Almost every business owner that we talk to has a version of the same goal, whether they are a small business in Anchorage, Juneau, or one of our national clients. 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. Most of the traditional sales methods aren’t working as well anymore. Cold calling, for instance, has been seeing diminishing returns for quite a long while. According to an article by LinkedIn, 9 out of 10 decision makers say the never respond to a cold outreach. 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?
Einstein is often credited with saying the definition of insanity is doing what you have always done while expecting a different outcome. I’m not sure if he actually said that, apparently there’s some debate on the matter. But I 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 me take a step back for a moment and explain for all of the sales people who are frowning right now what I mean. Historically I know there has been a rift between the sales and the marketing departments. Typically marketing would focus on branding, target markets, etc. They would create sparkly campaigns, and if they did their job well enough, then leads would come to the door. As soon as that consumer showed interest and became a lead, they would get handed off to the sales professionals who would walk them through to the sale. The marketing team really only had responsibility for the very top end of the sales funnel. The rest was the jurisdiction of the sales team.
Now at this point, I’m sure the sales team is nodding their heads in agreement. They should; that worked then. Unfortunately, it is not functioning now. 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. Your potential 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 I’m sure sales find it frustrating as you realized you only get to interact with the prospect toward the very end of the funnel now.
I’m sensing frowns from both the marketing and the sales teams at this point. But don’t fret, there is a solution! It’s called smarketing! No, I 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.
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). This is important because marketing has become and will continue to be more and more focused on the technology side of delivering the message because the tools available to deliver that message continue to get more advanced. Sales bring the personal touch to the mix and help add the relational piece to the messaging, the content. 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 they are interested in.
There is a great opportunity here for the sales person willing to embrace their new role as a relational educator. Sales teams must see themselves as educators rather than sales. 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. So 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? I would say that one does not replace the other. Instead, they come together to form smarketing, something new that is better together than it was apart.