Outsourced sales for startups

I’m interested in your opinion about the different roles of sales and marketing now. What do you think?

The roles are blurring. Traditionally marketing would attract customers and the salesperson would then pop them onto their sales process and close. There are four aspects here.

Firstly, because customers come to us, having found us on the internet, usually via websites and social media – YouTube, blogs, Facebook et al – marketing’s job is to keep them warm until they’re ready to buy. Don’t send them to the sales teams as leads because the customer isn’t ready and that’ll cause frustration in the sales team. Instead marketing must incubate them, keep them warm until the customer is ready to move forward.

The second point is that this incubator process requires the customer to be kept warm with information and useful media to help them in their quest for a solution. This noise has to be created and posted to the internet for the consumers to devour. Noise is the food for the incubator.  outsourced sales for startups And this noise has to be created by salespeople who need to become intimate with the problems and challenges of their targeted market. Salespeople need to develop incredible knowledge not of their products but on the issues their customer face and they need to start creating videos, blogs, podcasts, articles, forum posts, discussion contributions on the solutions to their customer’s problems. This has to be done by the salespeople not marketing.

My third topic is that advertising to the masses doesn’t work anymore so marketing need to stop. Yes you have targeted adverts on webpages, blogs, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like and for the most part, consumers tolerate this. I’m thinking with the increased use of mobile devices to consume this information, we will become less charitable of advertising springing up and annoying us. I know how annoyed I get when an advert interrupts my YouTube video and a pop up blocks my phone screen.

The future for marketing is about individualised advertising that provides value and doesn’t shout about the product in an old fashioned way.

It’s known as SOLOMO – social, local and mobile. Utilising social networks, ensuring the advertising is local to you (within 1 metre of where you’re walking using GPS signals from your phone) and mobile because it’s received on your Smartphone.

Finally marketing need to consider sales aids for the sales forces and move away from features and benefits of products and services. Salespeople can get their Dominoqq own education on these, after all their customers will. Now salespeople need to know the market the product serves and the problems it solves and how it can be tailored or adapted to suit their target market.

One of your main themes, Paul, is “Rapport Selling”, person-to-person interaction. How does that work in an online world?

If anything the internet has made this easier but only where customers want it. Communication technology has made it easier and quicker to forge a personal relationship with customers. Take my example financial services website from earlier. On the page is a button with a phone number or a request for a call back facility which starts the relationship. One talking the company can then offer a Skype video call or a Face time moment with the customer. We all have this technology now – most Smartphones have cameras front and rear which allow for video calls with no expensive technology needed.

In the business to business world, we can research our client intimately now using social media tools and find out so much about them before we meet. This accelerates the rapport building process enormously… unless we start getting creepy on this. We can check people out, their credentials, who they know, what they do for leisure. Last week I was researching a potential client before phoning them and noticed they were a rugby union coach for a youth team. Now that’s exactly what I am too, so for the first 15 minutes of the phone call, all we talked about was rugby… naturally.

In a lengthy sales process, other parties can be bought into the relationship using Skype technology rather than driving for miles in the car. This demonstrates a bigger team to solve problems but brings in the human element at an early stage.

Not far away are holographic files bringing the ability to appear in the client’s Boardroom as a three dimensional image. Think Star Trek, Star Wars. The technology is there, but just hugely expensive and a massive drain on bandwidth. But it’ll come.

What do you think business leaders need to do to enable sales departments to thrive?

OK we’re into solutions now.

In the Boardroom there needs to be a number of key changes to strategy.

First everyone needs to be placed on the sales process and have a role to play in the future sales of the business. Senior leaders need to endorse this and make everyone accountable. Everyone from the cleaner to the Finance Director.

Next, they need to develop the firm’s value proposition and be crystal clear as to the markets they serve and the customers they can help and how they can assist their customers solve their challenges and needs. This value proposition needs to come from the top as strategy and filter down to the sales managers and teams.

The sales process needs to be amended at the top. In the B2B world, the Board needs to promote pre-emptive selling and this stage has to be on the sales process. Pre-emptive selling engages with business customer’s way before they’ve even discovered they have a need. It involves salespeople using social media such as Twitter and LinkedIn, Google Alerts and search engine capacity to discover their customer’s needs before they’ve spotted them. These are known as trigger points – internal and external changes that create problems and challenges for the corporate client which need solving.

Like a pre-emptive nuclear strike from my youth in the 1970’s. So long as we launched before the enemy could react, we’d be successful. In a similar vein, if the salespeople can engage with the customers during this early phase we can influence the decision processes and research that they would normally do in isolation.

The Board has to determine how they are going to target and measure this activity and perhaps a rethink of KPIs and metrics so that they right behaviour is targeted and rewarded with bonus and commission. Remember what gets measured gets done and if the sales force is measured against pre-emptive selling, they’ll do it.

The final intervention for the board has to be enhancement of company resources towards the two new elements of the sales process. At the beginning is the “noise” creation and at the end is customer service. More resources need to go into customer service e so that we start giving what I call “wow” customer care. This keeps customer’s being engaged with us continuously and when their needs reappear, we’re in the frame as they begin to research a solution.

Let’s look at sales managers. What do you recommend for them?

For the sales manager, I think there are three main focus areas for them. Initially they’ll want to examine their recruitment processes. No longer do we need salesey salespeople, we need intelligent technical experts who can relate to their market and the customers within and who can think through problems and have the insight to solve them for customers. We need natural consultative types who are good at probing and asking questions. The old fashioned “mouth on a stick” the walking brochure is not needed anymore. Move existing people from the technical areas into sales and train them to close.

Next comes training. Salespeople need different training to cope with the new bazaar. They need to be trained on:

  • How their customers work, how companies operate – report and accounts, metrics, return on investment.
  • The industry they serve.
  • How to solve problems and be creative – consultation techniques
  • How procurement works in the companies they call upon because they will encounter them more than you think.

Coaching comes in at the rear. Make sure the revised sales process is coached regularly. Some salespeople will want help and guidance with the new way of working and coaching can help them get there.

Finally measurement. Distil the Boards measurements down to KPIs and other metrics that encourage the behaviour you want now. Measure them against content creation – videos, podcasts, articles and blogs. Measure them on their problem solving skills, their social selling skills, online prospecting.

Finally, the sales professionals themselves: are there additional things they can do?

Adopt social selling concepts. Learn how to use social media for their own benefit – Twitter, Linked In are the major ones, using Inside view, their cloud based CRM system. Social selling is about using the vast resources of your potential customer’s social profiles to embed your expertise and to elicit trigger points to help you pre-emptively sell. Social selling involves the salesperson instilling their expertise into the social media that their customers read and indulge in.

 

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