Carsten Reisinger - stock.adobe.
“We are winning the battle against coronavirus,” said health secretary Matt Hancock in early June. Well, he had a point, but in January he’d also said: “The risk posed to the British public by the new coronavirus remains low.” We learnt quickly that comments have to be viewed from the correct perspective to serve a useful purpose.
That’s what I did when hearing reports that sellers in the channel are “getting more of a grip with digital marketing”, compared with the start of 2020. Frankly, it’s news as surprising as Elon Musk believing aliens were involved with pyramid building. There was a day when that might have raised an eyebrow, but now, with empty desks up and down the land, using anything digital is better than remaining options, such as relying on smoke signals and er... well, just the smoke signals then.
One of the more obvious things about recessions is that in the early stages of any recovery, there will be a lot more sellers than prospects (as you may have spotted). Months of consuming cash reserves risks the channel unleashing what seems to the remaining “dizzy from pivoting” prospects Gareth Malone’s latest “Ride of the Valkyries” venture from Broadmoor.
Prospects raising their heads to express interest are going to be approached by many vendors and partners. I’ve spoken to CXOs who are no longer getting comparative quotes as it can get too overwhelming. Capping it all, the engagement rulebook has changed – again.
We know clients and prospects have, for some time, developed projects in stages, which roughly looks like: 1) Explore; 2) Evaluate; and 3) Execute. Neatly, vendors have mainly marketed into stages 1 and 2, and channel marketing into 2 and 3. Inconveniently, that practice has scattered to the four winds, with prospects and business units now revisiting any stage, in any order they wish, several times, like a bluebottle in a cupboard full of jam jars.
Selecting what message to send to whom and how often is muddied if a reseller drives two client systems – one for quotations/contractual, such as Autotask, and another for customer relationship management/marketing, such as HubSpot and the like. Generally, salespeople maintain one platform, and the other, well, let’s just say salespeople aren’t the greatest guardians of data accuracy and the one that means they get paid will win the day. Over time, the eye-watering investment in shiny new Infusionsoft, HubSpot, etc, can become a continual thorny distraction at sales cadence meetings.
In the second quarter of 2020, I conducted webinars in conjunction with organisations such as the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership and the Chamber of Commerce, among others, and 100% of CEOs and managing directors were polled and agreed that “the way we do business has changed and will never revert to pre-Covid times”. Therefore, logic says any business with a sales process older than May 2020 is obsolete. For example, never has the phone been so important, yet businesses are sending more emails. LinkedIn is “gold” but crushed by herds of copycats delivering poor sales execution and webinars can become a natural replacement for Prozac and Mogadon.
It may come as a surprise that a recent Gartner survey shows buyers take 11+ different channels of information and perhaps six or more calls to action before making a decision. The selling process needs to reflect that, as does news of a significant turnaround, now an increased 16% of buyers’ time is happily spent with sellers.
Some 43% of buyers cherish “thought leadership” content of independent third parties. So next time your sales team writes: “Here at WeAreGreat Technology Systems, we deliver best in the world anything...”, just shoot them. It’s a kindness. Walk a mile in your ideal client’s moccasins and create content that’s valuable to them.
Digital marketing rapidly became the real deal. Marketing automation has some way to go, but artificial intelligence (AI) will improve it and should embed effectively. Warning though, just as Maslow said, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. Avoid mistakes after Covid and write a new selling process alongside, reflecting how buyers have changed after revisiting the six Ps:
- Planning – publish new company and personal visions and benchmarks.
- Positions – new structure, re-skill as required, updating job descriptions.
- People – new hiring methods, probably without CV or agency support, vital to assess who you’ve got on the bus alongside you, if you can.
- Processes – what you need for each department to act remotely.
- Performance metrics – metrics required for the business to control uncertainty.
- Passion – identify the “why” for each team member, re-energise leadership warning: This comes last, putting it first will mean you will fail...
Do the above and I promise your sales steps and scripts will change, for the better.
What are your salespeople saying on HubSpot, email or LinkedIn? Are they going for the sale at first contact? Using buzzwords? Saying how great they or your company are? If so, this should raise red flags about how effective your sales process is for the recovery. I’ll go now to answer this #24th similar auto-generated LinkedIn message from someone I’ve never met:
“Hi Chris, I am sure you are extremely busy, but I wanted to see if you have had a chance to review my previous message? I am really keen to showcase our platform to you and see how we can help you drive growth at Sandler training? I have put a link to my calendar below if you would like to book a consultation call or just drop me a message back.”