The internet has made it easy for prospects to self-educate. In turn, more and more customers are researching online or seeking advice and recommendations on social media in their search to make informed buying decisions.
Figures vary, but many experts estimate 57-70% of the entire buying process is complete before it hits sales. In turn, this raises a valid question… what role should your sales team play in this new market?
If you believe the role of the B2B sales person is dying, please think again. You see, I would argue that the 57-70% figure is vastly overinflated and inaccurate. You could even say it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy promoted by marketing departments to intensify their grip and command of the available budget.
In fact, I often hear CMO’s saying they want to own 99% of the sales process and just have sales teams ‘pick up’ the order. But is this ambition practical? Are sales skills really of so little importance in the ‘modern’ pipeline?
In a transactional sale, maybe… but what if your product/service is more complex?
In these common circumstances, I’d argue the role of your sales experts is far more important than you currently realise.
Let me explain…
Content marketers are right - almost.
There is a huge advantage being ‘first in’. When you publish useful content to guide and influence your prospects, you do have a better chance of being ‘the one’ they call - when they’re ready to buy (or at least take the next step). Sales have known this for a long time.
In fact, the principle of being at the front of the queue is what traditional cold calling was built around. And while cold calling (in it’s true sense) is now out of favour, there’s still a heap of potential for skilled sales people to build relationships and warm up leads.
In short, the early stages of the buying journey shouldn't be dominated by marketers only. The smartest sales people know this. It’s why they’ve adapted their skills, embraced new technology, and are proactively adding value to prospects through collaborative sales techniques. Specifically, these sales experts are helping prospects to make decisions and define their decision criteria.. Unsurprisingly, this is critical to persuading the prospect to choose you.
And that’s why I argue it’s a myth that the role of the B2B sales person is being left out in the cold by digital content, if it's done correctly.
Whilst customers DO want to buy online, they also crave interaction with real, knowledgeable, skilled people to help inform their choice. So you see, the role of the B2B sales is still alive and well – and it’s a position you can exploit to your advantage. In fact, I’d argue content should merge into the sales domain too. For example, would it surprise you to discover that the SiriusDecisions Buying Study 2015 report found that sales presentations are the most meaningful and impactful form of content when it comes to closing a deal?
So you see sales people can still influence the decision maker - significantly. Content marketing can only drive a prospect so far along the funnel, but the sales team must support this journey. That’s because a skilled sales person can provide immediate, personalised feedback and respond to questions. This human to human interaction is incredibly powerful and, if not quite putting sales in the driving seat, certainly makes them the co-pilot for the buyer. The results of the SiriusDecisions Buying Study for 2015 support this. Sales people, very much, still matter.
If you’re not encouraging your prospects to engage with a sales expert, you’re missing out. Providing great content is a powerful positioning tool, but it’s no longer enough. If you fail to include a call to action in your content that’s meaningful to your business, then you're missing an opportunity for sales to engage and close… and that’s NOT good for business.
Richard Young is Bullhorn CRM’s Director of CRM Sales, EMEA. Richard has built an in-depth knowledge of the CRM industry based on over 20 years of experience. Richard has worked with a diverse range of companies including WPP Group, KPMG, McKinsey & Co., Royal Bank of Scotland, American Express, HP and Mercedes-Benz.
So tell me… does your blog encourage people to contact you or just read more? What are your Call To Actions that help your prospects to engage with your experts?
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