There’s a great post over at Hubspot focused on how salespeople are still complaining about the quality of leads, even after an effective inbound marketing program is implemented. I wasn’t at all surprised to read this, as I often warn companies that if they improve their lead generation results but don’t change the way they sell, the net impact will be negative – potentially even devastating.
I realize that this statement may sound counter-intuitive; but think about it, how is your sales team really structured? What are they actually prepared to do?
If you’re implementing a typical solution sales approach (and if you’re not clear what approach you’re implementing – trust me, it’s a typical solution sales approach), your salespeople are really catchers. They’re trolling the waters, looking to share their solution with anyone who is listening looking for one.
The basic sales approach implemented by approximately 95% of small and mid-market companies relies on the customer actively looking for an answer to a problem the customer has already identified.
So what happens when marketing implements an effective lead generation program? Simple, it breaks the whole system down.
Suddenly your salespeople are entering conversations earlier in the buying cycle. Needs haven’t been fully identified. Budgets haven’t been allocated. Customers/prospects are looking to be educated, but your salespeople are only equipped with a boring sales presentation, a series of we-do’s and a boss who’s yelling at them about making quota.
They’re not prepared to control the conversation. They don’t have the tools to educate those involved directly in the buying process or those who indirectly influence the decision. Your salespeople quickly lose relevance, because they don’t have the means to create real value through the sales process and to justify the time from busy executives on the buyer side.
To make matters worse, as you get more leads, prospects take more time from your salespeople and pull more resources from the organization. This means there is even less time to focus on the customers/prospects who really need the attention. A vicious circle emerges. Before you know it, your salespeople go back to ignoring the leads.
So Doug, What Do We Do About It?
- You’ve got to design your sales process to work before the customer/prospect has identified the problem.
- You must build the tools that educate your customers/prospects on the problems they don’t know they have.
- You must train your salespeople to better command the process.
- Further, you must teach your salespeople to stop being salespeople, and instead to serve as advisors.
- You must slow the pace of the sales process down, ensuring that you build a business case strong enough to withstand the buyer inertia that emerges at the end of the process.
- You must kill the sales presentation, and build sales tools that create real value for the customer – even if they never buy from you (that’s right, you need to provide real value even if the prospect ends up buying from a competitor or doing nothing).
- You must create the content, and implement the systems to cultivate your market and leverage your sales efforts.
By no means is the task easy. The reality is that it’s one of the hardest, chaotic and frustrating things you ever do in your business. But when executed it will create the momentum you need to break your growth barriers, and propel your sales efforts in to a sustainable, predictable and scalable system.