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Why your Sales Director could be the missing link to achieving B2B digital success


“Why on earth aren’t we using this already?" 

That is the response we had whilst running a recent workshop for a B2B client. We were in the midst of showing them how they could extract a complete digital history of a prospect or existing customer’s interactions with their brands through their digital channels, and how we could start to automate their sales funnel nurturing journeys to deliver more leads.

We run a lot of these workshops: the difference was that this time we didn’t just have the marketing and content team in the room, but the Sales Director had also been invited to the table. We were there to talk about using customer experience and personalisation to drive increased online conversions, and ended up on a whiteboard mapping out their sales processes, cost per acquisition, lead scoring, lead value and a whole bunch of things that we rarely get a chance to talk about.

It completely changed the conversation from lead gen to revenue gen.

It reaffirmed our thinking that even in mature organisations who feel they already have good marketing and sales alignment, there’s a big trick being missed by excluding the Sales team from direct exposure to technology, where their insight and objectives could significantly influence the outcome. Statistics from the likes of Aberdeen Research indicate that organisations with true alignment see 20% increase in revenue growth, so why aren’t we involving Sales more?

What value does digital bring us anyway?

 A common challenge within B2B digital teams is often how they prove their value to the ultimate aims of the business – revenue generation – and often to a cynical sales team who see a website as a brochure rather than a sales tool. In larger organisations especially, most of the sales process is perceived to happen offline, through direct relationships with sales people, with digital acting as a thought leadership mouthpiece to demonstrate credibility.

However, when we look at a client’s analytics data to see 30,000 hits every month, the businesses and individuals who are returning, and the content they’re consuming, we can see that prospects and customers are also coming back at key reference points throughout the sales process, from awareness through to purchase and ongoing engagement, and through various channels.

But that’s only half the story. We also know that sales teams often find themselves dealing with large numbers of “tyre kickers” before they unearth a hot prospect. If marketing are only targeted on the volume of leads generated rather than the quality or average value of those leads, and a robust sales funnel isn’t in place to support the journey from prospect to purchase, then the whole process is inherently flawed.

A good place to start when looking at a sales funnel is the SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall model which gives excellent guidance on how a sales funnel should be structured, where leads are separated and qualified, and how the delivery of high quality leads to Sales can be controlled.

The opportunity for digital is being able to control as much of this journey as possible and exercise influence at the right points with relevant content for different audience segments, and being able to track and optimise it all the way through. We can also extract a wealth of valuable data about users at a very granular level, pre-qualify leads before they make it to sales, and automate our sales nurture processes.

That’s where the value of digital lies, and a properly configured technology platform can enable it, but it requires everyone involved in that process, from internal teams to agencies to software vendors, to understand that end-to-end cycle in significant detail to yield results – that’s where our Sales Director comes into play.

Define what a “qualified lead” looks like

This is the most important starting point. Unless we know what a hot prospect looks like to our sales team, then we have nothing to base a qualification model on. Depending on your sector there are going to be distinct facets that Sales considers important, for example:

  • Persona: CEO, Marketing Director, IT Director, Journalist, Analyst, etc
  • Value: high value, low value, Enterprise, Mid-Market
  • Territory: home market, overseas, EU
  • Organisation: government, large business
  • Type: prospect, existing customer

Once there is agreement on what a qualified lead looks like, we can start to examine how we target and filter leads that match this profile.

Map out your sales funnel

This part may take some time to get right if it’s the first time you’ve looked at it in detail. If we take the SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall as an example, what you need to consider is how you can qualify leads by looking at the journey a typical user takes. Again, this can vary significantly from business to business.

Some of this data you may be able to fathom from your analytics, but a great place to look is at recent wins that match your qualified lead profile and what you know about their interactions on your digital estate and with the sales team.

On a platform such as Sitecore or Eloqua we can easily refer to a complete profile of a user, the campaigns they arrived from, the pages they viewed, the emails they responded to, and so on (see an example below). If you don’t have this technology in place then consider setting up interviews or panels with those customers. Again, your Sales Director will have invaluable input into this process because we need to understand where and how the offline interactions happen.


Sitecore Experience Profile

Profile and score your content
Now that you’ve defined your lead profile and the journey they take, you can start to influence that journey. If you think about lead scoring as being the qualification of a user based on the profile they match and the points they accumulate based on what they’ve done on our site, then you need to look at two things:

  • Tagging your content so that you can profile a user based on what they’re consuming
  • Scoring your key goals across the user journey

I’ll cover more on this in a future blog post, but suffice to say technologies such as Sitecore will allow you to achieve this. Start small: perhaps look at one audience type and one journey rather than going all out, otherwise you’ll find it’s difficult to measure and optimise.

Personalise the journey

If you know that a user has triggered a goal in your journey then you can start serving them “next best actions”. For example, if you know that a user usually downloads a product brochure and then requests a call back, you can control this experience on the front end to show relevant CTAs more prominently. If you want to get even more advanced, you can set up marketing automation to send out triggered emails at key points, update your CRM records, or extract reports.

Supercharging your sales team

Now that you’ve started to exert control over the user journey and you’re collecting data about their journeys, profiles and scores, it’s time to look at processing this data and putting it in the hands of your marketing and sales teams.

This can get as simple or as complex as you like, but the point you want to get to is where a sales team can extract, sort and action data in a manner of their choosing. Don’t underestimate the stubbornness of a sales team who use Excel spreadsheets every day and you’re sat there trying to pump data into a CRM. Unless you can effect cultural change it simply won’t work.

This is why alignment between Marketing and Sales is key. Four questions you should be asking are:

  • How does the sales team want to consume the data? this might be through alerts, in a CRM, as an Excel report, or even directly from the platform
  • What is the threshold for passing a lead to Sales? Should Marketing or Inside Sales (telesales) continue to nurture leads that don’t meet your qualified lead criteria? Or do you want to pass everything to Sales and let them prioritise?
  • How much granular information do they need? You can simply provide them with a contact name and a score, or a complete profile and history of the user
  • Do you want to target key accounts (Account Based Marketing)? Who are those prospects, what journey do we want to take them down, and when do you want to be notified of activity

Done properly, you’ll have a sales team who have:

  • A vastly improved sales funnel with better qualified leads
  • Less time wasted on the tyre kickers
  • Enriched data and alerts about all of their prospects and customers

So don't be afraid to drag your Sales Director kicking and screaming into your next technology planning session - you may end up being their new best friend.