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B2B Prospects in Funnels More Than Pipelines

It should come as no surprise that your B2B marketing content and nurturing programs are being tapped

It should come as no surprise that your B2B marketing content and nurturing programs are being tapped to provide value farther across the buying process. In fact, many of you are now tasked with moving prospects to that nirvana called sales readiness—before salespeople ever see them.

Because B2B buyers can now push sales activities to whenever they're ready, your funnel may be longer than your pipeline. This reality layers additional responsibility on the marketing team, but it also leaves salespeople somewhat at odds.

You see, when company's had a hold on critical information their buyers needed to learn how to solve their problems, a salesperson gained entry to the relationship a lot earlier. They got to know their prospects and helped them navigate the tricky waters of considered purchase decisions. The salesperson with the best relationship usually won the deal.

The difference is that now salespeople are coming on board at the end. They no longer have those relationships built over the long haul. Any trust or credibility that holds sway with prospects was created by someone else (e.g., marketing messaging and communications, brand knowledge, customer success stories and, likely, peer referrals).

When your pipeline is tilted to slide salespeople to the end stages of the buying process, the rules of engagement change.

Salespeople now have to be:

  • prepared to step into the conversation in mid-stride.
  • focused on delivering game-changing business value from the start.
  • able to apply company expertise to differentiate their offerings.

There's no easing into this with a 60-slide presentation about your company and products. Your buyers likely know as much about your company and products as they need to. They expect your salespeople to come through the door prepared to add value, not have to educate them about their businesses.

What they care about is the value of the information salespeople can provide that tops whatever they've already learned, and how easily they can use it to make the best decision.

Since marketing is telling the longest story, they are positioned to better enable sales to meet and exceed the expectations of sales-ready prospects. When marketers can effectively move prospects farther through the buying process, they're in the perfect position to help salespeople keep up that momentum at the handoff.

To do this, marketers must provide end-stage content, messaging and conversational briefs to help salespeople get a running start. This does not mean recycling marketing content. It does mean fresh insights and intelligence that enables salespeople to bring something new and valuable to the conversation. Otherwise that prospect's momentum will come to a screeching halt.

The marketing-to-sales process is a team sport. I'm often stumped about why this is treated as two distinct efforts, instead of a fluid process. I'll bet your buyers are wondering about that, too.

I read somewhere (if anyone knows, tell me and I'll give credit) that—in the eyes of buyers—40% of the sale is dependent upon their interactions with salespeople. That's a pretty hefty weighting. And yet another reason that marketing needs to put more emphasis on enabling sales to get the job done.

A few sales enablement tips for marketers:

  • Create content for buying stages—all of them.
  • Prepare end-stage content in usable formats for salespeople.
  • Provide access to activity histories and overviews of content the prospect found useful.
  • Build presentations from a value—not company—perspective.
  • Work with sales every step of the way to ensure you're giving them what they need.

This is not a once-and-done thing, it's a process that will need to be revisited and refined over time as you learn what works best for both your buyers and your sales team. Monitor what salespeople use and dump or fix anything that's not working. Stay involved and learn how salespeople are using what you give them to close deals. I can pretty much guarantee you they'll put things together in ways you haven't thought of doing.

Salespeople think differently than marketers. Embrace this as a source of insight from the people who have the most face-time with buyers. What you learn can also be used across your marketing programs to make them more human. Your prospects will notice.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee, CEO & B2B Marketing Strategist of her firm Marketing Interactions, helps companies with complex sales increase and quantify marketing effectiveness by developing and executing interactive eMarketing strategies driven by compelling content.

Her book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, was published by McGraw-Hill.

Her articles and blog posts have been used for university ezines, published in CRM Today, Selling Power, Rain Today and Enterprise CRM News. Marketing Profs has incorporated her blog posts into a number of their "Get to The Point" newsletters.

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