Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Add the Correct Attributes and Complete the Sales and Marketing Puzzle

In iLantern’s last post, I discussed the science versus the art of selling. Our fundamental belief is that the role of sales and marketers is to add attributes to create a holistic view of leads and to determine their position in the sales cycle in order to move them through the funnel.  If you believe in that statement, then you are open to seeing what tools help to add attributes so that sales and marketers can do their job more effectively.  There is no clear path to nirvana, no magic bullet that will do the work for you 100%, but there are tools available to make it easier. 

How does sales add attributes now and are they asking the right questions?
They get on the horn and start asking questions to the person that they have identified as the decision maker or someone who can point them in the direction of the checkbook holder. They should have a list of questions that help them to complete the puzzle of their seemingly nebulous lead. Here are some of our questions?

1. Do they have budget?
2. Do they fit the firmographic profile for our target base?
3. Are there compelling events that have occurred that could alter the decision process?
4. Have we located the decision maker?
5. Do they have a need for our services or product?
6. Do we know who else is bidding for the project?
7. Do we have any existing relationships that we can foster?

There are more questions even, but first and foremost, the bottom line is: do they have the budget?  Your lead can love your product, but if they don’t have the deniro– they ain’t buyin’.  Even though that is the most important question, like I said in the last post, it can come across as rude if asked straightforwardly, and furthermore; we all know that “buyers are liars”. Even if they didn’t have the budget, they don’t need to tell you. A good sales rep will do their best to gather information, triangulate and test the boundaries of questions that have been answered – testing the validity, and then make a proper assessment of whether to keep pushing or can the lead. A process that takes longer than watching water boil. Sales reps don’t have that luxury. The clock is tickin’.

Do marketers add the right attributes? Or are they still batch and blasting?
Marketers have a different role.  They aren’t getting on the horn; they are supplying the collateral, the content, the events, the buzz around the product to move people from cold to warm, warm to hot, and hot to sales. They have the luxury of automation to help communicate the right message to the right person.  But even though everybody claims to focus on segmentation, do many businesses actually implement segmentation based on the entire picture? Do they have one message and just spam it to their entire list still, even after everything written about the reasons not to do that?  Is the answer as simple as adding event data to help complete the puzzle, so the message actually resonates and helps to segment a list based on earnings and whitepaper downloads, bankruptcy and webinar sign-ups?

Adding attributes can be automated. Why, then, are we using our sales and marketing teams to make these discoveries and not prioritizing their time to act on the information that is easily spoon-fed with the right tools? Their role is to add attributes, so why not give them the tools to do it? Then, sales and marketers can focus on what humans are really good at: building trusting relationships.  Knowledge is power – a cliché we all know. By having the right tools, knowledge can come easily, completing the puzzle that much sooner, leaving more room for marketers to send the correct message and sales to use their people skills to close more deals because the right questions were asked and answered, truthfully. The data doesn’t lie.

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Friday, January 4, 2013

The Science of Selling vs The Art of Selling

There is an art to selling. A good salesperson knows how to use finesse when listening, talking, and triangulating—all skills that separate the champions from the lack-luster. But the art of selling is waning and the science of selling is waxing.

If you were a salesperson fifteen years ago you were given a laptop and a list of manufactures and were told to have at it.  As a salesperson your job was to discover attributes of any given lead or opportunity and legitimize if they were in a position to buy.  They were given the burden of the entire selling process; they had to discover which was a lead from the massive list and then, who was the key decision maker, what type of revenue, company size, reported earnings, or whether they had an M&A that may slow down the buying process.  An overwhelming amount of research for one salesperson for one opportunity.  Those with the personal network and refined selling skills still had to put in the time. An art, indeed.

Things are different today, if you want them to be. The science of selling moves to center stage.  Much of the research that sales previously had to do to qualify an opportunity can now be down with technology. 

All along the way the use of technology in the selling process helps to check the boxes that qualify the lead/opportunity.  Selling processes have been in place for a long time. Through each stage of the selling cycle certain criteria needs to be met in order to more thoroughly predict whether or not a deal is going to close. One of the most important criteria is: do they have budget? In the past, the only way to know, was to ask. That’s a pretty rude question to ask upfront. But, with the use of technology you can discover that information and drive a more meaningful business conversation: “I saw that you have had record earnings this year.  And your CEO mentioned that X is a priority.  Does this mean you are budgeting for X?”

The salesperson doesn’t need to add attributes independently, the role of technology can provide those missing attributes, letting the salesperson artfully deliver the right messaging at the right time.

Let’s say that marketing is responsible for adding in 50% of the needed attributes to qualify a lead on their end.  In the past, sales had to dig around for the additional 50% needed in order to tip the scale and fulfill the pipeline.  With the use of technology, sales may only need to add in 25% of the needed attributes. (Not an exact science, but moving closer). The tools available in CRMs and Marketing automation make it easier to qualify leads/opportunities by discovering the necessary attributes needed to glean an accurate picture of whether or not your forecast has attainable goals.

Now go take the art of selling baton to carry the last 25% of the race.

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