Much is written about how the role of the B2B marketers changed over the years due to the shift in the buying process. And while this is true, and has been mentioned more than several times here on the ANNUITAS blog, I see very little being written or spoken about the role of B2B sales and how their roles have changed. Perhaps this is just me not being as deeply ingrained in the B2B sales world, but by and large, I have not seen much in the way of the changing role of sales in the B2B process. Furthermore, when I speak to prospects and engage with customers, I find that sales believes the changes are needed on the marketing side, but that there is little that they need to do to adapt. They could not be more wrong.
As I continue to interact with many on the marketing side and am now also spending more time with those in sales leadership, I have seen some consistent themes that run across a good number (not all) of sales organizations. These mistakes must be corrected if B2B sales organizations are going to have any measure of success.
- Create Work To Keep Sales Teams Busy
I was on a call not too long ago with a client who said that they were going to start pulling industry lists from their house database and have their inside sales team begin a “call blitz”. Without getting into the specifics, I asked my client why they were taking this approach when the whole goal of us working together was to create a buyer-centric, perpetual demand generation program. The answer I received was “we need to keep them busy.” This is not the first time I have heard this plan for an inside sales team.
Simply creating work to keep a sales team busy is like running to the river to get water in a bucket rather than fixing the plumbing. It is a short-term fix that often supplies little in the way of results. The reality is that inside sales people who are very well paid should not be the “fix” for demand generation. They should be poised to either truly sell via the phone or to qualify leads that have indicated via their behavior (and corresponding demographic data) that they are at a point in their buying process that they want to have a discussion. Simply creating work to keep inside sales people busy is not only productivity problem, it is a sign that your demand generation engine is broken.
- They Measure The Wrong Things
I spoke this morning with a colleague who is in a fairly new role in his company and was telling me that the one key metric that their inside sales team is measured on is “call volume.” In his new role, he is attempting to move past this way of thinking and stress that quality far surpasses quantity, but he is experiencing resistance.
To be frank, measuring the volume of calls is one of the worst metrics any sales team could measure. When a buyer is in their buying process and ready to take a call, they often have many, in-depth questions. Buyers want to understand how the company’s solutions or services will benefit them, and want be sure their specific needs and challenges will be met. Calls of this nature can take 20-30 minutes or even longer and when done as part of a strategic demand generation program, will lead to a higher closed-won conversion rate, leading to increases in revenue. This is really what demand generation is about, quality over quantity. Call volume doesn’t matter.
- They Insist on Sticking to Their Sales Process
Not long ago I was meeting with a client and white boarding the buying journey. During this session the VP of Sales interrupted and stated, “I am not too concerned with the buying process. We have a sales process that will disrupt that and we will engage them when we need to.”
It was clear from his statement that he had no clue that the buyers do not care about an internal sales process. In fact, buyers determine when they are ready to engage with sales and buyers are no longer dependent on sales people to research and determine the right time for them to buy.
While there is a need to establish a lead management process and sales people should have a process they follow for the management of pipeline and revenue, too many sales leaders are in the dark about aligning their sales process to that of their buyers. As result, the unfortunate reality is that they are not converting potential buyers to customers at the rate they could be.
Demand Generation is not only a marketing activity. To be effective, both sales and marketing must be active participants in the process and this means changing the way many sales organizations and sales leaders approach their buyers.
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