By Christian Doyle, Director – The Overtake Ltd
Many companies will find themselves continuing to adapt their business strategy as we start 2021. For any company that wants to grow, an integrated sales and marketing plan should be considered as important as your business plan.
To succeed you must have a clear picture of who your potential clients are; how to find them and demonstrate your competitive advantages. Understand what they value, or worry about most, or what gives them the most gain or the worst pain.
Marketing requires a big picture, blue sky thinking approach for creating and communicating your brand image in a way that shows your value, whereas sales is in the details: understanding what the customer values; understanding their individual problems and how to best demonstrate your competitive advantages in making gains or overcoming problems. Marketing should focus on the right market segments to increase brand awareness and provide a direction for your sales to target the best prospects and keep a healthy win ratio. Through market research the best potential leads should be identified and interest in your brand generated. However, Marketing needs feedback from sales on what is working and more importantly what is not.
Get results with Sales and Marketing working together
Your sales and marketing must work together to deliver the best results. Think of marketing as a funnel with people travelling down, first searching for information; to some being interested; with a few finally making direct contact. At this point the sales cycle starts with a qualification of their intentions to buy, then a presentation and/or quote and discussion of concerns to finally make the sale. The cycle completes with referrals and follow-on sales leading back to making contact again.
If these disciplines are not effectively integrated, the task of winning sales and keeping customers can be very inefficient and frustrating for all concerned.
Your business plan needs to provide a clear path on what the business needs to achieve, you should audit your company as an outside expert would. Sales need to agree with marketing the criteria of the leads to be generated so that the most promising leads, with finances in place and with an order to place are the priority targets for your sales. Without this feedback, sales can waste time on leads that your solution really doesn’t fit well; have an interest, but not ready to buy, or even love your solution but their ambitions are not matched by their creditworthiness!
By integrating your sales and marketing processes the customer journey to a purchase should be a much easier one.
Getting the customers you want
A good place to start is to look at your existing customers. Who are the most preferred? Who are the least preferred? Who is the most profitable? By understanding who your ideal customer is and creating ideal customer profiles your Sales Team can qualify prospects more accurately and concentrate on those that most value your offering and are ready to purchase. Those that are not ready can be handed back to Marketing for educational information, industry news updates and other means to show your expertise until their sales cycle moves to buy.
If you have multiple products and or services an audit of the most profitable or have the lowest cost of sales will help decide which are most likely to provide the best return on investment. Look at the market shares to see growth potential, do you already have the most profitable customers? Are you missing out on new markets? What are your competitive advantages, don’t forget intangible strengths such as your people (Technical expertise, experience, reputation) or warranties and guarantees etc. Do you know all your competitors and how their strengths and weaknesses compare to yours?
Get to the cream of the crop first or ‘be the name they’ve already heard of’
Once you have prioritised your offerings and your competitive advantages you can define the brand awareness, where leads are generated from and which channels to focus on. Now Sales can target the best prospects with a clear qualification criteria to create preferred prospects with high, medium and low priorities and then identify sales goals with S.M.A.R.T. objectives to encourage, motivate and support your sales team in winning new business and keeping valued customers coming back for more.
When sales contact a marketing lead in the hope of converting them to a sales prospect, if they hear “I’ve never heard of your company before” it will be a difficult call. If however marketing has found the right audience and a social media post, news article, case study, or a white paper is remembered then the call will be a lot more efficient. Either they are interested and the process of sales leading them through your competitive advantages to a mutually beneficial solution can begin or the reason why not is clear and can be fed back to marketing to consider focussing on other areas.
Reaching all the decision makers to close the deal
While these two disciplines are very different, they are really part of the same process of leading clients to buy your product or services. Marketing is at the forefront of the customer journey generating brand awareness and potentially a need if it’s a new offering, sales is the final leg of the journey, by the time your sales team engages the prospect there should already be a need. At this stage to close the deal you must establish where in the sales cycle the client is and if there is more than one decision maker, and if so, are the others also being taken into consideration? For example, there is usually a procurement decision maker, but there may also be technical, regulatory, quality, operations or user decision makers too. All of these prospects need to be considered in your sales and marketing strategy to successfully deliver your business goals.
Audit where you are now to understand what customers are best and how to get more of them. Focus your marketing efforts on where those customers are looking for information. Target your sales efforts with a clear idea of your ideal customer type. Make sure your sales feedback to marketing what works and what does not work in a virtuose and repeating cycle. Don’t try and do everything at once, integrating sales and marketing is an essential but large task. Gains can be made at all stages. Measure your customers as well as sales and marketing for better results and a sustainable solution to grow your business.