A few weeks ago one of our clients discussed a proposed marketing plan with us. One of his major concerns was how his sales department would handle an increase of prospects during their busiest season. Companies across the U.S. echo this company’s concern. How much new business can they handle before they need to hire new staff and can they generate enough new business to justify the increase in staff long term?
For companies looking to implement a B2B inbound marketing strategy this year, it’s about more than bandwidth, it’s about teaching their sales staff to change the way they sell. According to research conducted by Google, 42% of in-store customers will conduct research about the product they are purchasing while they are in the store. A whopping 46% of those searches will be conducted on the retailer’s own website.
The sales team often sees the website as the marketing team’s domain, unless there’s an e-commerce site attached to it. With customers researching products and companies while standing with a salesperson, it’s time sales and marketing began to work together to not only grab the buyer’s attention to but to seal the deal and make the sale.
In the same Google study, 32% of shoppers will visit a store during the first phases of their shopping. That means many of your shoppers will still be in the consideration stage of the Buyer’s Journey. Capturing their information and continuing to follow up with them, providing information specific to their situation allows your sales team to pursue the customer beyond the sales floor.
So now that you’re convinced your sales team has to make the transition, how do you create a sales funnel that makes sense, is easy to use and doesn’t add to the sales vs marketing battle already going on?
First, you’ll have to redefine your sales process. How does your team follow up with website contacts? What information about the customer do they have when they follow up? What information does your sales team capture when a customer walks into your store? How do they follow up with customers who don’t purchase when they walk in? How can marketing help provide more detailed customer information and follow up with luke-warm prospects who aren’t ready for an all-out sales pitch?
The sales process isn’t about making one phone call and calling it good. That’s a follow up call, not a process. Your customers will need varying amounts of information depending on their needs, challenges, timeline and budget. The more information your sales team can gather over time, the more they can customize an approach for each customer--which will increase your sales percentage and the size of your sales. Marketing is great at gathering information. Use their insights and tools to make your process better.
Second, you’ll need to find a way to document and track your progress. If your sales process includes multiple steps like a follow-up e-mail, an appointment with your sales rep, a demonstration and finally a contract, your sales team needs to know where they are in each step of the process. Knowing who needs what follow up can allow your team to stay on top of new contacts better. We highly recommend a CRM to manage the flow of customer follow-up, but if you’re having trouble moving your employees to a new software, start with something they know like an Excel document. HubSpot recently released a new Sales Funnel Template that allows you to move a customer through the funnel while documenting the expected size of the deal and keeping track of what information the contact needs when.
Third, if you’re really concerned about your bandwidth, it’s time to do a little sales forecasting. For seasonal businesses that’s the hardest part of your job. An unexpected change in the weather can throw your expected sales for a loop. By using a tool like the sales funnel template mentioned above, you can estimate when a customer deal will close allowing you to forecast the work a little easier. You can also make plans to follow up on cold deals when the season slows down. For nonseasonal businesses, keeping a regular sales forecast of prospects keeps your pipeline full and your income steady throughout the year.
Finally, cross over the marketing vs sales divide and ask your marketing team for help providing the right scripts, content, graphics and videos to use in your follow up e-mails, snail mail and phone calls. Talk to them about tracking website visits from specific customers and sharing that information with you. If you have a customer who’s still trying to identify their main problem, but they are poking around on your website, it might be time to move them up the prospect chain a little. Your marketing department can share a lot data and analytic information to help you close the sale faster.
Never has sales and marketing alignment been so important. Ensuring your prospects get the messages they need from both the sales team and marketing department can increase your sales with less work from everyone. The first of the year is a great time to implement new systems. Make your sales team part of creating the sales process. Get their buy-in and create a reward system for giving the new process and documenting system a try for three months. That gives your team time to learn a new system and allow it to become a habit. And maybe some of them will be able to ditch all those sticky notes all over desks reminding them call a prospect back.