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Written by The Mezzanine Group
on October 15, 2012

Imagine we are back in 2007. You walk into your company’s HQ happy to hear the phones ringing and your sales team diligently taking orders from new and existing customers. Your sales team – your biggest investment – has once again outdone itself and sold to nearly 85% of in-bound leads. You sit back in your chair and close your eyes – the business is good and you are once again assured that spending as much as you do on sales, and as little as you do on marketing, is the right way to go.

Fast-forward to 2012. You walk into your company’s HQ and for the nth time you notice the murmur coming from the salesroom. The phones are not ringing – you haven’t heard them ring more than once a week since 2009 - and every conversation your sales team is having started as a cold-call. Sales are down, customers are no longer coming through the door, and your sales team is having an identity crisis. Used to farming inbound leads, they are now drilling for water in the desert, hoping to hunt down a deal.

Every company must strike a delicate balance between its sales (push) and marketing (pull) activities. In many small and mid-size organizations, marketing is viewed as a luxury that consumes the resources that could instead be allocated to sales efforts. After all, marketing is hard to measure, it takes a while to produce an actual sale, and most companies don’t have the in-house expertise required to develop and execute successful marketing strategies.

Sales, on the other hand, are a lot more tangible and immediate. As a result, small and mid-size businesses allocate as much as 60% of their budget to sales rep salaries, sales collateral, and incentive plans that keep sales people knocking on as many new doors as possible. In this “push” scenario, your sales team targets low-hanging fruit in the hope of bringing home the goods as quickly as possible, as often as possible. The question is, what happens when the low-hanging fruit is gone? And, is it effective and efficient to focus your sales team’s efforts on identifying, prospecting, qualifying, and educating potential clients who may have never heard of your company or product?

Clearly, the answer is no. Your sales efforts should focus primarily on converting as many high-probability prospects as possible, and it’s your marketing efforts that should educate the market about your services and products and generate in-bound leads, thereby minimizing the amount of ineffective cold-calling your team must do. Creating multiple touch-points with your prospective clients and consumers is key. Marketing should hook them, and your sales team should reel them in.

If you are only investing in sales, you are investing in the short-term viability of your business. It’s very easy to get caught in a cycle where you depend on new business generated through cold-calling to pay your operating costs and to keep the lights on. Unfortunately, in this scenario, your sales team will likely burn out faster than you can imagine.

To break away from this cycle, and to increase the effectiveness of your sales efforts, develop and execute a marketing plan that works even after your sales team goes home.

With channels like social media, blogs, newsletters, email campaigns, and traditional marketing, it’s very easy to create a sales funnel that circulates potential prospects through these multiple touch-points and keeps them within your “sales ecosystem.” The following scenario is a simple prescription to ensure that your sales team stops cold-calling and starts focusing on in-bound leads delivered by a well-executed marketing plan.

Marketing drives your sales, not the other way around.

1. Add a blog to your site and start promoting it via social media.

2. Create a company newsletter that goes out to your prospect database and drives traffic to your blog and website.

3. Once your prospects arrive on your website, capture their information and provide relevant industry and product information - don’t just focus on selling features and benefits of your service or product. Your website needs to demonstrate your industry expertise and knowledge, not simply outline the specs of what it is you do.

4. Provide value-added insights, such as white papers and webinars, to prospects, customers, and even your sales reps. Ask prospects to share their name and contact information in exchange for access to these free resources.

5. Forward this information to your sales team so that they can stop cold-calling and start converting. Add this information to your CRM database.

6. Make sure your sales team maintains an active social media presence and continues to engage prospects via the blog, the newsletter, and social media channels so that once the lead comes in, they never leave your eco system and continue to stay in contact with you.

The benefit of this approach is that it allows your sales team to move away from cold-calling and focus on converting prospects who have already signaled that you have something they need.

The brilliance of this model is that it is equally applicable to start-ups, small and mid-size businesses, as well as large organizations. Take a look and give us a shout if you have questions about replicating this marketing approach within your organization. Remember - marketing drives your sales, not the other way around!

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