Originally published on July 10, 2018. Updated on April 22, 2020.
Almost every business owner has the same goal, whether they’re a small business or a national organization: sales. Numbers don’t lie, and increased sales are almost always the bottom line. But here is where things can get sticky.
Consumers are changing, they have changed dramatically over the last 5-10 years. Traditional sales methods are becoming less effective. Cold calling, for instance, has been seeing diminishing returns for quite a long while.
The question then is: what should a company do when they need more sales, but the methods they all know well aren’t working anymore?
Evolution of the sales funnel
Einstein is often credited with saying the definition of insanity is doing what you have always done while expecting a different outcome. We’re not sure if he actually said that, apparently there’s some debate on the matter. But we do agree with the concept. If you want a different result, you have to try something new! For many traditional sales teams, that something new is going to look a lot like marketing.
Let’s take a step back for a moment and explain what we mean (we’re looking at all the sales people who are frowning right now). Historically, there has been a rift between sales and marketing departments because sales funnels have been split into two parts. Marketing teams have focused on branding, target markets, etc. They create sparkly campaigns, and if they do their jobs well enough, leads come to the door. As soon as a consumer becomes a lead, they are handed over to the sales team, who walk them through the door. The marketing team really only has responsibility for the very top of the sales funnel; the rest is the jurisdiction of the sales team.
Traditional marketing methods worked well for a long time.
Then came the Internet, which forced the sales funnel to evolve. Today’s consumer has access to a tremendous amount of information instantly available on their smartphones. Instead of relying heavily on the word of a 60-second commercial and the great smile of the sales person, they are doing their research.
Have questions about digital sales funnels? Schedule a free consultation.
Marriage of sales and marketing
Modern customers, your sales, are looking up reviews, asking friends online, looking to industry thought-leaders, and going to make 75% of their buying decision before they even talk to you. Clients love it, but every business knows just how challenging it can be to meet your customer for the first time at the end of the funnel.
Don’t fret, there is a solution! It’s called smarketing!
No, we didn’t make it up, HubSpot did years ago. The answer for today’s sales and marketing teams is not necessarily a simple one, but it is powerful. It requires both teams to come together and work collaboratively toward the common goal of new sales and high customer retention. The key to sales in our current marketplace is relational, not transactional. Marketing and sales must now work together to come up with who is going to be reached (customers) and how they can be reached (marketing methods & messaging). It’s a marriage.
This is important, because marketing has become (and will continue to be) increasingly focused on technology as the tools available to deliver messages straight to consumers continue to get more advanced. At the same time, in a media-saturated world, the personal touch of a sales team has never been more important.
Thus, the process has changed. Once a consumer becomes a lead, they may very well bounce around the middle of the sales funnel as they keep researching and delving into the product or service in which they’re interested.
Read more: The evolution of marketing
The digital sales funnel
Digital sales funnels can be constructed in lots of different ways, but they all have four basic elements: awareness, education, engagement and conversion. Here is an example of what that might look like in real life:
- Awareness: Digital marketing is designed to bring people to you. The idea is to make yourself easy to find so that prospectives will reach out when they need your product or services. Targeted advertising through Facebook and Google can be very effective methods to reach new customers during the awareness phase.
- Education: Once people are interested in your product or service, you may need to educate them to convince them to continue down the funnel. A landing page is a key part of this, because it provides a location to send web traffic generated in the awareness phase and essentially provides the first opportunity to deliver a sales pitch. Why do prospectives need to come to you instead of your competitors?
- Engagement: Reaching the engagement stage of the funnel means you just got a lead. Congratulations! Engagement is a two-way street, so once a prospective client or customer reaches out to you, make sure you respond quickly to keep them warm. This could involve scheduling a free consultation, creating an auto-generated email reply promising a call within 24 hours, answering a question on social media, etc.
- Conversion: Congratulations! You’ve received the final stage of the funnel. The most important thing is to follow through. This is where the real human connection becomes critical. Sales people, do your thing.
As you can see, elements of marketing and sales blend seamlessly throughout the entire process.
New sales opportunities
There is a great opportunity here for the sales person willing to embrace their new role as a relational educator. It’s a big shift, because a key part of the role now is explaining to customers why they need you.
A prospect can appreciate the personal touch of being able to ask a real person questions about the product or service without the pressure of the sale. It becomes the tricky process of educating without selling, even as the sales person, you are marketing to the consumer. The marketing team manages the top of the funnel primarily; both teams share the middle, and the bottom is the domain of the sales team turned educator.
If you want to be successful in bringing in new sales; the only long-term answer is that sales and marketing must come together as a collaborative team to educate, engage, delight, and serve the customer. The time for silos has come and gone. Is marketing the new sales? Truthfully, one does not replace the other. Instead, they come together to form smarketing, something new that is better together than it was apart.
Ready to get started? Schedule a free consultation today.