By Sharon Drew Morgan
Historically, sellers have been the one touching the buyer as marketers developed the brand awareness and hopefully brought buyers in – to be aware of the brand and trust it (or have some sort of mental relationship with it).
Marketing has never been hands-on the way that sellers were when they made cold calls or went to client sites to make presentations. Sellers worked more with the buyer; marketers worked more with the solution, the brand, and the general demography of possible buyers.
The job of marketing has changed
We know that our historic sales/marketing jobs have shifted because the capabilities of technology are so ubiquitous. But what, exactly, have they changed to?
Believe it or not, this new relationship is making the seller’s job more difficult, and decidedly far less successful. With only assumptions to use when digital footprints are monitored as a prospect peruses the site (or whatever they’re following), they truly have no idea who is a prospect, and they absolutely have no idea how to create/develop trust over time. Furthermore, they are leaving the sales folks to pick up the pieces too far into the buying decision cycle.
Here is a case in point. I recently had to download a trial copy of a software program I had purchased a couple of years ago: I suddenly needed text in a program I developed and there was no other way to retrieve it but to download the originating software. But note, everyday people who have not previously purchased software take trials with no thought to actually purchasing it.
The stalking vendor
From the moment – the very moment – that I downloaded the program, I began to get e-mail introducing me to additional capabilities I could receive if I purchased the entire program. These were deals if I purchased now rather than waiting for the trial period to be over. Then I began getting e-mail from a sales rep, in a perky e-mail voice, telling me to call him so he could explain all of the features of the solution. Then I started getting a countdown to the days I have left on my trial, with deals to purchase at a great price.
And then I got a call on my private number that went like this: “Hi, Sharon (and anyone who knows me knows not to call me Sharon). I’m Dan, your sales rep at X. Hey, how ya doin'?” And that was a direct quote.
After I told him I was busy and hung up (I didn’t even want to discuss how he got the phone number that only friends and family use), he began e-mailing me to pick up the conversation. And then he kept calling without leaving messages.
This is all he has time to do? What sort of time does he spend following real buyers? And, if he follows them the way he’s following me, they are certain to find a different vendor for the annoyance factor alone. I actually felt stalked.
I’m not a buyer. How can marketing tell?
I’m not a buyer. This guy has me on his list of prospects. Marketing put up the trial and tracked me, then sent my name over to Dan. Now Dan is wasting his time following up with me, maybe even telling his boss he’s going to close me in three weeks.
How many people are there like me wasting Dan’s time? Before, sellers would get lead lists, or go networking, or do their research to discover potentially interested prospects. Now, they sit and wait for marketing to hand them leads.
And through all of this, only 50 percent of sellers are meeting their quotas. I suspect this is the reason why: They are wasting their time on unqualified leads that marketing is sending them. In addition, the stalking feeling I got would have turned me off even if I was a real buyer.
Here are the problems:
- Marketing has no means to know the difference between a good prospect and a bad one.
- Marketing is making up in quantity what they are lacking in quality – and wasting a seller’s time in the process.
- Marketing assumes there are certain touch-points that determine a qualified buyer.
But, they are wrong. They are basing their assumption on potential need, not on propensity to buy. And they have no idea the criteria buyers need to meet to decide to buy.
There is a way to enter the buying decision journey without stalking, without assuming need, without even discussing product.
Even if the marketing group hands over quantity rather than quality, there is a way to help buyers discover how to navigate through all of their decisions: It starts from the behind-the-scenes issues the person or team must navigate through – that off-line, personal, private stuff that goes on well before a solution is sought and walks through the change management/buy-in cycle that’s a pre-cursor to a solution selection.
Sales doesn’t handle this. Hopefully, I’m helping this problem correct itself by placing Buying Facilitation into playbooks for a few sales-enablement companies. But certainly there is a way to learn it for yourselves without having to purchase sales-enablement software.
Reprinted with permission from HR.com.