Contributed by Ron Marcus, ZUZA Marketing Cheerleader
Let’s assume that you’ve already put a lot of time, effort and cash into building an inspiring brand, setting up a robust lead nurturing program and building solid relationships with prospects, guiding them gently but surely through the marketing funnel toward first contact with your sales team. Awesome, right? All that carefully curated effort is about to pay off with warm prospects who are very receptive to being assisted by your sales team.
Or is it?
What if your sales people, well, mess it up?
How can this be, you ask? Aren’t we all on the same team?
Sure we are. But, while marketing has advanced to Marketing 2.0 (i.e., lead nurturing — building trusting relationships before the sales process begins), in many companies, sales teams are still selling by the Sales 1.0 model. And sadly, the Sales 1.0 model doesn’t work today. Which means that all that lead nurturing effort you spent on the marketing side will go completely to waste as soon as Sales gets involved.
In other words, no marketing program, no matter how well executed, can withstand bad contact from sales. Another way to put it: it can take weeks, months, even years to build a good relationship with a prospect, and just minutes to destroy it.
Let’s repeat that, because it is critical: It can take weeks, months, even years to build a good relationship with a prospect, and just minutes to destroy it.
The bottom line: marketing doesn’t stop when the sales process begins. It simply passes the marketing baton to the sales team. It’s then up to Sales to continue the lead nurturing process, maintaining the prospect’s trust and good feelings toward your company. Sales is marketing too.
Sales 1.0 vs. Sales 2.0
We all know the Sales 1.0 model. A smooth talking, pushy, “don’t take no for an answer” salesperson who knows how to overcome all objections grinds you down until you plead for mercy and sign the contract just to make him go away — not unlike the experience of buying a new car at a dealership — or being sold a timeshare. This salesperson doesn’t really care about helping you solve a problem. He doesn’t care about what you need. He needs to make the sale. Period. There is nothing remotely nurturing about his/her approach.
More often than not, when we’ve given in to such a sales process and made our purchase, we feel a bit icky after, and wonder if we really made the right decision.
Contrast that with the Sales 2.0 approach. The Sales 2.0 salesperson doesn’t want to sell you anything. Rather, she wants to explore your needs with you, then see if there’s something she offers that can truly help meet your needs. She doesn’t want to “close” you and move on. She wants to build a relationship with you and help you for life. She doesn’t want to be your order taker. She wants to be your friend. She wants to earn your trust and keep earning it every day. She doesn’t want to push you. She wants to help you.
What does a Sales 2.0 type process look like?
- The salesperson talks with you only when you’re ready to talk.
- You do the talking. The salesperson listens. At this stage, she does not offer you a solution, and certainly doesn’t talk about pricing.
- Together, you identify a core need you have.
- The salesperson describes how she may be able to help you, and lets you tell her if your organization is truly in need of such a solution. She’ll also ask if your need is great enough to warrant pursuing this solution now or if it’s less urgent. She doesn’t try to convince you that it’s urgent. She sits back and just listens to you.
- If indeed you believe your need is urgent and she has a viable solution, she’ll then offer to go deeper with you, moving at your pace and letting you drive the discussion. (She’ll simply stay in touch at regular intervals to confirm you’re still interested in proceeding.)
- Eventually, when you’re ready, the process will enter the terms and pricing stage, and finally the contract stage — all on your terms, at a pace that is comfortable for you.
- The whole process is painfully free of such gimmicks as “we’ve got a great discount but only if you act today…” Again, there is no pressure in the Sales 2.0 model. The salesperson is here to help you, not push you.
After such a process, how can you not feel good about your decision to purchase? You’ve done your due diligence and made your choice in a very comfortable environment. The salesperson listened to you and never pushed you. You felt nurtured.
It’s a pity more companies haven’t adopted a Sales 2.0 sales culture. These companies don’t realize that in this age of the empowered buyer, with lavish information available to the buyer pre-sale over the Internet and through social media, the “smoke and mirrors” approach of the Sales 1.0 model simply doesn’t work anymore. Buyers are a heck of a lot smarter than that. They don’t want to be closed. They want to be nurtured.
Here’s a real world example from my own recent experience to make the point.
A personal story: How Sales 2.0 won my business.
I recently led an internal effort to evaluate and select an online platform for marketing. We looked at five different companies. Two made our short list. One of these is the “800 pound gorilla” in this space — well funded, spending gobs on marketing, and executing an awesome content marketing / lead nurturing program like a well oiled machine. Indeed, I spent a lot of time on this vendor’s site and downloaded several excellent white papers from them which convinced me of their thought leadership. I had also received several referrals from industry colleagues vouching for this vendor’s size, popularity, years in business and stability — all points in this vendor’s favor.
So I contacted the company directly and requested a sales pitch and demo (a salesperson’s absolute dream!). Let’s call them Vendor #1. Vendor #1 set us up with a call with two of their staff, one technical, one sales. Immediately, the Sales 1.0 model kicked in. The salesperson continued to emphasize why this vendor was clearly the leader in this space, and spoke with the attitude that the demonstration was really just a formality; how could we NOT choose Vendor #1? I had the feeling throughout that this person assumed the sale was “in the bag” already. He also immediately offered (though we hadn’t yet asked) that his company could “get aggressive on pricing” to ensure that they could win our business. He then asked to see if we would be willing to make a decision within a week if the pricing were right.
This demo call lasted about an hour. Immediately after this one and only call, I received a price proposal. Vendor #1’s discounted pricing was on par with the normal pricing of Vendor #2 on our short list — but we quickly realized that this vendor was actually more expensive in the end because certain required functions were extra cost items, while with Vendor #2, these functions were included. Further, Vendor #1 required a 12-month commitment, whereas Vendor #2 offered a month-to-month arrangement with no long-term commitment required, taking risk out of the equation.
The sales demo from Vendor #2 couldn’t have been more different. There was no time pressure to make a decision. There was no offer to “get aggressive on pricing to win our business.” The courteous sales rep, who kept claiming he wasn’t a technical person, proceeded to speedily answer all of our very specific technical questions quite comprehensively, addressing all of our needs in a consultative fashion. He was friendly, low key, passionate about his product, and eminently patient. He never once asked for the sale.
We determined that Vendor #2 went toe-to-toe with Vendor #1 in terms of functionality and ease of use. Vendor #2’s all-inclusive pricing and no-risk month-to-month subscription model made its offering a little more attractive than Vendor #1’s. But what really tipped the scales was Vendor #2’s sales approach — a Sales 2.0 approach (low-key, no pressure, consultative, nurturing) which ultimately sealed the deal. We went with Vendor #2.
Meanwhile, I had the unenviable task of breaking the bad news to Vendor #1. When I explained our choice, the salesperson strongly expressed his disappointment, at one point actually telling me our choice was a mistake, and then advising me to be skeptical of any claims made by the competitor. He then kept asking if there was anything he could do to change my mind and that he really didn’t want to lose this sale — as if that means anything to me. I politely thanked him for his time and offered that if for some reason things did not work out with Vendor #2, we would revisit evaluating Vendor #1, and I would be happy to share my experience of Vendor #2 with him.
A few minutes later, I received an email from this salesperson requesting a conference call with his boss to discuss why they lost the sale — which I had already amply explained to him. I politely declined but repeated my explanation in a comprehensive email — which I provided solely out of courtesy because I really didn’t have time to be spending on this. I thought this would be the end of the discussion, but the next business day, I got an email request from his boss asking if I’d get on the phone with him to discuss what had happened. Again, I politely declined, but this time I added that Vendor #1’s sales process had been a bit too arrogant and urgent for our tastes. In response, the boss wished me well — finally.
Is your sales culture a lead nurturing culture?
You want to be a marketing champion. But how do your sales people view being sales champions? Do they see this as meeting heroic quotas and closing deals at any cost? Or do they see it as continuing to nurture prospects by truly seeking to help them? This is critical. Marketing does not exist in a vacuum. Sales and marketing must be in alignment, or the buyer will immediately feel the disconnect and leave you. If you’re lucky, the buyer will call you and let you know that you were not selected, as I did with Vendor #1. More likely, you’ll just never hear from the buyer again, and never have your calls returned from that point forward.
So remember, if you truly want to have a successful lead nurturing program, make sure your sales team is on board as well. Sales is marketing too.
Here’s to the Marketing Champion in all of us. See you in the next post.