Small Business tips on setting up and growing a business in Ireland

The Buyers Journey

the-buyers-whys

Increasingly the buyers journey is now done online. Even B2B customers have adopted consumer-like behavior. They now conduct product research online and often make purchasing decisions without a sales rep’s involvement. Those B2B customers who engage with sales agents are already 57 percent of the way through the buying process before their first contact. This fundamentally changes the type and tenor of the interactions that sellers use to engage with customers.

The most often used description of The buyer’s journey is, ” the process a buyer will go through to become aware of, consider and decide to purchase a new product or service. This journey can be condensed down to a three-step process: The Awareness Stage: The buyer realizes they may have a problem. Consideration Stage: The buyer defines their problem and researches options to solve it and then the Decision Stage: The buyer chooses a solution. 

 

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During the Awareness stage,  a buyer will identify an issue, or challenge they want to address. At this stage they decide what priority this issue or challenge should be. So ask yourself?

How would the buyer describe his or her challenges?

Where and how does the buyer educate themselves on the challenges facing others or their industry?

What would be the impact of non action by the buyer?

In your (the sales person or marketing) business, what are the common misconceptions a buyer could have in relation to addressing the issue or challenge?

What would be the compelling reasons when the buyer comes to deciding whether or not this should be prioritized?

 

At the Consideration stage, the buyer should have moved to having clearly defined the issue or challenge plus a commitment to dealing with it. They have self educated, read whitepapers, interacted with companies and sales people plus will have evaluated the different options available to pursue the end goal of resolving the challenge. Ask yourself:

Which categories of solutions do buyers investigate?

Where do buyers educate themselves on the various options or solutions?

How do buyers perceive the pros and cons of each solution?

How do buyers decide which option is right for them?

Lastly, at the Decision stage, the buyer have arrived at a decision on which solution matches their need.  Some questions you should ask yourself to define this stage are:

What criteria or other considerations will a buyer use to evaluate the available offerings?

When buyers comes to investigating you (yes, they will) and your company’s offering, what do they like about what they see or read compared to the competition?

What concerns will you need to cover off on your solution?

Is there a buying committee or who else needs to be involved in the decision? For each person involved, how does their perspective on the decision differ?

What is the buying process or will the buyer have expectations around sampling/trying your solution before they purchase it?

What is the true cost of acquisition, so outside of buying your solution, do buyers need to make additional plans around implementation, IT or training?

The answers to these questions will provide a robust foundation for your own buyer’s journey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nurture Your Potential Customers and Make Your Sales Skyrocket

Nurture Your Potential Customers and Make Your Sales Skyrocket

In order to effectively market to your target audience, you need a comprehensive strategy that allows you to nurture your potential leads. As technology changes, so does the way in which marketers can nurture those leads. In order to make your sales skyrocket, you have to open up multiple channels of communication with your customers and learn how to engage with your audience through communication mediums that they are most comfortable with. Measuring your audience engagement and creating content that speaks to your audience is an important part of great marketing.

Take a Hard Look at Your Online Resources

When you are focused on nurturing leads, you have to take a look at all of your online resources. This means you have to ensure that content on your website is valuable to your visitors, investigate your email campaigns, and look at how your social media pages are engaging your customers. To update your marketing efforts, you’ll need to update your website, freshen up your blog, and polish your social media profiles. How you engage with customers online has a direct impact on your sales. Build your online presence and use this presence as the foundation on which to grow your customer interactions.

Go Deep With Your Customer Engagement

Find ways to communicate with your leads. Setting up an SMS messaging service, answering all comments on social media platforms, and building an email database of customers is a great way to begin. Then, you must provide content your customers want to read, offer deals that set your products apart from your competitors, and constantly look for new ways to communicate with your customers. Answer questions fast, and give your potential leads a reason to choose your business instead of a different one.

lead-nurturing

Learn How to Score Your Leads

Scoring your leads is an important part of understanding how well you are interacting with your target audience, but it takes time to create a proper lead scoring system. When you are collecting data for your business and assigning points based on engagement, you will get a better idea as to who is engaging with your brand and how many of those leads are converting. You will need to collect data on emails, phone numbers, budgets, time frames, and more. Profiling those that are interacting with your brand is going to make it easier to develop your customer personas.

Make Opportunities out of Your Prospects

There are a number of reasons your potential customers have yet to make a purchase. Whether they don’t have enough time, there are budget constraints, or they haven’t prioritized the purchase, tailor your messaging to convert your opportunities with careful tracking. Study the behaviors of your customers and prospects to find out what kind of information you should be sending them. Share relevant information with your prospects and know what information they are looking for to create the ultimate engagement.

Develop Buyer Personas

To best serve your customers, you have to understand who they are. You’ll want to develop buyer personas so that you can create your content marketing to engage that would resonate with these types of people. Build your personas based on your current customers and their likes, needs, and behaviors. The more you learn about your specific customers, the better your content can address their unique business needs. Identify your customer base and learn how to engage those that are already following you.

When you want to nurture leads, open up channels of communication. Update your website and social media profiles, and know who you are marketing to by identifying your target demographic.

lead-generation-process

Guest Author Biography:

Ken Rhie

Ken Rhie is the CEO of Trumpia, which earned a reputation as the most complete SMS solution including user-friendly user interface and API for mobile engagement, Smart Targeting, advanced automation, enterprise, and cross-channel features for both mass texting and landline texting use cases. Mr. Rhie holds an MBA degree from Harvard Business School and brings 30 years of software, internet, and mobile communications background.

 

7 Ways to Get Your Content to Produce Sales Leads – Now

If your content marketing plan is producing a steady flow of sales leads, then save yourself some time and don’t bother reading this article. Every marketing article I read tells me how much business has fallen in love with content marketing and why not. I know from experience that whether selling to consumers or business the challenge (for both marketing and sales) is to get content to produce sales leads and not just brand awareness. However the reality is that today’s social media channels are being bombarded with content (some great, some good and lots of crap) on a daily basis.

content-marketing-sales

So how much content is created every day?

Well there are over 2 million blog posts written and posted every single day or some 84,000 every hour. On Facebook, users like over 4 million posts EVERY minute. Over 16 million tweets happen each hour. Google handles over 100 Billion searches a month. Instagram has over 100 million like per hour. Vine has over 60 million videos being played on the platform every hour. Tinder users swipe over 35 million matches per hour (is there anyone working!!!)

I know that these numbers seem daunting but when you look at the audience numbers, namely the internet has over 2.3 Billion active social media users and over 1 million new MOBILE social media users are added every day, then the possibilities to use quality content to create awareness for your business become tempting.

If you are really serious about standing out from the 2 million blog posts published every day, here is a few things I suggest you need to start doing to cut through the clutter.

First things first, the top 3 content marketing tactics are blog articles (65%); social media sharing (64%); and publishing case studies (64%

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How can you cut through the noise? The question every content marketing company tries to answer.

Well in my opinion it all boils down to “likeability”, that is how much a post or piece of content is “likeable”?  In both the B2B and B2C (but especially content shared by sales people in B2B sales), the content being shared needs to have social reach, be liked and valued by the target prospects. The likeability of any content type can be increased by crafting assets using the best practices for each individual social network (media, language, tone, topic, length, etc) matched to a buyer persona or ideal customer profile. Right Profile – Right Content – Right Context and Right Timing! This does require planning between sales and marketing to know when prospects/target audience displays the need for specific content plus the ability to deliver that content to the prospect at the optimal time for action via the right social channel.

When it comes to social selling, sales people are publishing to be seen, create awareness and get expression of consideration to get buyers into the sales process. With the amount of content listed above, the challenge is how to stand out and turn social content into quality sales leads?

A formula for Content Likeability could be

Targeted Content + Situational Context + Buyer Stage + Timing

For agreement sake, let’s say we agree that the goal is to cut through the content crap and build our sales pipeline. This means we only care about the attention of a very small subset the 3.2 billion – those that match out buyer persona. This requires having content that is optimised for social media and that is adding value specifically to your ideal customer profile/buyer persona. Content that is role based, industry based and funnel stage based is a great way to organise content you intend to share – and share it you must.

content-writing

The 7 Point Plan to Improve Leads from your Content.

  1. Write better titles (better than this one!!)

SEO optimised titles do have an important part to play but mix it up. Here are some interesting statistics “On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.” The better the headline, the better your odds of beating the averages and getting what you’ve written read by a larger percentage of people.

The Four U’s approach to writing headlines:

Be USEFUL to the reader,

Provide him with a sense of URGENCY,

Convey the idea that the main benefit is somehow UNIQUE; and

Do all of the above in an ULTRA-SPECIFIC way.

  1. Use your voice (write in the first person and bring some personality)

People don’t want to read vanilla flavoured articles from a corporate robot; you have a personality, use it. Boring corporate articles which have no value or real purpose other than to fulfil some content plan are a waste of time.  Dilbert has written better commentary on business that the vast majority of so called “business guru’s”. Writing in your own unique voice is as easy as writing the way you speak. It actually requires passion and confidence more than skill. Use references and data to support your opinion. But please do have opinions and insights to share regardless of right or wrong. As Oscar Wilde wrote “the only thing worse than being talked about is NOT being talked about. Get people talking about your views and opinions!!

  1. Write longer articles

Damn I hear you shout. Yes I know longer articles are harder (and head wrecking). Gone are the days of 150,300 or 500 word pieces. Let me tell you, if you write content to produce results, you learn very quickly that you can’t afford to spend months or years dreaming up a daring new approach for every 2000 word article you write. No one I know has that kind of discipline. The path to success is to write often which means quickly, and the only way to do that is to take a page from the playbook of people like Shakespeare, Jefferson, and Wilde – copying from others not because you lack genius, but because true genius is clothed in the ideas of others.

There is sixteen times more content published with less than 1000 words than there is with content of 2000 words plus. As a motivator you might like to know that Google equates longer content with higher value, meaning better rankings and more traffic. Don’t believe me? Google it or try some keyword terms to see the results returned.

writing-fun

  1. Put some sparkle on it

If you are 2 out of the 10 people who is actually reading this article (congrats, thanks and keep going) you will appreciate you need some visual stimulation (easy now) to interest your mind and eyes as you read. Using 2 or ideally more visually interesting elements (pictures, infographics, video etc) in your article increases the chance of getting it shared. Start by creating lovely header images , apart from lots of high quality, low cost stock photography there is loads of free images around the web (borrow not steal and don’t infringe on anyone’s copyright or IP). Places like Canva, Piktochart, Pablo by Buffer are great for creating graphics. Video content if you have some is becoming increasingly important but some great video content on YouTube you could use to engage or entertain the reader. So every few paragraphs or so, insert some imagery that adds value to the article, maybe some data or quotes etc.

  1. Stick to your plan

I know that as you have read this far, you are one of those people who does have a content marketing plan, right? Because none of us would go on a journey without a route plan and destination in mind or would we? Well, if you don’t have a plan, ignore points 1 to 4 and start here. Who is your audience, what is their buyers journey, what stages do they go through, what content does your competition publish, how often will you publish, who will write the articles, what are the themes and topics, who will share, when and how often. What results do you expect in 3, 6 or 12 months so you can measure success? Draw up the content plan, week by week, what content is aimed at which customer profile and at what stage in the buyer journey will this content appeal to them.

  1. Promote like crazy

Here comes the grunt work. Publish and readers will flock to read it just doesn’t work. Now that your fingers are tired from hours of writing 1000+ word articles, you sit back and admire the sheer feeling of seeing your work there, for everyone to read and share across the social networks.  Pause. Now you need to spend as long if not longer promoting, linking and sharing the article. Try to get your article under the eyes of influencers, share on LinkedIn groups, Facebook, Twitter while link build it to site likes Bizsugar, Soup, Google+, Plurk, Hacker news and loads of industry specific forums.  It is a thankless task, even boring but it pays off. Learn to live with it and set aside a few hours to promote each and every article you publish.

  1. Gather data

If you have a content plan, then you’ll need data to check what is and what is not working. Not to mention results against targets you have set. What content is getting read, shared, liked and by whom. What content delivered what leads as part of a social selling strategy are all questions needing an answer. Gathering data from your library of published assets and using it to improve your content plan can be the difference between successful and not-so successful blogs. The best social marketing pros (and their writers) know what works and they churn out more of it day in, day out.

 Final Words on Content Marketing

I’m not going to bullshit you; you have read this far so you are owed some honesty. Out there on the social networks, there is a war for attention from the 2.3 Billion social media users (or your portion of that). While the internet has levelled the playing field for both buyer and seller, the hard facts are you have only a few seconds if that to make an impact. Creating content takes effort and resources, promoting it take effort and time, then add in the fact that we cannot afford to be vanilla, dull, stale, or boring. To turn visitors into readers, readers into leads, and leads to prospects and prospects into customers, your business, my business needs to produce content that stands out. It can be done but more strategic than that, it needs to be done as it is what your buyers want.  Do you have a choice, sure but for the foreseeable future that old chestnut of content is king has never sounded truer.  Social media marketing powered by content marketing and driven by social selling is a potent formula. Write well my friend.

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
Anton Chekhov

How to Use Social Media To Promote Your Business

The use of social media is now the most effective way when you need to promote or launch a business or new product. The free access to social networks for prospect identification and the ability to reach a large audience of buyers via content means every marketing or sales leader has to use these channels as part of a go-to-market strategy. When launching a new product or service,   social media provides a rich media platform that with some planning can make it easy for people to share around your message.

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It doesn’t seem like so long ago that promoting, marketing and launching a product whether nationally or global required a massive budget and was one of the barriers to entry the traditional multi-nationals relied upon. But the digital switch by buyers to self-educate on the social networks has re-written both the sales and marketing rules.

The following approach or any part of it can be used by anyone with the right discipline and time.

Use Facebook

Action:

Create a Facebook fan page specifically for your brand or product, then share and network with the Facebook community as it is the largest single social networking site on the web. Remember it is about engagement and then sharing. To build up your fan and advocacy base to give you that critical mass to share your stories/messages, why not offer an incentive to “like” your page, maybe by giving some merchandise or prize.

Suggested Primary Goal:

Create an incentive for people to “like” your page by providing via a free product giveaway in order to grow your fan base.

Use LinkedIn

Action:

With over 400 million business users, one of your first actions should be to create a company page, followed by joining interest groups related to what you are selling. Don’t forget to pimp up your profile with a photo and fill out as much detail in your profile as possible. Learn about “social selling” and how to use content from your blog (see below) along with other content to engage connections. You can also search and tag prospects, influencers and potential partners.

Suggested Primary Goal:

To identify potential buyers and partners for your brand or products.

Website and Blog

Action:

Thanks to WordPress, Weebly, Medium, Blogger etc it has never been easier or cheaper to create your own branded web presence and attract potential buyers (with some SEO and promotional activity). For less than €100 you can have your own domain and less than €500 can give you a fully branded website. Learn to target keywords, read up on SEO and how to share your website URL’s on sites like Plurk, Scoop.it, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Pinterest to name but a few, will start to give you a trickle of traffic to build upon.

Learn to write 1000 plus word blogs with titles like Tips, How to, A guide to or Top 10 so you can further use social media to attract potential buyers and improve your search engine results. Try to write a blog weekly but monthly at a minimum. Don’t forget to share and post your blog articles around the web.

Suggested Primary Goal

To make it easier for potential buyers to engage with you while finding out more about your business.

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Product Reviews by Social Influencers

Action:

If possible, prior to formal launch try to get some external product reviews, even recommendations. As the trust between buyer and suppliers is at an all time low, peer recommendations instead of marketing blurb can give your business a much needed injection of interest. Maybe offer your product free in return for publishable references.  Apart from using LinkedIn there is a whole host of social tools (lots are free) that you can use to identify social influencers or connectors. Also do not forget journalists and online magazines, approaching them can be as simple as crafting an introduction letter with an invitation to review or sample your offerings. Ensure you put a unique slant on your business, what problem is it solving and why would people be interested in your personal story.

Suggest Primary Goal:

To gather independent and verifiable 3rd party authority as social proof, which you will then share with potential customers.

Have a Contest

Action:

Who doesn’t love a good ole a contest and they work well on Social media especially in the B2C space. Using your social media channels, offer up some real goodies (if not your actual product then something related to it). Keep it simple, you are not trying to snare emails, you chasing “share ability”

Suggest Primary Goal

Note: Get a fan base engaged before you officially launch your business or product so that when you do launch you have a fan base that could be ready to buy and spread your message for you whether that is on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. The combination of your regularly updated blog, website and your social media community activity can be a powerful platform for getting in revenue faster.

Try a Quiz

Action:

It is also easy to create and publish a quiz on your website and social channels. Just do a Google search for “create a quiz”. There are some free and paid options. People like to test their knowledge and if you can relate or match the quiz to your product even better.

There doesn’t have to be a prize but you could combine it with a contest as above.

Suggested Primary Goal: To engage customers and also create more buzz.

Create Infographics or Video

Action:

The rise in popularity of infographics and video content in social media cannot be ignored. Sites like Canva, Visualize, Piktochart and Easel.ly make it easy for anyone with some patience to create stunning graphic stories. You can even create video content online but there is a higher price to be paid here, if your product is very visual then maybe a 20-30 second video for YouTube or Vimeo maybe a must.

Suggested Primary Goal: To provide some wow media formats that could go ‘viral’.

sales motivation

SlideShare

Action:

You can create a PowerPoint presentation that could not serve as a key note presentation but would also publish on Slideshare to spread your message while reinforcing your professional image.

Suggested Primary Goal: Publish on the Slideshare platform to make it easy for people to

These few tips on using social media when launching a business or product are by no mean exhaustive, what else have you tried? The purpose of the article is that with a limited budget and the learning of new skills (social selling, social media marketing, creating infographics, writing blogs, running contests etc) most of us can achieve results beyond our expectations. Oh yeah, did I mention lots of hard work but no pain no gain.

B2B Sales Techniques for a Digital World

The buyer’s journey is changing sales models and how B2B sales teams sell. Sales 2.0 as a sales technique has been around nearly ten years now but still many companies struggle to embrace it. If you are in B2B sales then Forester projects that over the next four years, 1 million B2B sales people will be replaced by self-service e-commerce. Those that want to have a long term career in sales will have to up-skill and move away from transactional selling while companies will have to embrace a sales model along with sales processes that adds value to the buyer’s journey.

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One Million US B2B Salespeople Will Lose Their Jobs to Self-Service e-commerce by 2020

The reality is (and numerous research proves it) that increasingly B2B buyers prefer to research solutions online plus then conclude the cycle by buying the products and services via the web. How many companies still insist buyers to engage with their sales teams as part of the buying process? Maybe it’s time for sales leaders to transform the historical sales models, one which facilitates a highly social, seamless buying environment where maybe the website and not the sales teams are at the heart of how companies procure and sell.

So are B2B sales dying? Absolutely not but it does mean we have to recalibrate our view of the sales process and what it means to be a sales professional. The sales funnel is no longer being calibrated and decided by sales as the buyers decides where they are in the process. The good news is that a company’s potential customer base is bigger than ever, thanks to social media, the web and accessibility of communication paths to buyers.

Sales needs to rethink where and how to add value in the buying process, when and with what should sales people engage with the buyer so it improves the buyers journey are critical questions coming down the line. The old sales methodologies of marketing bringing in leads for the sales funnel where sales would then commence the process to qualify prospects based on some internal criteria to narrow down the focus to the most likely to convert to customers is disappearing.

It just does not work like that any more. Buyers are not travelling a journey prescribed in some sales manual or CRM system; they are taking their own journey and leaving sales models in the rear view mirror. But the key message for sales here is NOT about catching up (more sales training anyone) with the buyer’s journey but where along the road can we add value. It is about the buyer needing information, resources, guidance, advice and help depending where they are on the journey,

Below are some suggestions on what it will take to be successful in sales for the road ahead and to add value to the buyer in their journey

b2b-buyers journey

CONTENT TIMING IS VITAL AS BUYERS MOVE ALONG THE ROAD.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 80% of decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus advertisements

A recent report from Forrester showed that over 33% of B2B marketers acknowledge that their biggest problem is figuring out how to deliver relevant content to specific buyers when the time is right. I recently wrote about “How to Use Content Marketing the ACD way” which may be worth reading.

IF OVER 66% OF THE BUYER’S JOURNEY IS DIGITAL, MAKE SURE YOU ARE WELL ROAD SIGNED.

If you read up on new sales methodologies or social selling, you have probably read that 67% of the buyer’s journey happens before sales ever get involved. Well this does not have to come true. Yes buyers are doing research online before contacting sales, so smart sales teams should position themselves as helpful signs or stopping of points along the way. Social selling, credible social presence, inviting and quality (even personalised) content will help flag you to buyer’s as they travel in search of solutions.

BUYERS TRUST OTHER TRAVELLERS ALONG THE JOURNEY, SO SALES CANNOT BE STRANGERS HITCHING A LIFT AT THE SIDE OF THE ROAD.

Research shows that only approx. nine percent of B2B buyers trust vendor content especially when it comes to data and claims. So they look for independent signs and also they trust information that comes from people they trust: valued social influencers, social network connections, ex-colleagues and friends. Sales has to work hard to get trust by offering valued contributions, staying in touch with existing buyers and sharing information that helps even when it’s not your own. Avoid the big neon signs about special offers, free coffee for everyone and buy today. Seek first to understand (where is the buyer on the journey) and then let the buyer be understood (what do they expect). A socially engaged sales mentality is a must.

INVITING THE BUYER IN WITH GENUINE HOSPITALITY WILL BE THE MOST PRODUCTIVE.

This is not an outbound V inbound argument, outbound sales will always have a place, it’s just about deciding where to place it! Day was when only cold calling and mass broadcasting was the only way for companies to talk to buyers. Sales 2.0 along with social media have flipped this on its head. In an Aberdeen Group report, they found that on average, the most successful sales firms got sixty percent of marketing leads from outbound marketing, while forty percent came through inbound efforts. However the inbound leads converted at a higher rate. The lesson here is these firms used content and not sales pitches to invite the buyer in regardless of whether outbound or inbound. Be a trusted, helpful resource to the buyer along the journey and not interrupting them is the way to get the attention of buyers.

buyer-stages

SALES AND MARKETING ALIGNMENT

Finally, one last thought. On the buyer’s journey, sales, marketing and customer service are seen as a single entity. The term “Smarketing” has been thrown into the mix as a means to convey that sales, marketing and customer service have to collaborate more closely. All departments working as one will create a deeper understanding of the journey a customer takes to engage with your company.

In the socially connected, social media business world, everything moves at a faster pace and this is driven by the buyer. Any business that hopes to get the attention of the traffic on buyers road then they must understand where the potential buyers are coming from, what they demand along the way, and be wherever they need you to be with the right service.

The Sales Process

The sales process is a repeatable model that a business deploys for the sales teams to follow when moving a buyer from being a prospect, to a qualified lead and on to a paying customer.  This is an introduction to defining what is process could look like for your company.

sales-process

A sales process could be split into segments such as Knowledge, Research and Sales.

Knowledge

Product features and benefits  – Competition

Research

Define target market – Ideal Customer Profile – Sales intelligence on prospects

Sales

Prospecting/Social Selling/Lead Generation
Connecting
Presenting
Closing
Continuation

While the “Sales” element is the implementation aspect of a sales process, incorporating Knowledge and Research ensures a more holistic approach to customer acquisition. The below is a condensed version of how a sales process  template might look.

TYPICAL STEPS IN THE SALES PROCESS

Prospecting

This is the 1st step and involves finding new leads or “lead generation”. Prospecting is based on the research you have completed into potential buyers. Now using this information the sales teams use social selling, content sharing, social networking and any data to tee up the prospect prior to connecting.  Prospecting is not a smash and grab event, it may take weeks or months to build up enough influence with a buyer before a connection is made.

Connecting

This step entails initiating a contact with the set of prospects the sales person has teed up as to understand their business, uncover needs, gather more information, see if a product to prospect fit exists and gauge their potential to move up down the sales pipeline. This step may be played out over several conversations and may include site visits, free trials, free samples, product demonstrations and proof of concepts prior to moving down the pipeline to the presenting step.

Presenting

This step is about formally presenting your proposal or solution. It can include some sort of buyer urgency lever in certain situations. In value based or consultative selling this step can be time consuming, so it should positioned deep into the sales process for well qualified prospects. This step also covers off any objections, hurdles or customer policy adherence. Again, this step may take time and repeated interactions to conclude.

Closing

This step is involves buyer realisation of opting for your offering, concluding any final negotiations or pricing and buy-in of all decision makers.  It most companies it concludes with a Purchase order, signed order or contract.

Sales Process is Different from Sales Methodology

Now that we have covered off the “sales process”, I want to introduce the phrase “sales methodology”. Sales process is different from methodology and here is why.

The sales process (what to do) refers to mapping out specific steps, criteria and list of actions that a sales person must follow including updating the sales pipeline, in acquiring a paying customer.

The sales methodology (how to do it) is the approach or framework given to the sales team via training on how each step in the sales process is expected to be carried out.

Nearly every company needs both, a strong sales process and a sales team trained on the sales methodology which has been proven to deliver success.

sales-process-methodology

Examples of Sales Methodologies

Solution Selling

Solution selling has been around for over 30 years, this method involves needs discovery which then focuses on the customer’s pain points ahead of promoting the company’s products. Products are instead framed as solutions, and emphasis is placed on achieving agreement on what a resolution of the customers’ pain would look like.

Consultative Selling

This method grew out of solution selling, it differs in that consultative selling is centred on the sales person positioning themselves as a “trusted advisor” to the buyer, the premise being that they will gain authority and trust as time goes by in the buyers journey towards a purchase.

The Challenger Sale method

The Challenger Sale method is taken from a book of the same name.  The book outlines some five types of sales peoples profiles, the hard worker, the relationship builder, the problem solver, the lone wolf, and the challenger. The challenger profile was the one matched to high performance in sales. The challenger is characterised by a willingness to invest in learning about a buyers business, then to challenge the customer on their preconceptions (technology adaption, product match, ideal solution) during the sales process.

Social Selling

Social selling can be seen both as a sales model and methodology. It continues to rise in popularity alongside the rapid evolvement of the buyers journey from “being educated” to “self educated”. While not strictly selling, this method is weighted to driving up prospect engagement (with content, white papers, social conversations) by first creating great awareness and then getting buyers to consider the company. This acts as a prelude to direct customer connection.

Sales is a Process, Not an Event

Implementing a sales process with clear steps should result in:

Improved Outcomes. When carried out via a series of set actions, outcomes will improve leading to sales and higher margins.

Repeatable Activity. All sales activities should be repeated and repeatable to obtain the same desired outcome by any sales person time and time again.

Measurable Results. All outcomes that can be measured and compared

Relevant to All. A well mapped out sales process can be duplicated for other units or divisions.

Just having a documented sales process in place will not guarantee anything. Just like looking at someone’s LinkedIn doesn’t lead to a hot lead. Proper and repeated use is what makes the difference.

Regardless of the sales process steps or even the sales methodology you deploy as a company, success in sales hangs on two key locks, the ability to establishing real credibility and the ability to build trust with the buyers. Once your sales model is set up to achieve these two things then revenue will get generated. As buyers are now social in nature (and become digital natives) it is important to understand their journey. It is now all about the buyer as they are in control; they know what they want and when they want it. The key for sales leaders is to make sure that the sales organisations and sales training processes are in line with the buyers signals and expectations.

Inbound Marketing Guide

There is allot of talk around “inbound marketing” and as a guide to what it means to a business. Social media marketing agencies and practitioners seem to have developed a language of their own as digital marketing has become the dominant channel. Terms such as marketing automation, marketing qualified leads, social selling and lead nurturing are now common place words in the quest for business to find more customers. Here we will try to help you understand some of this vocabulary.

inbound-marketing-guide

To start with, most inbound marketing plans would focus on five key stages

Attracting visitors/web traffic to a site,

Converting visitors to leads,

Convert those leads to paying customers,

Turn the customers into repeat purchasers,

Analyse KPI’s and metrics to improve results,

Some reasons that have boosted inbound as a marketing tactic would include the fact that companies with a content driven strategy have 50% more website visitors than those that don’t and

leads captured from inbound marketing cost 60% less traditional forms of lead generation.

The reality is that an inbound marketing strategy has more or less the same goals as outbound marketing so the difference between them is not what any company wants from the marketing effort but how it goes about getting it. Inbound marketing is focused on attracting IN buyers to consider a brand usually with content as the bait (articles, videos, images, whitepapers etc) while outbound marketing employs diversion tactics (online ads, direct mail, cold calling) to get buyers attention. Most businesses would use a mixture of inbound and outbound marketing. A worrying trend is that some effective outbound activities like prospecting and lead generation via sales people is becoming dormant as too many start-ups or small businesses rely exclusively on inbound marketing to deliver leads and sales.

For a whole host of reasons, inbound marketing is now the primary channel deployed to engage buyers when considering a purchase due to the more non-interruption nature of inbound marketing.

Below are a list of activities and terms relating to inbound marketing, so next time a social media marketing agency speaks about how to put in place a plan then you will be well prepared to talk about it. While content is the rock upon which inbound marketing is built there is more to this strategy than articles, it also includes the use of social selling, targeting long tail keywords, interest sharing, engaging in social network conversations, attracting social media influencers and managing multi platform social channels.

marketing-strategy-options

So here are some inbound buzzwords to improve your marketing speak.

 Inbound Marketing Plan;

The inbound marketing plan is basically a publishing calendar of activities including goals and targets covering blogging, content themes, articles, and whitepapers, landing pages, social networks engagement, social selling, lead generation, traffic and engagement in social media conversations.

Growth Hacking;

A recent term added to the marketing vocabulary. Mainly a tactic employed by start-ups in the App or SaaS space, growth hacking works on out of the box thinking blended with technology to try to achieve massive growth in numbers in a short pace of time. The sole focus of using this as a strategy is to grow big (web traffic, social media followers etc but not revenue) quick so every action is designed to drive that growth.

Viral Marketing;

This is about taking a marketing campaign, seeding it to other people and hoping the content appeals on a large enough scale to make the campaign grow rapidly. It is the multi level marketing of the digital age. Think “Ice Bucket Challenge”. Lots of marketing people go to bed at night dreaming about their image, video or article going viral. However the reality is there is little control when it comes to what will go viral. To try and make viral marketing work the key is to create some unusual content that will get lots of people to promote it for you. The more people who share your content will lead to increased brand exposure. It boils down to encouraging people to plug you to their social media audiences.

A/B Testing;

This refers to the testing of two different versions of the same email template, landing page or call to action (CTA) to figure out which version delivers the best results. A/B testing is something all marketers should do. Examples would be to take a call to action and test it with different strap lines, colours, text, and or with a different image. This allows you to determine which call to action performed better. So don’t guess as different messaging works to different audiences and even geo-locations. Always be testing as even a small percentage increase in leads or traffic can have a huge impact on sales (depending on your average order value).

Content Marketing;

Content marketing is the seed that will grow to capture future opportunities for web traffic, leads and customers. It is the bedrock upon which inbound marketing was formed and still powers. It involves the creating and distribution of valuable, relevant content on a consistent basis (daily, weekly) to attract buyers with the goal of getting the customer to take some predetermined actions. The content created is heavily keyword/SEO orientated the majority of time for a start-up and a high percentage of the time for companies with larger databases.

inbound-marketing-terms

Marketing Automation;

 Marketing automation is software that is used to automate large parts of the marketing process like lead nurturing, content publishing to social media or auto-responder emails. This software usually appeals to mid-sized upwards companies with larger databases or well trafficked sites.  Marketing automation is mostly used to improve the nurturing, conversion and closing stages of the sales funnel and is not a one fit fits all solution. The hard work of getting traffic and creating content is still yours to complete.

Social Selling;

Social selling is a great inbound tactic, despite its name it is not focused on sales but rather selling oneself or a brand to raise awareness to buyers of what you offer. It is a subtle and patient tactic where time is spent building up trust or “emotional lodgements”. It works on the premise that social media accounts are a fantastic broadcast channel while also a place to gradually build relationships and make connections. The key is to share content from other sources (not just your own), like other articles, participate in social conversations and provide regular updates. Social selling can be used as the key to unlock sales calls if used correctly, otherwise you are seen as a smash and grab merchant.

Lead Nurturing;

This is the marketing or sales process that is set in motion after someone downloads or fills in a form (newsletter, white paper) on your website. In the B2B sales environment it could be a series of emails together will social selling and direct sales contract. In B2C it usually involves a series of emails. The skill here is that when someone downloads a piece of content from your site, you ask (and give reasons) for them to provide their email address. Now with the verified and opted-in email address, you can implement a series of emails to be sent to them in the next days, week or month after they first signed up to downloaded something. Lead nurturing is important as it reduces your cost of customer acquisition and allows you to build a relationship as you know what they are interested in from your offerings. Be careful not to over expect the speed of developing the relationship or put too much urgency into the nurturing as their initial sign-up could only be a top of the funnel action.

Long Tail Keywords;

This term usually applies to your content marketing efforts and is the SEO keywords you have selected to target. These keywords are normally three plus words such as “social media marketing in Ireland” and are not as competitive in Google as a one word keyword such as “marketing.” Google also auto suggests long tail keywords so research these as part of your content strategy. Can I target hot or one word keyword, you ask? Sure as lots of people are probably searching on that word daily but on the flipside your competitors are targeting these keywords too. It could take years to even get on page 5 of Google for a heavily trafficked keyword. Ten or twenty well indexed long tail keywords when combined will deliver just as much traffic in the medium term as a single keyword. So when creating content titles and web URL’s, choose longer, more detailed keywords. If you research your buyer profiles well enough you will get clicks and views from potential buyers from your target market faster than you think.

The above is not a complete list of phrases as new words and terms come into play all the time around inbound marketing but hopefully by the time you have read this article, some of them are still relevant. Thanks for reading.

B2B Marketing Strategies

In the world of B2B marketing strategies, CMO’s and marketing leads are finding out that there is allot more to them than just content and SEO.

Social media marketing companies seem to trot out the well worn lines of, you must create a library full of content, recalibrate your SEO, share the content on the social networks, and HEY PRESTO. Your business will have a flow of low cost inbound leads from buyers interested in buying your product or service. The logic around a content lead strategy for lots of businesses stacks up as the lower cost of an inbound lead against an outbound lead is sizeable, making it attractive to invest in SEO, articles, blogging and content.

b2b-marketing

So it can be easy for any marketer to assume that we all use social media. Most marketing people are active on the social networks as it forms part of marketing tactics and we also have to be up-to-date on latest trends. However, this is not the case for lots of senior business people and buyers. I have worked with lots of CEO’s who do not have profiles on LinkedIn or Twitter. Others in senior positions are not actively engaged with social media to get a result on trying to build awareness for your brand or even social selling tactics.

What lots of social media agencies will never tell you is that an inbound strategy does not work for all market sectors and can be in fact a waste of money, resources and time. For certain B2B companies operating in certain markets or industries, the reality is the target buyer audience can be too small or the products or services too specialised to be worth over investing in SEO, Google Adwords or Content Marketing. If your business is a new or disruptive product then maybe buyers is not yet doing keyword searches on Google for the solutions you sell.

You see most inbound marketing tactics try to hit multiple keywords or topics to engage buyers. Most of these tactics really are inexpensive to tee up and implement but the audience engagement is not an exact science (you can’t stop anyone reading your articles). So it does take some time to refine your tactics to narrow down sell-to leads.

When articles or blog posts are ranked in search engine results, the relevancy to the topic is mainly down to the keywords it has been optimised for. If your target is HR directors in the banking industry in Ireland then content and even paid advertising cannot be specifically targeted at them(you cannot control who reads or clicks). There are exceptions like social selling tools like LinkedIn or Connectors Marketplace where you can specify buyer profiles.

Let me be clear, I am not for one second suggesting B2B marketers should discount social media as part of their marketing strategy. The thing to remember is to keep the purpose and goals in perspective, don’t get carried away by stories, statistics and advice that may or may not be relevant to your business proposition.

To make social media pay, you should:
• Evaluate the social platforms for their fit to your marketing goals
• Can you feed them with quality content and informative articles
• Train up the sales team in social selling so they can use social media to nurture relationships

So when does inbound marketing have limited returns?

  • The buyer is a specific person within that company: If one buyer has the authority to purchase your product with little influence from other stakeholders as it is not a critical purchasing decision (e.g. paper) then it is a challenge to engage this person with inbound marketing alone.
  • The target market is small: When the target prospects are defined by location, company size or a single buyer (see above) in a company, the list of prospects can be very small. My own rule of thumb is if your prospect list is less than 1000 companies then a heavily weighted inbound strategy may only be helpful to raise awareness as the buyer will probably be targeted via sales calls.
  • Disruptive technology or products: Where inbound excels is when the buyer is on a journey of self discovery (reading articles, whitepapers or engaged with social conversations) and where they understand the problem and the solutions. When a product is disruptive in nature a business may have to create demand as few buyers will be seeking out information. Inbound marketing does NOT create demand, it harvest levels of buyer interest based on keyword nets thrown out by marketing content.

The reality is that for some companies, the keyword net on Google searches and the social networks is simply too small to gather enough sales leads. This leaves options like outbound sales and referrals to harvest leads. We know referrals have a high conversion rate but this is not a repeatable sales process. So this leaves outbound selling (combined with social selling) makes for a repeatable, scalable sales process.

As someone who champions inbound marketing, social selling and good old fashioned sales techniques, I have to be frank and say if your products or services meet any of the criteria I wrote about above, then inbound marketing alone as a lead channel will have limited success. So contrary to what lots of social media gurus preach, inbound marketing is only part of the solution and it may not be a lead generation machine to feed sales.

b2b-marketing-strategy-options

So what marketing and sales strategies will work?

Marketing and sales leaders spend endless hours asking and answering this very question, “Where and how do we engage the right prospects?” The good news is there are still lots of options when it comes to reaching B2B prospects.

Embrace outbound prospecting: Hire in sales people who can pick up the phone and prospect AKA cold call. A business can now subscribe to automated lead generation platforms to give you large lists of prospects based on titles, industry and location with full contact details (email and telephone numbers) including social media profiles for social selling engagement. This works great for SaaS companies and companies with defined sales processes.

Still some life in events and trade shows: Attending events can be another way to connect with your target prospects and meet them in face-to-face. This can be a very personal approach that creates trust and builds relationships. The big barrier  is that events cost money, have higher cost per lead, take time to plan and are they cannot scale in any major way.

Industry Webinars: If your own marketing reach is too small to make hosting your own webinar an option, then maybe consider trying to find a market research company, an industry publication or forum or a contact where you can piggy bank on their webinars to get access to their audience. It does take effort but can be a great way to grow a prospect list while providing valuable content to generate more awareness.

Customer Referrals: Some businesses do manage to generate a large portion of their leads via customer referrals and word of mouth. But a note of caution, this tactic is difficult to forecast and scale. Also from a sales process, it is hard to have a programmatic approach to word of mouth referrals. Even formal referral programs usually have low level of leads in certain B2B sectors.

Exposure in publications: Online and print publications are a B2B marketing channel worth exploring. Product reviews, news and interviews can be a great way to reach an audience and connect with prospects

We must all accept that the buyer’s journey is changing. Yes, social media marketing agencies are right when they say business buyers are increasingly relying on social media, social conversations, social reviews and other content as a means of gathering information about vendor solutions. But regardless of what B2B marketing strategy you pursue to generate leads or sales, there is still a huge place for direct human contact via well trained sales people. In the sales process there will always be a place where questions will best be addressed in a personal way especially in higher value deal sizes.

Sales Prospecting Tips from The Bitter Business

The building blocks for successful sales prospecting or lead generation are not solely down to selling skills but a combination of prospect lists with data, accurate targeting and understanding the buyers journey.

Prospecting can be a reluctant or even feared selling activity, especially when the term “cold calling” is mentioned. However prospecting is a vital sales activity and well trained sales people should view as a necessary aspect of being successful in sales. The positive news is using tools like social media and social selling to engage prospects, the actual event of contacting a prospect should be called “warm calling.  Warm calling is about a sales process where reps use social data to research their prospects prior to making a call, understand where they can add value and can demonstrate concern about a buyer challenges. Regardless of the sales cycle, reps whose first goal is to offer the buyer help (white papers or industry research as examples) and guidance (seminars, vendor profiles etc) are far more successful and satisfied than people merely engaged with cold calling.

Here are some tips to win at prospecting using warm calling:

sales motivation

Set aside day every day for sales prospecting. Work with your sales coach or manager to help manage what you are doing or being asked to do. Set targets for prospects researched, profiled and engaged – daily.

If a sales person is blindly approaching prospects with emails and calls without reason other than a profile view then they will fall flat and fast.

If reps are not taking a value first approach then it is not worth even making the call or sending the email

Sales people who are trained to look outward, use social media tools, focus in on the world of the buyer and what they value will perform better in their roles.

‘Dear Buyer, The reason for my call today is…’ If a rep cannot complete this sentence then they should not be making the phone call as they lack sales process and value wedge knowledge.

When engaged with prospects, it is important that the context is there the relevancy of the approach has to be valid.

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Use social selling tools, social insights, data and lead generation software! The days of having multiple browsers open to find prospect information are long over. It is amazing how many sales managers do not know this yet

Warm calling to activate sales leads is about making the customer the hero, make them glad to have connected with you, bring value and understanding before any sales pitch.

Confidence comes from being in control. So practise the sales conversation, write scripts, the genuine reason for the call and connect this back to a challenge, know your value wedge, understand your industry plus study the buyer’s journey.

Mistakes are learning tools. Every call is a learning opportunity to enrich any sales person’s skill. So do not fret on mistakes and embrace the learning.

Know when to hold and when to fold. When a prospect is not a good fit or you can’t add value move on.  When your product or service is not sparking a buyer’s interest then do not add to the pipeline, rather think of it as a step closer to find a matching prospect.

Focus on the Outcome. Prospecting is not about selling, it has a different goal. It is about exploring the possibility that you might be able to create value for the buyer and maybe do something together down the line. Selling, at this point really is cold calling.

Have fun. Enjoy the fruits of your research and the social insights you have gathered. You bring value and are worth listening to. Buyer to Supplier relationships has to start somewhere and opening these relationships is what prospecting is all about.

Sales Strategy – Inbound Sales – Digital Sales Transformation – Social Selling – Sales Training

Sales training and digital sales transformation including social selling strategy training in Ireland.