Inbound marketing is a wonderful tool that serves many companies well, but there are a lot of companies who are not in a position to benefit from it, yet. An exclusive focus on inbound marketing is a lousy option for small businesses with very small budgets, limited marketing technology or marketing expertise. It’s particularly poorly suited to those smaller companies with products or services which are unique solutions to common business problems.
For these companies, outbound marketing is not charmingly old school, it’s necessary. So, too, is the involvement of the sales teams in the early stages of customer acquisition. Why? Because for smaller, often privately held companies sales people who are not contributing to the prospecting and lead generation process are an unaffordable luxury. By using sales people to push outbound marketing in new (and old) ways, you’ll not only be more successful with your outbound programs, you’ll lay the groundwork to start developing inbound results as well.
So rather than shuttle them off to the side, why not integrate your sales people into the full funnel. Any while you’re at it consider this slightly different look at the sales funnel as presented in an article by Nate Elliott in the January 23, 2013 issue of Ad Age| cmo strategy Although the article is about consumer marketing, the fit with B2B is obvious.
To paraphrase: Your customers interact with your company in four stages
1. Discovery – (Lead Generation)
2. Exploration – (Nurturing)
3. Purchase – (Close)
4. Engagement- (Service,Re-purchase, Full Account Penetration)
I’m not suggesting that businesses – especially small ones, walk away from marketing. In fact, hiring a good marketing person is about the smartest hire a company can make. Having said that, some companies simply can’t pay for a marketing person and don’t have a marketing budget, so they need to rely on their sales rep(s) or management to create leads, nurture, close and service them.
I’d like to talk about creating leads – the process of Discovery.
The biggest problem for sales people who are acting along traditional lines is that they’re trained to make a connection and work that connection to a close (and a commission). But, the net for the Discovery phase needs to be thrown much wider. Potential customers are not going to discover you unless it’s easy to trip over your information. To do this, sales teams needs to expand their skill set and exponentially grow the reach of their prospecting efforts. To generate more raw Discovery they need to:
- Network and interact on social sites like LinkedIn, to watch for applicable discussions and interact intelligently. By doing this they are raising not only the company visibility but their own personal profile and reaching far more people that they realize or will immediately respond. Its an awareness building process. Self directed corporate advertising.
- Contribute content ideas to be used online, that will help your company put itself where it can be found by future customers. Because sales people actually talk extensively with their prospects, they’re in a position to learn about what drove their customers to take their first steps. This information should be routinely shared with management because it will help you find what your potential customers might look for.
- Manage their own outbound efforts on a campaign level- not just as one-offs. Prospecting by telephone and email requires volume as well as quality. Knowing they won’t get a response from most of their calls, a good sales person needs to get that job done quickly and leave a message that will push your eventual discovery.
- Recognize that because a portion of their efforts will not yield an immediate personal return, focus themselves to make the maximum contribution with the minimum time.
More than anything else, the Internet has created huge shifts in the way that businesses buy products and services and the buying world will never be what it was in the past. Sales people can roll with the changes and find ways to fit with the new business reality, or be edged out of the picture. Small business, with more flexibility but fewer resources than large corporations is the best environment for sales people to demonstrate how the role can evolve.