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Written by Lisa Shepherd
on September 17, 2013

Four powerful forces have made it harder than ever for salespeople to find buyers. Here’s how marketing helps bring customers to your door.

Tony Hoevenaars never would have guessed that marketing would be his best business decision of the year. Hoevenaars is the leader of a Brampton, Ontario power engineering company called Mirus International.

Mirus has enjoyed tremendous growth over the last 3 years – without adding a single direct salesperson. How have they done it? In a word: marketing.

Here’s how the dynamics of business are shifting and what smart companies are doing about it.

B2B BUYER BEHAVIOUR HAS CHANGED

The world of sales has changed, particularly for manufacturers and industrial companies. According to a study by CEB, 60% of the buying process is now complete before a buyer ever engages with a vendor's salespeople. Customers are now in control. They identify possible solutions, understand the options that various companies present and determine approximate pricing without the help of salespeople.

B2B companies who don’t have marketing in place to catch the attention of these in-control buyers are in deep trouble. They don’t make it onto the radar and therefore don’t have a shot at gaining new customers.

CUSTOMERS ARE HARDER TO REACH

Companies operate leaner today than they did 20 years ago. As a result, employees have less time to stay informed on issues that aren't of immediate importance to their jobs. That means salespeople have a harder time connecting with decision-makers. If decision-makers don't see the relevance of the services or products a salesperson is offering, they're unlikely to spend time with the rep.

That makes marketing more important. Far better if marketing can put the company on a buyer's radar at the moment it's investigating possible solutions. Then, instead of salespeople having to push their solutions onto buyers who aren't particularly interested, vendors can pull in those buyers when they want to discuss a challenge and how they have solved it for other organizations in the past.

GLOBAL COMPETITION IS INCREASING

Mirus, like many Canadian B2B companies, has a much larger opportunity in international markets than it does at home. The company has seen the majority of its growth in the past year come from selling overseas—from South America to the Middle East. Hoevenaars and his sales team used to spend upward of 30% of their time on the road, meeting with distributors and potential customers. That direct-selling process was expensive, tiring and limited the number of companies that Mirus could interact with because the team simply didn't have time to get to everyone.

Now, marketing tools, including public relations and webinars, bring more business directly to Mirus' door. The sales team is more selective about whom they visit in person and how often, because marketing helps Mirus stay on the radar of past customers and introduces Mirus to potential customers. Marketing means that information on Mirus' solutions is available around the clock in a variety of languages, so engineers in Brazil or Dubai can find what they need, when they need it, and contact Mirus or its distributors to have a detailed conversation about a specific situation. Marketing reaches more potential customers, in a more cost-effective way, than the sales force alone can.

SALESFORCES ARE AGING

Many companies have salespeople who are part of the boomer generation. As members of these sales teams get closer to retirement, they are sometimes less enthusiastic about hunting: the demanding and time-consuming task of finding and securing new customers. In addition, they may be reluctant to change the way they work or to adopt new technologies such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems. These systems help companies develop relationships more effectively and have more visibility into the sales funnel. Not all of these changes are welcomed by sales reps. While that certainly isn't the case at every B2B company, many companies are finding that their sales teams aren't bringing in the new business or adapting to changing market conditions the way the C-suite would like.

Marketing is an alternative. Rather than putting the onus for lead generation and relationship nurturing on the sales team, B2B companies are using marketing tools to generate and cultivate leads that, once qualified, are passed on to sales reps. What sales rep doesn't love to receive a stream of qualified leads to convert into customers, rather than having to make cold calls? 
As some boomer-generation salespeople get closer retirement, they become less enthusiastic about hunting

.

How does marketing help?

B2B leaders who recognize these challenges can take a few steps to ignite their marketing. The first is to identify the role that marketing should play for your business—whether it's to increase awareness, generate leads, enhance brand perception or some combination of the three. After that, it's a question of choosing the marketing tactics that will achieve the goal. There are many tools in the box—from search engine optimization to trade shows to public relations. As Hoevenaars says: "As a technical company, we didn't always think that marketing mattered to our business. Since we've focused on marketing, we really see what a big difference it has made."

Can Mezzanine help your marketing and sales teams be more effective? Call us to find out. You can reach me at 416 583 5831.

Originally published on PROFITGUIDE.com

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