Smart B2B Marketing Includes A Sales Ride Along; 6 Key Questions

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We all recall the expression “there’s no such thing as a dumb question”, though I know I’ve violated that more than a few times. Still it’s pretty much a given that it’s part of the essential mindset for any B2B marketer. Where it can pay big dividends is when you make time to go on a ride-along with sales. Here’s why.

In every industry vertical, B2B marketing’s “secret sauce” starts with understanding how your company’s target audience thinks and behaves. In the process it’s also possible to better align the marketing and sales teams to create better synergy for greater ROI.

When you think about it, as a general rule in nearly every business your resident expert on the customer is your sales team. So as soon and often as possible, pick their brain. The best way based on my experience is to suit up and step into their world for some immersion.

When I’ve done this I put on my journalism hat and use the “5W&H” to get the story; who, what, when, where, why and how. This will not only help paint an accurate picture of the customer’s world but establishes a repoire and foundation with the sales team for an ongoing dialogue. As for any doubt about sales willingness to talk, there are few things people enjoy more than talking about themselves and being called upon for their expertise.

So imagine those first few minutes sitting with the sales rep. After the pleasantries, what should you ask? Here are six key questions to get the ball rolling:

  • So how do you get sales? As basic as that may sound, understanding where leads and prospects are coming from is vital to “seeing into the sales funnel” and learning how the current sales process works even if you think you know. Verify.
  • Who are great prospects (and customers)? This helps us understand success criteria and the qualities and quantities associated with them. Finding out how well or poorly marketing’s profiles and more importantly, personas match the feedback from sales has everything to do with our messaging, content strategy, and marketing plan in general.
  • Where are they? Sounds kind of silly at first but it helps uncover as many opportunities as possible to brand, message, solicit feedback, reinforce distinctive competency and employ the most appropriate media and format for delivery of custom content to best move the prospect along (conversions) until they become customers.
  • What sales methodology do you use? This is different from the sales process. Are they using Challenger, SPIN, NEAT, Conceptual, SNAP? Get the context of when marketing can be applied to increase sales’ effectiveness and you’ll also find better alignment between the sales and marketing teams.
  • When do you decide to contact the prospect directly? In companies where they use a MAS (marketing automation system) like Hubspot or Pardot, there are clearly defined protocols for the timing of content delivery and qualification stages before anyone in business development or sales actually picks up the phone or sends a direct email. But in companies that aren’t using MAS, this can be a big blind spot for marketing where we need to shine a light.
  • Why do you think the sales team is successful? This can be a big reveal into the state of mind of the sales team but more importantly where there are gaps that marketing can help address such as creating better presentation materials and leave-behinds, more effective and attractive promotions, or designing professional-looking tradeshow displays for example.

Doing this will at minimum help true up current marketing efforts but also help both sales and marketing to gain greater clarity into the relationship between their respective teams. Tearing down the silos leads to improved cooperation, understanding and communication. These are key ingredients for greater effectiveness that in turn will grow MROI (marketing return on investment) and ultimately company profitability.

Do you have a sales ride along story to tell? Share it here. We’d love to hear about it.

Does Your Agency Fail to Scale? Try This Money-Making Business Development Fix

startup-scalingIf my 20+ years in business development and account service at a small creative and marketing services agency have any value,  it’s learning you can make many mistakes and then by the grace of God still enjoy success. These experiences taught me a lot and our agency did some key things really well like producing intelligent, compelling creative B2B content that made money for our clients and I suspect helped more than a few of them get promotions.  And for years our process wouldn’t scale. We were like skilled coachbuilders hammering out custom cars for each and every client. It was almost heresy to suggest a solution that was packaged or off-the-shelf yet the reality was there were situations when this would have worked just fine. So call it tunnel vision or foolish pride but it worked up to a point.

Codify Your Process

Then one day after a prospective new client meeting, something clicked and I realized that our prospects simply weren’t getting “it”, that “it” being how our agency arrived at our spot-on creative and marketing solutions.   Then it hit me; we were making this incredibly important and challenging work look so natural that it appeared easy, like the pro golfer who ‘just hits the little ball in the little hole”.  So I was determined to fix that and the approach I took was codifying the initial engagement process that we had been doing informally, into a formal one that we would offer as a fee-paid service; a discovery, assessment and scope-of-work process or Discovery & Design as I now call it. We had essentially been doing this for years either as a free, abbreviated version for prospects or lumping the more comprehensive one into the creative development cost, an oversight that was screwing us financially as well as undermining the integrity of our process.  By making this critical initial stage one of our paid services, the benefit was almost immediate. Out of the next five prospects who I offered it, four signed on. That’s an 80% close rate! Plus when we quit giving it away, a lot of prospects self-qualified as more Top-Of-Funnel (TOF) who weren’t quite ready to engage which saved precious staff time and dollars.

Lay A Solid Foundation for the Relation and Solution

In this limited engagement, the client and agency were working together and arriving at conclusions together that either supported the assumed issues, or put us on track to the real ones, which created validity and laid a good foundation for a working relationship.  Jointly analyzing the client’s perceived issues also made them easier to understand and so too creation of more accurate and detailed working documents like creative briefs to better guide production activities in the agency and in turn achieve greater efficiency which brings us back to the point of this blog; we could begin to see more clearly recurring opportunities to apply scalable solutions in the form of packaged (along with some select customization) website development especially those using a dynamic CMS platform, microsites for promotions, content strategy and development programs, and so forth. While it seems incredibly obvious, it took one too many unsuccessful prospect meetings to click on that light bulb over my head.  So what is helping your agency to scale its services?