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Why a marketing coach for your salespeople is the future of B2B

Can you guess one of the most discussed business topics and yet still a pending issue in most organizations? Yes, how Sales and Marketing work together.

The problem is not just business efficiency but a total misalignment with the way people- customers- relate to business now. it has changed — we all know because we are consumers and buyer ourselves. We don’t like to receive calls, ads or cold emails and barely pay attention even to good content but when we put our business hats on (or suits) that’s the way we operate.

We still model our organizations in the old way, splitting marketing and sales, inbound and outreach. The split is not real. It does not exist in the customer’s mind but only in our organizations.

In this article, I will analyse how Startups, Entrepreneurs and some of the most innovative companies have changed to discuss how you too could enable your sales team to become micro- marketers themselves to be successful

I — CONTEXT

Decoupling Times: Exponential changes but linear responses

Last week I received a similar request from two quite different organizations; a scale-up startup and a high tech growth business. Both with a sales problem. Their marketing campaigns generate inbound leads but they were not the right targets so sales struggle to close the deals. On the other hand, after the initial demos, the customer often went into “radio silence” and sales run out of excuses to keep calling so the deals went dark. These situations sound familiar to many of us and are the result of both teams efforts not compounding.

There are three forces reinforcing each other at the same time that makes selling more difficult ;

  1. The market is overcrowded, hyper-competitive and ephemeral

The most crowded marketplace ever is changing at exponential rates because of the availability of supply and the fragmentation of demand.

There are many alternatives, competitors or simply “things” that will take the customer attention away from you. You don’t sell to a Market with few segments. The market is thinner than ever, ultra segmented in a long tail of segments even just as small as groups of people or even single individuals.

Any of your actions, PPRR, videos or campaigns will have a very short spotlight — almost ephemeral — before getting buried by the next funny post, so no more blockbusters, unless you hit the jackpot with a viral one.

2. The Buyer Journey is not linear, not even one way only

The buyer does not travel a smooth journey from awareness to conversion until sales help them to put things together and place the order. The modern buyer initiates the process, appears to be very close when does research and jump into the final stage when checks a demo, just to disappear again. And maybe will come back again influenced by non-official channels ( someone from your organization or a student shared something that triggered the attention)

3. Personal and approachable — startup style — is winning vs big corporation formal content

Even business networks — e.g Linkedin — are moving towards business “spontaneous” type of content. A personal video beats the dust out any corporate one. The serial entrepreneur and CEO of Natural Athlete- Niklas Gustafson got a 10 times increase in his videos engagement when he moved away from studio-made to self-recorded.

In that contest, the traditional Go to Market is a Go to Groups of individuals, with a specific style, interest and very short attention span, meaning that your content has to be quick, specific and cheap. So if your current organization-like many- have a department to define the content roadmap, other people in charge of policy, compliance, brand guideline, copy, product marketing, content writing etc.. and everyone has to agree, the time and money invested to produce a post and achieve 10 likes shows the point clearly.

In a similar scenario according to insidesales.com and Harvard Business Review research, the average business response to a web enquiry is 39 hours, while the best practice should be ..5 minutes.

Is easy to dismiss them as a different, not important channels, but for example, it seems Linkedin is the biggest generator of traffic and B2B leads ( if we trust their own sources). We all see every day very simple content -post, photos or self-made videos- that get a lot of engagement.

It is also perfectly possible to respond to customers not even in 5 minutes but in real time- just re-routing customer chat to the right reps ( see here how to do it with Intercom)

The separation between departments is not only too artificial and far from the people but is also too slow.

The key is to define an organization that can use agile processes and tools to be close to the customer and scale at the same time

II. Organization

How to scale a Sales Organization?

There are three structures that you should consider, and the best-fit option will vary depending on your unique business and industry. The high touch model, The Assembly Line, and Pods are all effective ways to organise your team, each with its own selling points.

Account plans & field marketing

Enterprise accounts have account teams that define account plans for each customer, isolated from corporate marketing but often with the help of field marketing. This role is mainly to help with events and some collateral marketing activities. The prospecting, qualification, nurturing and positioning is done by the account managers themselves.

Everything tailor-made to the customer. So is not replicable and thus not easy to scale. But pressure goes everywhere and teams are forced to choose between farming and hunting. The wider the scope, the less time to be on top of everything- if you use visits and calls to be updated- so you miss opportunities. At the same time, the customer seeks specialization so relationship-based salespeople get by-passed by challengers.

The SaaS assembly line

Selling to the mid-market and especially subscription-based business ( SaaS) require higher sales velocity, so the model is based in specialized teams for each step in the sales funnel.

Inbound/ Marketing development rep will develop Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) from a marketing campaign while a Sales Development rep will generate the lead from outreach. Both will at specific moments re-route it to an Inside Sales or Account Executive who will after closing the deal introduce the account to their Customer Success Manager.

The concept is based on defining clear actions for step in the customer journey and assign them to a specialist in prospecting, converting or closing.

Identical processes for all resp and customers to analyse and optimize. Sales Science designed by engineers to bring the promise of predictable revenue demanded by VC.

Some noise in the chain

The idea brings order and analysis to a function sometimes associated with gut feeling and crystal balls — what is good. It also allowed to replicate best practices and thus help to scale faster and obtain the justification to get more money into the system, get funded and scale further. The companies following the model scale faster so the model spreads.A self-fulfilling prophecy.

We mentioned earlier than the modern buyer does not follow a linear funnel. And each business has peculiarities, that typically require a good “listener” to uncover — an essential sales skill -not always in fashion. A good qualification is arguably the most important factor to determine the outcome of the sale- yet here we are using the most junior resources with a formula.

A model that uses an SDR applying a formula to assign the prospect into a phase and then send it to an AE that aims to push the product of the month in a 30 min call is not suite for all products and should not be abused. It can easily backfire when the customer does not just fit the script. The rep often is in a single track and will just miss other possibilities. Some will argue that is the point. But this kind of process productize the customer and dehumanize the rep. The job could actually be done by a smart automation bot in a more suitable process for the customer as commented in this post. Besides nobody like to feel like being sold and move the customers from rep to rep like cattle does not help (some models have more than 4 hops)

Sales are based on trust ( inspired by your brand & product) but also by the relationship with the rep. Just a simple association with some content shared with their network could be enough to be seen as “knows what is talking about”. A reputation that will help customers to open up. The relationship and thus the reputation and trust suffer from the siloed approach. Every jump from one rep to another implies a back to zero with the customer and causes friction.

Collateral damage

Just a quick note of trap easy to fall in with the hyperspecialization of the sales chain;

That the tool makes you define the process instead of the other way around. So is easy to get into tunnel vision

The specialized department will look and find tools for their job — more than 8000 in the Martech stack — and each maker will create a universe centred in their tool with processes and task that require their features — just to justify themselves like bureaucrats. You may end up define jobs (o even hiring) to accomplish this task, quite far from the big picture and maybe even going in the opposite direction. As an example, an SDR team could get a tool that builds prospect list, find their emails and blast off cold messages and calls with higher ratios than the industry at 6–10% .. but are you helping or burning your brand with the other 90%?

The Startup Model

The sales assembly line is optimizing a model that in reality is broken and should be replaced. It does put even more barriers within Sales and Marketing and with the customers.

The more natural the flow between how a customer finds out and solves their problem with our solution the better. The essence is the startup with the initial customer base. The customer or a friend learns that some techies are working in something cool that help their business, talk to them and together they came out with a solution that solves their problem.

So simple that they don’t even call it selling.

Some successful Startups operate without formal marketing and /or sales departments.

Atlassian claims got 85.000 business customers without any sales employee.

They don´t call it sales but many employees including the CEO are doing actually sales and marketing. Darwinex- a fintech startup for trading call them ambassadors, their CEO is their best Marketing and Sales manager and their technical employee’s support their most important channel — their community.

The dilemma of sales and marketing often disappear when you are focussed in Growth.

You see often titles like Chief Revenue Officer or Growth Manager that imply a new approach — holistic approach — to the “get customers” job.

The trend is to empower employees to produce but also to share their work and experiences with their networks. People follow people and peer recommendations are more effective and economically efficient than a similar marketing campaign.

But you can not only grow organically and not every product is subject to virality so how to scale up this model to a sales organization?

III- The Hybrid model

Channel your relations via your employee networks

Go as natural and direct as possible, decentralising as much as possible the customer communications. Take them as close as possible to them, to the edge. The nexus between any organization and their customers are the people. So go where people are online but not as a brand but as people.

Organize your systems -tools and platforms- process and contents to have your employees as a reference focal point. To unify the demand generation process ( nurturing and farming with content) with the active prospecting and positioning to develop opportunities ( the hunting and outreach with social scouting)

Is not only about increasing the number of leads or sales velocity but also to have a better conversion. You can Improve the conversion rate from 20% to 30% with a better quality of leads and can bring you more than pushing to move from 3000 to 5000 leads.

So how can get a practical way for my sales teams to do it?

Get a Coach Marketeer to work in Playbooks for each team

An approach that combines the startup model with the efficiency of the assembly line is to build teams for each segment including also a dedicated growth marketeer at each team.

The key is that the growth marketeer helps the reps in their personal marketing, not just corporate marketing.

The idea is to assemble the required number of PODs — teams with the SDR, BDR, AE- that fits your sales- and give them full ownership in a segment, territory or program as proposed by several authors including Jacco Vanderkooij & Fernando Pizarro in Blueprints for SaaS Sales.

The objective is to develop and integrate the inbound marketing for the segment with the social selling to the target accounts.

They will be acting as an independent unit, as a startup with full sales cycle and operating with the modern growth marketeers principles in 4 areas;

1º Help with customer segmentation; The Lead Sourcing Playbook

The first task is to define the signals that indicate a good potential for their sales territory. Define signals for each pain or benefit and buyer persona. Then look for all the possible sources where they hang around. Both online and offline.Communities, forum and platforms like Linkedin, Twitter, Quora, Slack, Instagram etc..

Is not just about size but to analyse in each case which channels are more frequently used.

And which are the more effective to get in touch. They may all have WhatsApp but it might be inappropriate to start the relation using that channel for a sales rep. Quora, on the other hand, has more than double the conversion rate than any other social channel.

It is not only about picking the channels but goes down to identify the individuals, both customers and influencer that the team should get in touch with. That is why is critical that the marketer helps them to go to the very practical level.

2º Work on the Positioning; The Messaging & Cadences Playbook

Each platform has its own style and protocols. A Coach Marketer has to define a style guide for each. And then work with the team to apply it to the profiles of the team. To optimize the profile page. The description should be original and authentic but also point to the business objective of the target segment. Work in a similar way with the messages, from the initial touch to the cadence of interactions, messages and contents to maximize the goals for the platform.

This can not be done with a generic template for social media. It has to be tailor-made to the segment and the team. And keep evolving, improving and sharing within the team what works and what doesn’t.

3º Developing Content for Sales; The content Playbook

Each segment of prospects has very specific problems and uses of each product. That is precisely what defines them as a segment. A startup and a department from an enterprise may use the same feature in totally different ways. Often what is nice to have for one segment is the compelling event for another. You have to leverage that.

Is not only about creating ad hoc content- ideal if feasible- but just a little adjustment to the messaging associated can work.

Content is very expensive to produce and just sharing it in a general channel from a brand account is a pretty sure thing that will be wasted. Put it in the hands of the ones with the relation will multiply the effect.

But sales content is not just about corporate content. A person can make much better use of the huge variety and richness of possibilities that content offers. From photos, videos, gifs, memes to videos and self-made personal situations. Could be inspiring, informative or even funny. They will give authenticity and personality.

Coach and trainer — to enable them not to make it for them

The point is not to have an assistant for each sales rep. It would be viable ( most likely) but especially will miss the point of making it authentic with the unique style of each salesperson.

But in reality, the skill set is not so alien to sales — communication, sales copy, pitching and the use of the latest tools has been always in the sales DNI — they always look for tools, always looking for an edge with customers.

The consumerization of tools and technologies make feasible to do almost anything without technical skills; from landing pages, trackable pixels, retargeting, videos, gifs to even no-code apps.

So the challenge is not how to make them use them but how to keep them away. So the key is for companies to have the structure and the process that support the empowered individuals.

Social networks have already blurred the like between personal and business. The markets are fragmented and disperse and anything personal is more authentic and effective.

So you need to let them grow to help you to reach your customers.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +436,678 people.

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