I started selling cloud-based solutions in 2005. Luckily, I worked for a web analytics company (WebSideStory) that had a great marketing department. The leads they handed me were piping hot – all I had to do was ensure the prospect had the budget, do a great demo, and email over the contract. Simple, right?
Fast-forward to today. The marketing technology space has gotten so large (2000+ companies), that you need a magnifying glass just to look at all the names in a visual graphic. No longer can you hold out Proof of Concepts for only the most valued prospects – everybody gets a POC via the freemium model. And forget about skating by on just a great demo. Now you need individually tailored case studies, white papers and references for each prospect.
I’ve recently rediscovered Steve Patrizi’s 2012 post on The New Marketing & Sales Funnel. He postulates that in the modern SaaS world, marketing has taken over a lot of the functions that sales used to perform (including the Consideration, Intent, and part of Evaluation sections of the sales funnel). From my work as a B2B tech sales & marketing consultant, I can anecdotally corroborate his findings. It would seem that marketing departments should be doing more sales work than ever. But I think the key takeaway is that the changing sales funnel means every salesperson needs to learn how to market.
Specifically, I think every salesperson should:
Build Their Own Personal Brand
I Google all of my prospects. I’m not stalking them. I just want to know what type of person I’m talking to – have a jumping off point, if you will. Solutions like Nimble help take this information gathering to the next level.
But prospects are now, more than ever, Googling me. Part of how they evaluate a company is based on the person talking to them. That’s why every salesperson should be branding themselves – be it using LinkedIn to craft your personal narrative or curating content on a Twitter feed or even creating a simple About.me page.
You can’t solely rely on the words created by the marketing department. Only you know the value you contribute to a prospect during the buying process. Clients are choosing people just as much as they’re buying a product. It is called software-as-a-service, after all.
Look at Sales as One-to-One Marketing
Your marketing department is busy. As I mentioned, they have 2,000+ marketing technology tools at their disposal. There’s so much data for marketers to use – be it from Hubspot or web analytics or surveys – that they can’t generate content for you on demand. But prospects want more personalized content.
That’s why salespeople need to know how to generate, or at least edit, their own marketing materials. You’re way ahead of the competition if you know how to use Photoshop or can create your own infographics.
I work with a leading cloud-based collaboration software firm called WorkSmart.net, where there are so many use cases for their solution that I have create new one sheets almost weekly based on the industry my new prospects are in. I’m no graphic designer, but the potential clients appreciate the effort.
ABGC – Always Be Generating Content
There was a time where the CEO or the CMO at a SaaS company was the de facto thought leader. He or she would be the one giving quotes or writing guest articles. This person would be the public face of the company.
Thanks to the explosion of content on the web, and social media’s ability to make it go viral, everyone at a startup needs to be a thought leader. The salespeople need to read up on the industry enough that they can intelligently comment on posts, write their own guest blog articles, and seek out speaking engagements. You can’t be passive and wait for others to do the leg work – your competition will eat your SEO and thought leadership lunch.
How to Start Training Your Salespeople to Market
The best first step in training your salespeople to market? Have them sit in with the marketing team for a while. Then, once they feel comfortable, they can take on some of the tasks I listed above. I wish all my leads still came in piping hot. But now I know how to warm them myself, so I’m ready to tackle the modern B2B sales landscape with a marketer’s mindset.