This final chapter is devoted to merging strategic digital marketing action items with the efforts of the sales team. This is absolutely critical to sales success because it is the sales team that usually closes sales and builds long-term relationships with clients and customers. Online marketing efforts will attract people to the company, and it is the sales team’s job to close the sale and build the customer relationship. All this is part of the new sales funnel discussed in previous chapters.
In this chapter, we will cover how the Internet changed personal selling, how to transition a web conversion to the sales team so it can be closed, and how sharp, web-savvy salespeople may be the best individuals to include on the strategic digital marketing team. Let’s start with how the Internet and strategic digital marketing have changed selling.
Selling and Marketing Turned Upside Down
The arrival of the Internet caused a selling revolution by putting a greater amount of purchasing and decision-making authority in the hands of prospective buyers, rather than sellers. If your website does not have what prospects want, another website will meet their needs. Today’s sales force is no longer the company’s primary source of new sales prospects for products and services. Prospects can now find your company online in great numbers, without first talking to a salesperson at your company. This has put an end to much of traditional sales prospecting, and has driven many lead generation efforts online.
As people strive to be more efficient with their time, prospects in your target market don’t make time for meetings with sales reps to learn about products and services. In fact, sales managers and reps who have time for fact-finding meetings will not be at their jobs very long. Their focus should be on lead generation and attracting prospects to the company.
It is much faster and easier for people to research solutions on the web and make contact when they are ready to buy. Companies must adapt to this changing environment and realize ROI from cold calling, prospecting and sales meetings is quickly diminishing. This changing environment, driven by the web, has turned sales and marketing upside down and changed traditional sales roles in many ways.
Traditional Sales Roles Have Changed
Traditional selling models involved the basics of prospecting, qualifying, presenting, handling objections and closing. Old-school salespeople spent most of their time finding prospects they could meet and qualify. This process is becoming obsolete, and the roles have changed as the prospective customer and/or client is now in charge of prospecting and qualifying via web searches and online content. The online research of prospective customers has replaced many traditional sales activities!
In the majority of cases, the company website has become the first stop in the sales process. This is the vital first step of the sales process and in moving a prospect toward a sale.
In the past, prospects relied on the salesperson’s knowledge and sales abilities to move toward a closed sale. This is no longer the case, as the Internet is the main resource for these buyers to learn, and they no longer have much time for cold calling salespeople. So what is the role of salespeople? Are they necessary? Absolutely!
With the exception of e-commerce websites, many sales leads generated by strategic digital marketing will involve contact with a company sales representative, or will be included in stay-in-touch programs. In addition, salespeople can be excellent at strategic digital marketing; more to come on that later in the chapter. The challenge is to extend the Four-Step Process of strategic digital marketing into the company’s sales process and in training salespeople how to market online.
Digital Leads and the Sales Strategy
It is important to develop a sales strategy and process for handling web leads and sales. The sales team must be trained in this process and there must be accountability for closing web leads. This is critical to strategic digital marketing ROI and a strong sales team should be able to close 25-50 percent of all web leads. Those that do not close should become part of the company’s stay-in-touch program. The sales team should clearly understand how people become sales leads from strategic digital marketing strategies, and they should take these leads seriously. It is important to include sales management in the strategic digital marketing meetings on occasion, and explain how people use the company website and convert into sales leads. This will help the sales team better understand the online prospect and develop a strategy that will close more sales. It will also provide the strategic digital marketing team with valuable insights on how to convert more site visitors into leads.
Response Times and the Importance of a Digital Lead
Extending your strategic digital marketing process into the sales process starts with recognizing the importance of a web lead. This should go without saying; however, many sales organizations still do not respond fast enough to web leads or recognize how important these leads are to closing sales. This should be a part of the sales team’s culture and personality. This guidance will come from the sales and marketing leadership team.
People expect fast response times from salespeople, and if you don’t do it, your competitors will. Web technologies allow for quick response time, and this has increased dramatically within successful selling teams. The sales team should respond to web leads immediately or within a few minutes. In fact, live chat and other web technologies allow salespeople to respond immediately to inquiries and other requests from prospects. This is the best way of showing just how important a web lead is to the company’s growth. Salespeople can also play a role in lead generation and prospecting by contributing to the strategic digital marketing team.
Website visitors want fast response times, but they don’t want to deal with intrusive salespeople. The sales team must find the right balance with live chat and other resources to maximize sales conversions.
More to come in part two of Digital Marketing and the Sales Process.