We've all seen it, the numerous posts on various social media channels hailing the end of telephone based cold calling.
"In this new digital era content is king. Put the right information online and your phone will be ringing off the hook".
Having spent the last 10 years in direct sales and having more recently made the transition to digital marketing here's my view.
Good telesales people are a precious commodity
Cold calling is a real skill and those who are good should be treasured by companies as much as they treasure their top closer's.
All too often you find companies promoting their best cold callers into field sales reps or management positions. It's a complete waste.
These telesales guru's have a tough job and quite often its the foot in the door to your biggest opportunities.
My view? Keep them where they are and reward them well for it.
The digital world will never fully replace a sales person.
Sales is one of the most important skills in business. Despite all the advances in technology it remains one of the most highly regarded roles in the world's biggest company's and rightly so.
Lets look at some of the basics of selling that have stood the test of time, it stands to reason that no matter how advanced the marketing engine becomes, these elements are very difficult to replace.
Building rapport with a buyer is about getting them to know, like and trust you. Being genuine, friendly and taking a real interest are all good for building rapport.
"People buy from people"
No matter how much I hear about building relationships online through social media, you still need real human interaction for rapport to exist.
What's the difference between an "open question" and a "closed question"? We use closed questions to clarify fact and open questions to get the buyer talking.
It's during this open questioning and dialogue that we can fully understand the buyers situation. We build a picture of their challenges and motivations. It allows us to probe and sometimes uncover needs they didn't realise they had. It also helps with objection handling.
Good questioning relies on interpreting the response of the buyer, actively listening and then asking further probing questions to delve deeper into their situation.
This level of understanding is something that is very difficult to replicate online.
Communication is not always verbal, it's often subtle body language cue's we pick up on which are learnt through experience.
You simply cannot replace this deep level of communication, even with the most advanced forms of AI currently available.
So without rapport, real human interaction and questioning to achieve a deep understanding of the buyer we're falling well short of the mark particularly in a complex sales process.
Digital marketing does have a role to play in the sales process.
The digital world is exploding. Marketing automation is one of the hottest topics and has been for the last 5+ years. Search engines have changed the way in which buyers conduct their initial research phases of the procurement process.
As a sales person it's difficult to ignore the impact this will have on our role.
For me digital marketing plays the most important role in the early stages of the buying process. In my experience, lead generation and prospecting are the biggest time killer's for new business sales people. In addition the expense of paying for lists or subscribing to company information databases is high.
I'm not saying we should do away with it completely, however being effective does not involve making 200 calls a day of which very few last more than 20 seconds. If 20% of calls were warmer i.e. we know the prospect had some level of interest in our solution, that would result in a significant increase in effectiveness.
As touched upon in my article;
Refer to the sales funnel and think about the awareness stage. In the early stages of the buying process buyers are researching online. Looking for potential solutions to their problems.
Take these two stats from Google:
71% of B2B researchers start their research with a generic search
B2B researchers do 12 searches on average prior to engaging on a brands specific site.
This is where marketing and sales teams need to start joining forces.
Marketing teams often feel undervalued. When budgets get cut it's their budget that gets hit the hardest.
I've worked in businesses where one marketing person is supporting a division of 40 sales people. Why is this?
Marketers are struggling to connect the dots between their activity and the numbers that sales people are posting.
33% of B2B marketers cited the inability to measure ROI of content marketing as one of the biggest challenge. Source: [CMI]
So whats the answer?
A cohesive sales and marketing plan. The synergistic effects of a joint approach to winning new customers between two divisions on the front line far outweigh the silo'd approach.
Marketing that's focused on creating awareness and capturing potential customers details through basic lead capture techniques.
Combined with a simple system of communication in which marketing qualified leads are passed to sales people to use their skills to convert leads into customers. Platforms like Hubspot are leading the way in helping companies achieve this.
And the result? A marketing team that's able to prove the ROI of it's activity and a sales team that is not wasting (as much) time trawling lists of leads for potential customers. Sounds like a simple way to improve both efficiency and effectiveness to me.
The challenge we need to overcome, (which is exaggerated when you read the provocative articles posted on Social Media channels) is the "cold calling is dead" or the "cold calling is the only way" attitude only designed to generate clicks.
1. Companies need to think in terms of a sales & marketing strategy (not one of each).
2. A joint sales and marketing effort will result in better quality leads for sales and a quanitfiable ROI for the marketing team.
3. The most effective sales people will learn to use digital marketing to improve their effectiveness.
4. Take advantage of platforms like Hubspot, these platforms will automate and simplify the collaboration between sales and marketing.
5. Sales People, stop using "cold calling is dead" as an excuse not to pick up the phone.
If you want to explore ways in which your company can improve sales and marketing effectiveness, call us for a free consultation
Client's in competitive industries find it hard to cut through the noise and stand out from the crowd.
We reflect on our unrivalled experience in the foreign exchange industry to highlight how effective content marketing can help businesses gain an advantage by doing something a bit different.
There are so many businesses blogging but many would admit their activity isn't yet delivering as they'd hoped. Why is it that some businesses manage to attract a large, engaged audience where others don't?
1. I write a blog, therefore I am doing content marketing
The lack of a properly defined strategy is enough to demonstrate a businesses' lack of commitment to content marketing.
Without following a predefined plan (relating back to an overarching strategy) blogging is not really content marketing, it's content publishing.
A content marketing strategy should be well-documented and include things like:
- Goals and objectives (making sure they're measurable)
- Who you're targeting, what is the audience and target customer personas
- What stage in the buying process the content will target, bearing in mind 47% of buyers viewed 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep. (Source: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics)
- What forms and formats will the content be produced in
- How the content will be promoted
Content marketing is more than just publishing blog posts.
2. I should use my content to promote my product or service
If you're using your blog or your social media channels to endlessly promote your business, products or services, stop that right now.
This blatant form of self-promotion will massively limit your ability to grow an engaged audience. Why?
- Your messages will become repetitive and boring, no matter how wide your product range or how many times you reword the same message
- You're not adding value. When you look at the top online influencers they all provide content that teaches their followers something new, gives them an insight into a world they've never seen or inspires them to try something through emulation. The key thing is that all of this is offered for FREE.
- It's not aspirational. Again, looking at those influencers with the huge audiences, they provide content that inspires, educates, tells a story or evokes emotion. It's that connection with your audience that is needed.
Promoting your business should be a secondary goal.
Your primary goal should be to use your knowledge to add value to your target audience.
Be prepared to give away your knowledge for free.
3. I'll get more customers by blogging
You can (and will) if you do it right, but it's not that cut-and-dry.
Content marketing requires commitment, patience and a blend of skill sets.
It's important to focus on a long term strategy of consistent content development whilst also testing and measuring your content's effectiveness.
Your content must be well-written. This simple formula from HubSpot is a handy starting point to ensure your blog posts are well-structured.
4. Content marketing is a campaign
A creative and snazzy marketing campaign (award-winning or otherwise) does not constitute content marketing.
Campaigns ultimately have an end date, whereas content marketing is an ongoing, long term iterative process.
Content marketing is not a campaign - it's an approach, a philosophy, and a business strategy. (Source: Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute).
Content marketing should be an ongoing approach of planning, creating, distributing and evaluating content.
5. Content marketing is for SEO
It's true that Google holds the cards to helping your content get found, however writing purely for search engines is another sure-fire way to limit your overall audience growth.
Writing without a true human audience in mind can lead to boring, poorly-written blogs that ultimately don't engage people (even if you do manage to rank well).
Producing great content that will resonate with your target audience and evoke a response such as a like or a share, will also mean you reap the benefits from search engines.
Because of course: Google loves backlinks.
But wait! Before you ditch your SEO efforts, carrying out keyword research and optimising your content is still an incredibly important part of your content marketing activity and should be included at the planning and briefing stages.
6. Content marketing is for brand awareness
This year, more than 90% of marketers are either increasing their content marketing budgets, or at least keeping them the same.
Plus, on average B2B marketers invest 28% of their total marketing budget in content marketing. (source: Content Marketing Institute, 2015).
With all that financial investment, content marketing cannot just be for raising brand awareness, it simply has to produce an ROI.
To attract customers through your content marketing efforts you'll need a clearly defined strategy (see above),
Here are a few other content marketing hacks for generating more interest in your content.
Brand awareness is one of a number of other benefits:
- Positions you or your business as a thought-leader
- Creates loyalty and trust among your audience
- Builds authority and credibility
- Can reduce overall marketing spend as it's cost-effective
- Can improve your search engine presence and rankings
It's easy to get into the routine of publishing blogs whilst not following an overall plan.
Pulling together a basic content marketing strategy doesn't need to be a hugely time-consuming job, even just understanding who you're targeting with each piece is a good start.
Then focus your time on compiling a content calendar to keep your content production on track.
With the right approach and commitment content marketing can and will deliver results.
Marketing teams should be providing sales people with more leads.... Simple.
The countless early mornings and late evenings I've spent hunched over my laptop trawling the world wide web for potential leads.
Looking for that "lead gold mine" untapped by other people in my industry with potential customers just waiting for my call.
Springing out of bed the next morning, imagining that first call, the high fives........
"boop.. boop.. beep....the number you have dialed has not been recognised, please try again".
"Any B2B sales people out there? You know where I'm coming from right?"
The good news is times have changed, this is not the only way. And all will be revealed.
Before I really get going, I'm not about to bash cold calling. I don't care what people say, it works, good sales people are never afraid to pick up the phone.
Instead picture this... every morning you open up your email to a list of fresh leads, people who genuinely have an interest in what you have to offer.
Well it happens... and guess where these magical leads come from - yes you guessed it (with a little help from the title) Marketing.
To be more precise Inbound Marketing.
So what is this Inbound Marketing thing I speak of?
Well in the time we've all been buried in a heap of www.bestleadsourceever.com crap, buyers have been getting smarter.
They no longer wait for smooth talking sales people to contact them before they buy.
They visit this wonderful thing called Google, type in their question and get about 2 million answers.
They find the solution to their challenge and probably a whole load of other great articles from savvy companies who have nailed their marketing.
Initially they may subscribe to their newsletter. Then they might download a report, maybe even sign up for a free trial.
Before you know it they've found themselves a new supplier all without hearing your dulcet tones.
"Hello to the world of inbound marketing".
"Goodbye to the world of lead sourcing outside of business hours because in business hours you should be cold calling".
The good news is that this approach to marketing is not rocket science, or a dark art.
It's about producing regular, quality content that your target audience are going to want to read.
Quality content is the sort of thing that adds value to the reader. Maybe it answers a question or provides them with a solution to a problem.
But, what is content?
It could be blogs, articles, newsletters, e-books, whitepapers, reports, videos, social media posts.
It really depends on who you are targeting and where they are likely to consume this content.
For example, if you're selling a complex financial solution targeted at Finance Directors you may want to be driving potential customers to more in depth analytical articles on your website from platforms like LinkedIn.
Producing amazing content is great and everything but it doesn't mean your potential customers are going to call you up and ask to buy your product or service.
You need to give them a reason to part with their precious details. Some compelling reason to let you know who they are.
Enter "gated content"....
Gated content with a strong call-to-action: it's a piece of downloadable content that provides your target customer with something really juicy and helpful.
Maybe an e-Book with a step-by-step guide on how to solve their problem, or an informative report that will shape the strategic direction of their business. Or even a free trial.
Here's the catch... in order to get their hands on this forbidden fruit they have to enter just a few basic details. Name, company name, email address, phone number for example.
Between 3-5 basic details is recommended. If you start asking for too much than this you may scare them away.
Then Hey Presto you have a lead.
Is it qualified? Well, yes because clearly these people have a level of interest in what you have to offer.
When you phone them will they take your call? Probably, yes, because they'll know who you are.
So do you pick up the phone and call them straight away?
It depends.... and this is where the science starts.
Some smart marketing people talk about funnels. In sales we're familiar with the funnel concept too.
You have a whole bunch of leads at the top of the funnel, they get qualified in or out and then at the bottom of the funnel you have qualified leads who are much more likely to buy.
Check out this example:
So if your new lead has downloaded one piece of content should you give them a call? Again, it depends...
If they've signed up for a free trial they're obviously much further down the buying funnel, probably somewhere near the evaluation / purchase phase.
However if they've downloaded a research report they may be much higher up, closer to the awareness / interest stage.
Those leads closer to the top of the funnel, need some love, some nurturing, some help to realise yours is the best solution.
"How can we do this without giving them a call?"
Well, we've got some information from them. Like their role, their company name... their email address... its time to start sending them relevant articles that are really specific to that person.
If they're a Finance Director you may want to send them articles about the cost saving benefits of your solution.
If they're in the aerospace industry maybe a case study about how you improved NASA's efficiency and helped them put a monkey on Mars.
Ultimately you want to gently persuade them that yours is the right solution.
Sounds easy doesn't it?! Just remember your competition may already be doing this so you need to be brilliant to get results.
Here are some quick tips to stay ahead of the game
1. Produce quality content that your target audience want to read. Make it valuable, answer their questions.
2. Understand your audience and the the types of content they like to consume.
3. Put your content in the places they are most likely to find it.
4. Use compelling calls to action to get them to part with their details.
5. Nurture them until they are ready to buy.
6. Call them and help them purchase your product.
Amazing. You only need to pick up the phone at step 6 and marketing does the rest! Queue call-to-action....