James Bond sits across the poker table from his arch enemy, the most recent incarnation of evil dreamt up by the over fertile mind of a Hollywood script writer. The evil mastermind extends a long finger and scratches his temple repeatedly. Bond smiles knowingly. He quietly lays his cards on the table, wins the hand, the entire pot (and of course the hand of the beautiful maiden as well.) He has spotted the arch villain's "tell" the subtle but detectable change in his demeanour giving away his hand and giving Bond the slimmest of upper hands, but it's enough for good to triumph over evil once more.
It may be a slight stretch to extend the importance of reading of body language to the commercial world, but many good salespeople will tell you that reading a potential buyer's body language is important.
But here's the thing. What happens if buyers no longer rely on salespeople to the same extent that they used to? What happens when buyers in complex B2B sales take it upon themselves to research potential solutions to the problems they face themselves? They listen to webinars, download whitepapers, read case studies and join peer groups on LinkedIn, all before they have even contacted a salesperson. Buyers have already formed strong preferences, long before your firm have had a chance to influence them. This is not a farfetched scenario but an increasing reality for many firms. A recent survey by Marketing Sherpa found that 80% of buyers felt they had found their vendor rather than the other way round. This is the web 2.0 world in which we live.
FACT: The modern salesperson in the complex B2B sale is becoming increasingly disenfranchised and increasingly distant from their prospects.
So how do firms re-establish some much needed influence over the buying journey of their potential customers? By reading their prospect's digital body language. In particular, using technology such as web analytics and progressive lead profiling to understand who is visiting your website and what they are doing when they are there and feeding suitable, highly relevant marketing content to those prospects to advance them through the steps of the buying journey.
By utilising some readily available and affordable technology, modern marketers MUST reassert control over the buying cycle of their prospects. They can gather information from visitors to their websites, they can deliver high quality and relevant content to prospects on a one to one basis, based on the profile of that prospect. They can gather vital information on that prospect's problems and needs and propensity for your solution. This is called a Sales Ready Lead (SRL) or a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL).
The marketing process flow goes something like this:
Define your Ideal Customer Profile
Help your lead identify the problem they have
Educate your prospect on the options they have
Get the prospect to agree to be contacted by your sales team
Hand over the entire prospect record to sales.
FACT: Marketing plays a far greater role in the sales process than ever before.
I do not propose to go into further detail of how this can be achieved, suffice to say that the ability to perform these tasks lie at the heart of the modern, effective, B2B marketing operation.
More importantly there are some key implications of this shift in the way prospects buy. Modern marketing functions are capturing rich data about prospects that most salespeople would kill for. It is vital that a robust, aligned and effective relationship exists between marketing and sales. The dysfunctional nature of most sales and marketing is a standing joke in most corporations, but it is no laughing matter, misaligned sales and marketing teams loses your firm money, it's that simple.
You should re evaluate how you compensate your marketing team. They are a fundamental part of your sales funnel, so why shouldn't they have some skin in the game. Consider compensating your marketing team on ratios they achieve on SRLs and MQLs. Similarly target them on achieving the same revenue goals as your sales team.
Are you trying to build a sales forecast that extends longer than one quarter? Are you finding that the longer range forecasts from sales are hopelessly inaccurate? A marketing team that tracks the digital body language of its prospects is able to provide valuable input into the volume and velocity of the sales funnel. Involve them in the long range sales forecasting.
Sales teams are notoriously poor at following up leads from marketing, usually because the leads are of poor quality. Involve sales in defining what constitutes a SRL or a MQL. Target salespeople on following up SRLs/MQLs, as well as their bookings target.
In summary, marketing must be experts in reading the digital body language of their prospects if your firm is to reassert some semblance of control over the purchasing process. Alignment between sales and marketing has never been more important, they must go to market together, unified by a common set of goals and processes oriented around the prospect's buying journey.
What are your experiences in reading the digital body language of your prospects? What are your views on the price organisations pay for having misaligned sales and marketing teams? Please share your views let's get a debate started!