Status Quo is Your Biggest Competitor

When CEB reported that 57% of the buyer’s journey was happening without the engagement of sales, it led to the mistaken assumption that sales had no role in the early part of the buying decision. Similarly, when SiriusDecisions reported that 67% of the buyer’s decision-making journey happens digitally, once again the assumption was that sales had no role in the process. Yes, buyers do leverage online tools to do their early stage due diligence and research when they believe they have a business problem that needs addressing. How that became translated into buyers never talk to sellers at that stage is interesting.Stand out of a crowd

I never viewed either of these statistics as something to be afraid of, instead, I saw it as an opportunity for salespeople to find ways to be out in plain sight when buyers were in that early education and research phase. How to engage buyers online whether through content or direct interaction has been the subject of many of my blog posts and that of many others in the sales profession. When it comes to improving sales pipeline or what to do to move deals along to close, what isn’t talked about enough is that your most challenging competitor is the status quo.

Planning for status quo.

Status quo is Latin for existing state. Typically when buyers decide to maintain the status quo, they are often resistant to the risk associated with doing something differently than they do today. If your deals are stalling out because buyers do nothing and stick with the status quo, one reason this is happening is that the risk they associate with making a major change to a new solution was not mitigated. That’s where you have an opportunity to help them. If the perceived risk of making a change is greater than staying with what they’ve got, you won’t close the business. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you will help buyers assuage their fears with data to back you up, which then positions you more strongly for moving a sales opportunity along to close.

Let’s talk about ROI.

A key theme that emerged from Demand Gen’s 2016 B2B Buyer’s Survey Report was the subject of ROI. That’s an important hurdle that salespeople have to help buyers get over. Overwhelmingly respondents said they are feeling the pressure of financial scrutiny from corporate.  And when asked how their purchase process had changed over the past year, the survey revealed that 61% said they “conduct a more detailed ROI analysis before making a final decision.” Now that company leadership has increased scrutiny on the financial side to justify purchase decisions; it is easy to see why buyers proceed with caution.

More decision makers also increase the odds of status quo winning.

Another contributing factor to overcoming status quo is the number of decision makers now involved in buying decisions. This new reality is especially true if you are selling into a complex B2B environment. CEB has said their research indicates that 6.8 people are involved in the decision-making process these days. I would say that those numbers are conservative because there are far more people inside an organization who have influence into the ultimate decision than you may realize. The stakeholders involved in these buying decisions are in a variety of roles, work in multiple geographies or regions, each with a unique perspective on the challenges and pains that a particular business problem may be causing. They also have their unique opinion on what will be the right solution to correct the situation.

There is good news.

The challenges of beating your toughest competitor in any deal situation – status quo – provides an opportunity for salespeople who understand this challenge and plan for ways to overcome it.

In Demand Gen’s Report, there were four top reasons why buyers ultimately choose a winning vendor. They are:

98% – Timeliness of a vendor’s response to inquiries

97% – Demonstrated a stronger knowledge of the solution area and business landscape

94% – Demonstrated a stronger knowledge of our company and its needs

90% – Provided content that made it easier to show ROI and build a business case for purchase

Notice that these buyers didn’t say, we choose a winning vendor because of their product pitch! The salespeople who “ditch the pitch” and focus on demonstrating their consultative business value to buyers have a greater shot at kicking status quo out the door to win deals more often.

Does Cold Calling Still Work?

In this day and age, many unsolicited sales calls go unanswered. Modern sales and marketing professionals are up against savvy buyers who have easy access to detailed product information on the Web and through Social Networks.

Everyone is connected to the latest information. Buyers today are pretty good at blocking your calls and emails, through Caller ID, email spam filters and they can easily send your email to its grave with a simple click on the delete button. But since so many sales people continue to follow this old school approach, it makes me wonder if in their minds they are saying to themselves…”I just know that I can get through all these defense mechanisms and land that one magical deal.”

Can they? Based on what clients are telling me, I believe the answer is no.

This question was the subject of online consultancy Software Advice’s latest Google+ Debate, “Does Cold Calling Still Work?” The panel, moderated by Derek Singleton, brought together inbound marketing and inside sales experts to debate three questions:

  • Given how the Web has empowered B2B buyers, is cold calling still relevant in the Internet Age — and are companies still generating a return on investment (ROI) on it?
  • With other lead generation activities on the rise, like paid search and content marketing, can cold calling help marketers stand out from the noise?
  • Can inbound marketing and analytics help us better decide who to cold call and when?

Here are the takeaways from the discussion, and I’m pleased to say that they jive with what I have been evangelizing for several years now.

Cold Calling is Shifting to Warm Calling

Understandably, every panelist agreed that cold calling (in its original form) is decreasing significantly in effectiveness. Furthermore, there is no excuse for business calls to be random and unsolicited anymore. In the words of Anneke Seley, Founder and CEO of Reality Works Group, “in this day and age, there’s no excuse for a call to be cold anymore.” Anneke – you are right on!

I recently read a Selling Power poll in which 47.76% of sales reps said that they were never prepared for the initial conversation with a prospect and 2.81% said that they were rarely well prepared. That, my friends means that 50% of the sales reps out there either can’t or won’t take the time to do a little homework before engaging with their prospect. And that should be enough motivation for companies to expect their salespeople to approach prospects differently. When you can turn to LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook, and it is SO very easy to find out information about your prospect before you pick up a phone, why aren’t more sales reps doing it? Your prospects, by the way, are using similar channels to learn about you before committing to a call.

The group described the process of doing your homework in advance of calling prospects “warm calling.”

Only Call the People that Come to You

But Mike Volpe, CMO of HubSpot, thinks that marketers can take it one step further and not even waste time reaching out in this manner. Volpe believes that the world is shifting away from any type of outbound marketing – I respectfully disagree Mike – and that your inside sales team should only reply to inbound inquiries because you already know that they have an interest in your product or service.

Meanwhile, Volpe explains that inbound marketing tactics like SEO and PPC that are significantly cheaper than doing things like employing a great sales rep to make outbound calls. And he says it’s also a much less invasive approach to contacting buyers.

Sounds good but are all inbound inquiries created equal? I’m probably not the only one who likes to benefit from all the free informational content out there. I may have downloaded a white paper on your website, which many marketers would term an “inquiry” but that does not mean that I’m a qualified buyer. In defense of Hubspot, they are pretty savvy in terms of knowing when salespeople should engage with someone who proactively entered their world, but I would say that a lot of companies still are not at Hubspot’s level of sophistication.

Find a Happy Medium by Employing Both Tactics

Of course, there’s usually room for middle ground. And that’s where Ken Krogue, President of InsideSales.com, sided on the debate. According to Krogue, InsideSales.com relies very heavily on inbound marketing tactics but the leads they generate by purely inbound means just aren’t high enough value. So he turns to very targeted outbound calling after warming up contacts. To quote Krogue:

“If we [at InsideSales.com] just rely on the Internet to bring us leads, it’s like a fish sitting in a pond waiting for the river to bring whatever it brings them. What we’ve found is that if you look at a typical bell curve, 70 percent of all the leads that come in are small. For example, we’re moving up to enterprise class companies and we have to forget about the Web bringing us those leads and have to reach out to initialize the conversation (usually through calling), then we move to a Web-based type of nurturing.”

In any Case, Marketing is Becoming Permission-Based

One point each panelist could agree on was that lead generation is shifting toward a permission-based model of marketing. This means marketing will need to evolve into being about showing buyers the value to them in doing business together, and ultimately getting them to come to you. If you aren’t demonstrating your value in a tangible way, then buyers will increasingly overlook your company; ignore your marketing efforts and move onto the competition.

It was a great discussion from thought leaders that I admire and follow. I’m curious. What are your thoughts on the evolution of outbound and inbound selling and marketing? Share your thoughts and comment below.

If you’d like to read the full article, visit the B2B Marketing Mentor

Don’t Get Booted from the C-Suite

Anyone who knows me also knows that I am NOT a fan of cold calling. Perhaps it had its place in sales history, but I wonder. Was it ever truly successful? No one likes the process really. Not the sales people being told by management to do it, or the unsuspecting prospects who are receiving the call. Frankly, I just don’t get why there is still such a large contingent of sales people out there who insist that cold calling is a viable sales approach. So, all I can figure is that they must be selling a product or service that is largely transactional in nature not requiring a lot of buy-in from senior management.

Calling High in the Organization

In enterprise level selling, which requires you to gain access to the relevant senior executive(s) in the organization, cold calling isn’t a smart strategy. Why? The traditional approach is to use a canned product/feature script that you rattle off to everyone you call. Executives aren’t interested. And, invariably you are coming to the party way too late anyway. Do you even know when the senior level executives get involved in the buying process?

Even if you can get the right executive on the phone at the right time in the process, is your call addressing their needs or yours? I think that most of us can agree that typically sales people are focused on their own agenda – getting that appointment or sale. The reality is that executives don’t buy features and benefits.  It isn’t that those things aren’t important, but a senior executive wants to know how what you sell solves their business problems on a much bigger scale. In order to know what problems they are facing, sales people need to do their homework. That’s where social media fits in.

“Executives are increasingly using the Internet to inform their views, but they do not type in the category because early in the process, they’re not educated enough to know where a solution will come from. Instead, they search based on the problem confronting them.” –Selling to the C-Suite.

For the naysayers who believe that social media doesn’t have a place it the world of B2B selling, take note of this quote. Executives ARE using social media to source information about products and services that can solve their problem. Moreover, using tools like LinkedIn can give you incredible leverage during the sales process. Gain competitive advantage by better targeting and qualification, as well as planning for that all important conversation when you connect with the senior executive you have in mind.

To get to the C-Suite, planning and research are key. Have you done yours?

B2B Social Sales Facts & Figures

Thanks to the folks at Inside View for putting together this incredible infographic demonstrating facts and figures for B2B sales.

smb2bfactsfigures insideview

To see the full scale image, click here!

Here are a few things in the infographic that caught my eye…

Most popular social media sites for generating B2B traffic:

  1. LinkedIn 17,618
  2. Reddit 11,968
  3. Wikipedia 10,944
  4. Twitter 6,170
  5. Facebook 4,455
  6. StumbleUpon 2,557

Future Growth of Social Media

futuregrowth

I encourage you to click on the link above to view the graphic in full scale mode. The numbers may surprise you!