Time to Read: 6 Minutes. Is it important to understand the sales process before applying social media? Absolutely. Regardless of the media used, marketing process must tie to sales process to generate leads. If you feel like marketing and sales processes are not aligned in your organization you’re not alone. Let’s discover how to align marketing and sales—blending marketing media to effectively assist prospects through the sales cycle. Understanding the sales cycle helps you determine what medium to use when or where.————————————————————————————————————————————————
This is a guest blog by Dan McDade, CEO of PointClear, a business-to-business sales lead generation company and author of The Truth About Leads. Mr. McDade is a recognized expert in lead generation for complex sales processes.
I am putting together a presentation for an organization that has its own “university” for marketing folks. My topic is how companies go about defining a lead. For the most part they don’t do a very good job of defining leads and I understand why.
In most companies, at least historically, marketing and sales have been measured by, and hence driven by, different metrics. For marketing to be rewarded, they must create a certain number of leads within a budget. That does not necessarily line up well with sales’ expectations, and has exacerbated the age old problem of communication between marketing and sales (sometimes called lack of alignment).
This condition has been simply accepted by or ignored by most senior managers. This has only complicated the task of using social media to create leads and sales. I know this seems harsh, but it is still true today in many organizations.
To help me understand, and perhaps solve the problem, I researched many articles and reread a number of books, including Stephen Covey’s (remember him?) “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. While I have always agreed with and believed in every habit, I feel one of the “7 Habits” is most applicable: “Begin with the end in mind.”
The end is a sale and selling is based on effectively fulfilling need. Fulfillment of need is based on meeting the goals established by your business. Of course, the most important goal frequently is revenue. To earn revenue, a company has to use a sales process. While there are literally hundreds of sales processes a company might follow, at the highest level the below is the process most sellers and buyers are navigating to win or lose, or choose or reject:
1. Find a pain (or need).
2. Get agreement that there is a pain.
3. Agree to do something about the pain.
4. Agree to a generic solution.
5. Agree to a customized, specific solution.
(The fact that most sales reps start the sales process at Step #5, regardless of the lead source or apparent stage, is the topic for another article.)
Let’s say we run an online marketing campaign. Leads generated that identify people with a pain result in a bunch of Step #1 leads being sent to sales. Marketing may come in on plan and within budget (and begin celebrating—insert your personal vision of success here—mine is a good vodka martini). Meanwhile, sales is not impressed.
Even if the prospect has a pain, and agrees that their company has the pain, this individual may not be able to do anything about the pain (not a decision-maker and no access to power, other priorities, budgets) but they are a fully vetted Step #2 leads. Hence, a lot of these leads go to sales immediately—and fall into a dark hole.
There are tens of thousands of companies (and hundreds of service providers) that are providing Step #1 or Step #2 “leads” to their sales team. That itself is really a problem. In fact, fulfilling the first 3 are not enough to get a prospect to do something about the pain or need.
Unless you can help prospects to agree to a generic solution (which includes asking them to help you create a vision of what success looks like) it is unlikely that you can close business. Only when a prospect has a vision of success can you effectively sell your customized solution—and then only if it is actually a fit.
In Jeff Molander’s book, “Off The Hook Marketing”, he states:
“…what separates professional fisherman from the novices? Believe it or not, it’s not the fancy equipment. … Catching more big fish more often means spending less time worrying about attracting them … [and more time] learning how to set the hook…”
In other words, if you don’t know how to properly set the hook you may as well forget about attracting more fish. If you don’t understand the sales process there is no sense in generating more leads. My article, “Why Your Sales Force Needs Fewer Leads!” goes into more detail about this.
Think through the steps in the sales cycle and how various social media resources might apply. Let’s assume that you are in B2B (business-to-business) and are selling something that is not a highly commoditized. A tweet (or a LinkedIn Update, or Facebook’s “What’s On Your Mind”) can and should be used aggressively for Step #1, identifying pain.
In fact, Jeff makes the point in his book that the best way to engage a reader is to solve their problem. What better content to publish than solutions to problems your target market has? What better way to start a dialog?
Social media has been called democratic or “like being at a cocktail party.” In reality, social is like any other media. When the 800 telephone number was introduced (free inbound was once a novelty), everyone predicted the end of the post office. Now you hear everyone talking about social, “inbound marketing,” mobile and how “outbound marketing” (sometimes derisively and incorrectly called “interruption marketing”) is dead.
The reality is that a blend of media is required to move prospects through the sales cycle (or, to be politically sensitive, “the buyer’s journey”).
Understanding the sales cycle helps you determine what medium to use when or where.
For example, we believe in what we refer to as multi-touch, multi-media, multi-cycle prospecting to multiply results. They key is multiple. A blend of media is required; and Optimized Prospect Development™ requires multi-cycles to stay in front of the right prospect with the right message at the right time. In addition to knowing how to set the hook, it does not hurt to know where the fish are. So, using social media to identify pain (Step #1) and keep the hook in front of the right fish at the right time, by positioning yourself as a resource instead of a vendor, is essential.
I am going to declare victory and go make a vodka gimlet.
Jeff Molander is the authority on starting sales conversations online. He teaches a proven, effective and repeatable communications process to spark buyers curiosity about what you're selling. He's a sought-after sales prospecting trainer to individual reps, teams of sellers and small businesses owners across the globe. He's an accomplished entrepreneur, having co-founded the Google Affiliate Network and what is today the Performics division of Publicis Groupe.
Jeff also serves as adjunct digital marketing faculty at Loyola University’s school of business. His book, Off The Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You, is first to offer businesses a clear, practical way to create leads and sales with platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and blogs.
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