2. Connecting Marketing & Sales
I’ve often said CEO’s would choose sales over marketing any day of the week, if they could. That’s because they can easily see the cause and effect of a sales person, whereas marketing has traditionally had a problem with measurement and accountability. As a result, company cultures have separated sales and marketing into affiliated, but distinct organizations that work fairly independently. At some point in the process marketing would hand off a lead to sales for qualification, cultivation and conversion; although that hand off was often imperfect, with little knowledge attached. Then sales people, driven by their instinct to follow the hottest leads, were often less likely to invest the time and effort to develop cooler prospects. This set up the probability that all, but the best leads would languish in sales limbo. Now, however, as I’ve described in previous chapters, marketing technologies allow companies to automate much of the contact and follow up process at a very sophisticated level. This enables sales people to not only enter the process at exactly the right moment, armed with key customer insights, but also address all the leads, not just the hot ones.
The opportunities for sales and marketing to work together to accelerate the entire sales cycle are becoming more accessible.
In some industries this amounts to the automated cultivation of prospects up to a higher level of qualification before the handoff to sales, delivering the lead at a point at which a sales person is actually required and desired by the prospect. Typically, the earlier stages of the selling process have been under the marketing umbrella and then, once sales takes over, they keep control from that point on. This too is changing, however, as the opportunities for marketing to assist sales throughout the sales process increase. For example, if you are renting apartments all over the country, like one of my clients, you need both marketing AND sales to work together seamlessly throughout the process. Multi-family unit marketing relies heavily on digital channels, especially with predominantly millennial renters, but at some point every would-be renter wants to visit prospective apartments to see for themselves what living there might be like. That’s where sales people become an important link in the chain, with the ability to propel the sale or derail it.
In the case of my multi-family rental client, most of the exploration and due diligence by prospects happens online. Millennials expect technology to deliver comprehensive answers to all their questions in an easy-to-use, engaging experience. They expect to be able to see how long their commute would be, what shops and restaurants are in the neighborhood and even what the view is from the bedroom window; all without the effort of visiting. This is the first challenge: to make sure that our client’s rental properties not only get into the consideration set, but also qualify for a tour. But no matter how compelling the digital marketing experience is, at some point the game switches to the real world with the tour of the property itself. That’s why we work hard to ensure that the brand experience presented online translates into the brick & mortar experience. Not only is it important to deliver the same brand character that we presented and promised online, but inconsistency of brand experience denotes lack of authenticity with millennials, which is the kiss of death. Yet, even assuming an excellent impression during a tour, the actions we take with that prospect in the days and weeks that follow are equally critical to closing the deal.
Closing any sale is a mix of meeting needs, handling objections, building trust, staying in dialogue and timing.
While each product or service has its unique requirements, all need to have a carefully choreographed series of consumer engagements, or touches, from the first contact through final follow up. It is a process informed by the knowledge of the prospect that you gather from the outset and throughout their journey, applied to each step that they take, building on previous steps, adding emotional and analytical impressions that contribute to the overall perception that the prospect develops.
Coming out of any apartment tour we can combine behavioral data about the prospect, gathered from their digital interactions before the visit, with what we learn about them during their visit. This can be used to inform a series of follow-ups focusing on the key considerations that we have determined are most important to them; this might be proximity of restaurants, the accessibility of internet services, or the walkability of the neighborhood. All contribute to not only keeping the brand top-of-mind during the time when a decision may be made, but also to pressing the emotional buttons that are most likely to secure the conversion.
Our job as sellers is to reduce the complexity and increase the safety of the buying decision for the prospect. To do that we need to fully understand all the factors that a buyer considers in making a decision. We need to understand when and where emotions come into play, as well as what analytical process might be at work. We then need to design our engagement strategy and messaging to ensure that we meet the prospects needs at every step, and address objections along the way, all on a growing foundation of trust and confidence. If designed correctly, the sale itself becomes a natural extension of this process; another step in the journey that will continue on to loyalty and advocacy.