invitation as an opportunity to dig deeper and become more informed before they make their buying decision.

The new sales approach acknowledges that we’ve already invited our customers in, now we need to keep them informed and engaged as we provide them with various different channels to interact with our people and brand.

Nowadays, instead of a marketing department sending leads directly over to the sales team to be followed up, a B2B marketing strategy might be to make some videos, share some useful content on social media, or publish an industry-related white paper that educates, and engages their buyers, while establishing them as a trusted authority in their niche. By doing this, you are handing power over to the customer, but give them the right content and channels to engage with, and you’ll see much better results than competitors who are just sending a salesperson out to chase that lead down.

Of course, there are going to be times when a sales person in the field is a good option. Salespeople who are skilled in problem solving, and who understand their clients’ operations can be a useful source of advice and solutions. They may also be able to help a client understand how to optimise a new piece of equipment, system or software in order to maximize their ROI. But these tasks require the person to take on a more consultative role, rather than a pure sales role.

The best way to ensure sales is aligned with buyers is to merge sales teams with marketing departments, and engage them in the process of B2B customer engagement. Because of their experience in the field, their knowledge of customer pain points and motivations is invaluable, and gives marketers plenty to work with.

But salespeople can also become valuable team members by arming themselves with a new set of skills, all of which steer them away from traditional funnels, and more towards customer engagement.

1. Using Social as a B2B Marketing Strategy

According to the Pew Research Center, 76 per cent of all Internet users use social media in one form or another. This includes 84 per cent of C-level and VP executives, who use it to enable purchase decisions. (http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/10/08/social-networking-usage-2005-2015/) And yet, a new survey from PeopleLinx reveals that only 31% of reps incorporate social media into their sales process.

Social media is a great way to nurture relationships that lead to long-term cash flow, repeat sales, and referrals. Draw people closer to your brand by utilizing social tools for content sharing. It’s such an easy way to provide value to people and establishes you as an authority, who is keeping up-to-date with business trends, even those that aren’t directly related to your niche.

2. B2B Customer Engagement Through Copywriting

Before you can share stuff on social, you actually have to have the content to share. Increase your credibility with customers by writing your own articles and sharing them around. Better still, have sales staff learn to write things like auto responders for email marketing, and landing pages for lead conversion. As salespeople, they are already ahead of the game when it comes to being able to express benefits, creating an emotional hook, and call to action, so why not turn their persuasive skills into written skills that can be used to increase engagement?

3. Train Them to Use Marketing Technology

More and more B2B companies are jumping on board with automated marketing technology like HubSpot or Marketo. When sales and marketing merge together over an automated infrastructure, things really get interesting. Some outcomes are:

Better data on the potential lead’s online behaviour. You know which emails they have opened, which pages of the website leads have visited, allowing you to respond to them more quickly.

· Higher conversion of visitors into leads and segmentation into categories that can be followed up appropriately, based on their specific needs and interests.

· More effective lead-scoring due to in-built lead-scoring mechanisms, so you’ll know which leads are worth spending more time with.

But perhaps the biggest change that needs to happen is the change in attitude. Before we can become truly customer focused, we need to let go of traditional sales and marketing ideologies, and learn to navigate the world of digital marketing with a holistic mindset. Giving the customer a range of touch points by adopting automated marketing and social into a comprehensive B2B marketing strategy is the way to go if we want to move forward.

The question is what your organization is doing to prepare for this giant leap.