Much of this blog series thus far has been geared towards disavowing the old school notion that the most effective way to increase sales is to have your sales reps “hit the phones” with gusto. This is the mantra that so many sales directors have lived with forever. However, as we’ve learned previously, in the era of information overload, this concept is no longer the effective tool it once was.
The reason for this is simply because there are filters at every level to stop today’s decision makers in companies from having to be interrupted from doing their jobs within business hours. People don’t want to be sought out and sold to on the phone. If they want to buy a product or a business service, they want to do their own research first, in their own time.
Given that, the concept of marketing automation offers an alternative approach to scaling a business from a sales perspective. As we’ve just discussed inbound marketing in the previous three blogs, it’s important to point out the distinction between the two: inbound marketing is an approach, while marketing automation is a tool. It comes in at the point at which you’ve implemented enough of the tenets of inbound that you’re ready to add another layer of sophistication to your sales and marketing ecosystem.
So what is marketing automation and how does it work? Put simply, marketing automation is a platform upon which you scale up your marketing. By using it, you make your marketing much more efficient and you replace many of the processes that would have been done manually by a sales or marketing person, with an automated set of protocols.
If used correctly, it can be used to essentially replace a junior sales role. Let’s say I have a very precious sales resource in my organisation, in which a small number of people are skilled enough to undertake the sales process for my product or service, whatever that might be. If I go out and hire someone new, it will undoubtedly take me six months to find them, train them to sell it, and for them to develop a pipeline of activity to get to the point where they’ve made their first sale or sales. In many cases it may be longer!
Marketing automation presents an opportunity for an organisation, with a well-developed sales structure already in place, to actually scale the marketing resource —which is arguably more important—to support scaling the sales of the business. The truth is that most sales organisations are inefficient by nature. That’s not a criticism of their operation; rather, it’s down to the fact that they must deal with a certain number of poor quality leads in order to find the good quality leads. And what happens is as salespeople reach ‘capacity’ with the volume of leads and fresh enquiries which they can process, they need higher quality leads to enable the company to sell more without needing to increase and train more salespeople. Marketing automation helps you do just that.
For example, let’s say a salesman on your team engages with a prospect who proves to be not yet ready to buy, based on lacking one or more of the time-tested tenets of ‘BANT’ (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe). This prospect may have three out of four, but that’s not enough. An SQL (sales qualified lead) has to have all four.
So let’s presume this salesman leaves the prospect with the classic note, KIT - Keep In Touch - and the salesmen is then traditionally left with the task of staying in touch with that prospect over the next, say, six months whilst they move towards being a fully qualified prospect. The idea is, of course, that when the prospect does come around to buy at some point in the future, sales will re-engage. However, in so many cases, this re-engagement never takes place. The sales person who had that initial contact gets busy, loses touch, leaves the company, or some other unforeseen reason and the real, valid prospect goes ahead and buys something from somebody else or finds a different solution.
With marketing automation tools, things like “keep in touch” can be—you guessed it—automated.
It is possible to set up a lead nurture pathway for a prospect who has been marked as a potential well-qualified lead to be sent a blog, a case study about that marketplace, some sort of update or a newsletter. The idea is that all of those things will keep your company in that person’s mind, touching them, until they have reached BANT qualification. And then the system notifies the sales contact when the prospects respond to one of these touches.
Marketing automation provides the tools which trigger when that lead arrives back on the company’s website to automatically fire off an email to the salesman or manager. That is now a much more qualified lead—and you didn’t pay someone a salary to find it. By increasing the quality of leads and improving the processes of automated lead nurturing, your sales team does less work at the top of the funnel and more of the work of engaging those who are displaying the characteristics of a well-qualified lead. In short, marketing automation makes your salespeople more efficient and gives them more opportunities to make you more sales and more money.
Tip #42: Don’t use your top salespeople to filter out poor quality leads; use marketing automation to improve follow-up efficiency and lead qualification.
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