Don’t Forget the "Sales” in Sales Automation
You’ve seen the Subject Lines in your Inbox;
“Marketing Automation Saves the Day!”
“Transform your Lead Conversion Rates by 400%!”
“Turn Marketing into a Revenue Center vs. a Cost Center!”
Ah yes, the promise of the Marketing Automation / Sales Automation / Sales Acceleration / Customer Relationship Management technologies. In a relatively short period of time you can implement one or more of these software suites and platforms and just sit back and enjoy the influx of new leads that automation will uncover for you without, Heaven forbid, actually making a cold call...
But does it sound, as the saying goes, too good to be true and therefore probably is?
With a plethora of new technologies in the marketplace, just how much can these automated lead generators actually identify, and qualify, real prospects’ real business challenges, and their real timelines?
And just for fun, in Canada we have the “Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation” (CASL) to contend with that effectively prohibits B2B organizations to send Commercial Electronic Messages without the recipient’s permission. So forget the ‘batch’ emailed pitches on your product or service (not that they ever were effective anyway), but even less so now as you must first gain permission before sending any emails that have a ‘sales’ intent.
So where does that put us?
Marketing Automation, Sales Automation and CRM platforms all have noble intentions. Essentially they are designed to capture and organize customer and potential customer data, analyze for activity and patterns / trends, apply ‘rules’ to score for priority, and provide Sales teams with qualified leads to call on and a database of information for marketing campaigns.
It all sounds good; however, as stated by Justin Gray, CEO of LeadMD;
“A solution that delivers value without effort – If only you could just buy marketing automation technology, then sit back and watch the results produce themselves. But no... Marketing automation is a journey. If you think it’s at all like a light switch that you can just flip on, you will fail. If you think you don’t need a strategy or can afford to just skip over the planning process, you’ll also be quick to fail.”
In a nutshell, Marketing Automation and Sales Automation technologies are all enablers, tools, not magic bullets or an end unto themselves. The key is knowing when to include Sales in the process as the intent here is not to replace Salespeople, but to empower them.
Here are some key questions you should analyze your Sales process for before considering implementing one or more of these technologies:
How are prospects / leads currently being generated? Are they from basic lists, or is there some intelligence at this point to identify which companies may have a need, and when, for your products or services? How are they being handled now between Marketing and Sales? What ‘hit or conversion' rates are you currently realizing?
This is critical to understand upfront because you can have the most high-scoring ‘suspects’ or qualified leads as per Marketing, but have absolutely no idea of where their actual areas of business challenges are for Sales to work with. And since, at least in Canada, you can’t guess and start sending out emails with what you hope is relevant content to try to ‘jog’ something in their minds (and a person anonymously viewing your company website a few times does not a Lead make), someone has to actually pick up the phone and make a Sales call.
Yes, a Sales call. Because if you can’t identify where their business challenges are, where their ‘pain’ is, then you will be unable to eventually align your solutions to solving their issues and they will remain with the status quo. Change involves time and money... why change if nothing, as they see it, is broken?
This bring us to the process of Consultative Selling in the B2B environment, whether you have Automation or not. There are 6 basic steps to follow;
Pre-Call (preparation and research) – Automation may be helpful with this initial step but cannot replace a Salesperson’s own experience and ‘worldview’ in analyzing the data on the Prospect.
Approach – In Canada, with no existing relationship, this needs to be accomplished by methods other than email, so reaching out on Social Media with some understanding of their potential ‘pain’ uncovered in your Pre-call research, or a plain, old cold-call to establish direct contact. No introductory emails here automatically sent out with, frighteningly, perhaps your Corporate Brochure attached??
Discoveries / Fact-Finding – This is the most important step in the process and can take weeks and / or months, involve several stakeholders and possibly different countries in enterprise-wide decisions. All information uncovered in Discoveries is what the Salesperson needs to create a customized and relevant proposal, and to manage Objections when they are raised. This is also the step where the relationship between the Consultative Salesperson and Prospective Customer is formed as it becomes apparent, through intelligent questioning and great research, that the Salesperson has their Prospect’s interests first and foremost and is not just interested in making a sale but in genuinely helping them solve their business challenges. No automation here.
Proposal / Recommendation – To be effective the proposal must align your products / services with the Potential Customers’ areas of pain and goals, and be completely customized (no boiler-plates here). To be even more effective, it should also include additional related challenges that can be solved by your solution that the Prospect may not have even thought of, have clear timelines, and the expected ROI.
Probably back to Discoveries here if Objections are raised (most likely), but if all makes sense,
Negotiations – Contractual Requirements, Creation of Project Plan, Financial Considerations, etc. etc., all specifically tailored to the proposed solution and then finally,
Implementation – The Sales Process itself is complete and the new Customer is transitioned to implementing their new solution(s) as per the Plans created and agreed upon in Negotiations.
In summary, while these new Marketing and Sales Automation technologies may help quite a bit at the beginning of the Sales Process in identifying better Prospects to go after and which ones to ignore (equally important), the actual Sales Process itself cannot be automated. It would be very useful to remember that Sales is a Profession, not an Application. In our highly competitive B2B Global Marketplace, not only should potential leads be nurtured but also your Sales People (not your Automation) as they are what will set your company apart, and grow your business for you.