Sales team not pulling their weight? Here’s how your marketing department can help.
Do you sometimes wonder if your sales team is up to par? You’re in good company if you do. For owners of small and mid-size business to business (B2B) companies, 2012 has been an interesting year. Those that survived the lean years of the recession are happy to still be around. But now some of them have a new problem: their sales teams aren’t bringing in the deals the way they used to. And their companies are struggling as a result.
The world has changed since 2007. And the way business is done has changed too. Relationships are still the critical element in B2B sales, but with more and more of the boomer generation leaving the workforce and with new methods of finding business partners, companies' once well-connected sales reps are no longer as capable of bringing in new business. And there’s a revenue shortfall as a result.
Over the last nine months, I’ve heard countless CEOs and presidents lament the challenges they’re experiencing with their sales teams. The themes are common:
1. Reps don’t do any prospecting.
- Every new sales rep expects to spend some time on the phone and in activities aimed at prospecting and generating leads for the business. But as sales forces age, the appetite to do these activities wanes.
2. Sales reps don’t want to travel.
- Lots of sales reps in B2B companies have seniority and no longer want to spend the majority of their time on the road, meeting current and potential customers away from the comforts of home. What they were willing and excited to do 10 years ago isn’t so appealing today.
3. Sales reps don’t report on deals and prospects.
- Companies who have mature sales teams often don’t have processes or mechanisms (like a weekly sales meeting) to check in and find out what deals sales reps are working, how much is in their funnel, and what their revenue forecast is. When deals were rolling in, it didn’t matter and didn’t seem relevant to put these systems in place.
4. Sales reps resist efforts to implement CRM systems (Customer Relationship Management systems, like Salesforce.com and HighRise, that track opportunities and help manage customer relationships).
- New technologies like CRM systems do add an administrative task to sales reps, but they also add the great benefit of capturing information about prospects and deals. Sales reps who resist (or refuse) to use these systems make it harder for companies to obtain and retain information about customers.
For B2B companies, it’s vital to address these challenges in order to keep revenue performance strong. The good – and surprising, for some - news is that marketing can help. Here’s how:
Bring the leads in
Twenty years ago, buyers didn’t have the ability to research vendors and potential business solutions online. Today that’s the norm. A recent study by Corporate Executive Board revealed that 60% of the B2B buying process is now complete before a buyer ever engages with a potential vendor’s sales people. That means companies who aren’t promoting their products and services online aren’t getting found by potential buyers – and aren’t getting the opportunity to secure new business. Online marketing is an excellent and essential way to prospect and generate leads for both product and service companies.
Marketing tools like PR and webinars are very effective in reaching a global audience and efficiently staying in touch with customers and prospects. Rather than spending two weeks of every month travelling, B2B sales people can use digital marketing tools to stay on their clients' radars and, when they do travel, make the most of that time in meetings with the highest potential customers.
Coordinate the sales effort
Marketing can also be instrumental in coordinating sales activities. Because sales and marketing are so tightly interconnected in B2B, the marketing department can be a catalyst for coordinating the activities of sales reps. In companies that have never had a sales reporting mechanism, having a new marketing function or person can be the trigger to start discussing the activities of sales reps – shedding important light on what they’re doing and accomplishing.
If your B2B company isn’t achieving its revenue targets, you might have a sales problem. But your solution might be marketing.