Technical sales and business development seems to be getting harder for sales and marketing organizations. BtoB, industrial, engineering, technology, complexity, R&D, etc . At the end of the day, an organizational sale is a technical buyer, influencer committee, and an economic buyer.
Traditional models of lead generation are struggling to reach and engage with complex organizational sales. More senior executives are screening their access from sales people, tuning out email marketing, and ignoring most other forms of advertising. Trade shows and conferences have been in steady decline well before the recession took hold.
On the other hand, we see a huge upside for social media as a means of targeting and building relationships with complex organizational purchase decision makers and influencer teams. The more complex, technical, price tag all the better.
If you think your industry doesn’t leverage social networks, think again. Every social market research project that we have done in the last 18 months has seen a tremendous amount of market participation. In the supply chain market, we saw over 100 individual online communities beyond LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. There were 500 groups on Facebook alone dedicated to LinkedIn. Who knew supply chain professionals were such a chatty bunch?
Seriously, if you think about all of the industry publications, associations, professional groups, major vendors, and individuals that make up a market; you realize that all of them are looking for ways to better collaborate via communities, forums, blogs, social networks, wikis, status updates, etc.
Why is Social Marketing so Bullish?
Because the same head winds that are fighting traditional sales and marketing actually help social lead generation. The overwhelming amount of noise and misinformation, in the market, the lack of accountability, the availability of choices, the limited time for exploratory discovery, the limited budgets, and the need for speed. From a buyer’s perspective, “I just want to cut through all of the B.S. and get to the heart of what I need to know to make the right decision. The vendor who can help me do that the most effective and efficient is my choice.”
We know one CIO who will not engage with vendors; instead reach out to their peer networks online and off, CIO only social networks, and having their people do research to bubble up. The CIO is building their requirements and short list without engaging with vendors. The challenge is for vendors who are trying to influence a sale that they don’t know the buyer is in the market. Means much more reliance on influencers and networks within the market instead of traditional lead generation channels.
Traditional lead generation models were designed to maximize the number of clients per rep., not improve the customer experience. That is why so many “marketing” leads were junk. They were focused on did they have the right characteristics for our target market; size, title, industry, etc. but they didn’t necessarily understand if they were actually in the market or just interested in information.
That is why many sales reps. ignore them and focused on their own relationship networks. The challenge is that many reps. don’t understand how to build new networks so when they tap the extent of their relationships; they fall off on their numbers. Many sales reps do not make quota across almost every industry, size organization etc. That is why you see a 20-30% + churn rates in sales organizations.
It is getting harder as building new networks now requires a different skill to operate in a social world. Sales and marketing cannot be siloed. Marketing cannot just focus on “awareness” and sales on “motivation”. Clients want solutions that are tailored to their needs from the onset of the relationship. Not halfway through. “I don’t have time for you to figure out what my needs are.”
Organizations must figure out who is available to purchase in the market and target them appropriately. Buyers cannot stand the amount of SPAM that they receive from products and services that they are not interested. Just because I am a possible buyer, doesn’t make me a likely buyer. The difference is HUGE considering how low response rates are for traditional marketing.
In traditional marketing, there have only been two dimensions: Potential and Actual. The problem is that the cost of broadcasting to the complete potential market without regard to motivation, timing, relationships, etc. means that you are wasting a tremendous amount of money on people who cannot buy today. Even worse, may never be in the market to buy. Even worse *laugh*, they actually may become turned off by your continuous marketing to the point that they are immune to the message or harden their dislike and will never buy.
On the business side, “just because my technical person requests information on your product, does not make us in the market for your product.” Just because two companies are $500M+ in size, doesn’t mean we buy the same way or even have the same problems. On the contrary, the best sales organizations focus on customizing the sales process to match the buyer’s process.
At the macro level, it is hard to tell the difference between two potential buyers or their unique differences in their buying process. Since much of the actual buying process might occur offline, we are left guessing at what we cannot see in any individual sale.
But social networks allow us to derive insight at the level above (network) by enabling us to abstract the variations in buyer motivations and purchase paths across many buyers who exhibit the same behaviors. Aggregate enough qualitative and you can build the quantitative analysis to enable you to account for the missing steps in any individual buyer. It is like the software that “fills in” the holes in pictures when you cut out a part.
By targeting at the network level based upon an opt-in approach, marketers can focus on “likely” buyers who exhibit potential buyer behaviors rather than “potential” buyers who may never purchase. Additionally, since many of the likely buyers seek market information from those that they trust, a marketer can build a trusted relationship with influencers.
By integrating the sales efforts and the networks that already exist with the target marketing efforts via social, organizations can leverage existing relationships to “fill in” the holes across larger markets or augment the direct efforts to target influencers in an individual sale.
With complex, technical sales; the complexity of the process and the amount of dollars requires a much more diligent buying process which is perfect for managing online in support a direct sales effort. Whether the initiation of the relationship begins online and then is taken offline or an existing lead is brought online to assist in the 360° relationship building during the pursuit or bridging between contacts to continue the momentum; sales and marketing organizations are finding themselves having to work much closer to leverage social networks.
We have found that if you put the right market insight into the buyers’ motivations, research process, decision making process, internal influencers, etc.; marketing can much more effectively target and qualify leads while sales is much more effective in leveraging their networks and maturing a sales opportunity.
The difference in social marketing and network sales may be defined as the ability to initiate a relationship online or convert an offline relationship into an online network. At the end of the day, everyone can agree that if you produce tangible, measurable sales revenue from the effort at a lower cost of customer acquisitions; no one really cares whether it is “potato” or “tomato”, etc.
So, from our perspective; give us your most complex, long, difficult, technical, PhD driven R&D, solution oriented, customized, relationship deep, nuanced, grueling sales cycle driven product or service sale; and we are happy.
If it takes 2 hours and 13 diagrams to understand what you do from a layman’s perspective; then you are the right organization for us.
If your kids still don’t know what you do for a living and they have since graduated from college; that complexity means that our insight model will enable us to slice through the noise much faster and effectively allowing us to get to meaningful sales and marketing impact much faster.
At the end of the day, if we can get you in front of the buyers faster than your competitors and positioned the right way; can you close the sale? If the answer is “yes;” then we are the right organization for you.