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Four steps to sell more using inbound marketing and lead generation

Article provided by Telkom

Customers no longer want to be sold to, but rather actively seek out products and services which is why your marketing and sales team need to effectively work together to turn leads into purchases.

As technology and trends change so too will ways of selling to customers. New solutions need to be implemented in your sales organisation to ensure that you stay abreast with these changes. Today’s sales organisation must integrate inbound marketing and sales lead generation activities to keep pace with sophisticated buyers who are self-diagnosing and researching solutions.

Here’s how to integrate your marketing strategy with your sales team to better target and service your customers.

What is lead generation?

Lead generation is a way of introducing potential customers to your business and getting them to warm up to your product or service so that they will eventually buy from you. This process is more organic by nature where they actively start a relationship with your business rather than the business attempting to engage with the customer.

Leads need to be nurtured, which is why a good relationship between sales and marketing becomes important. Both sales and marketing need to be actively pursuing an effective lead nurturing programme which focuses solely on leads that are ready to buy.

Why is inbound marketing important?

Inbound marketing has become an effective means of generating leads as consumers have become more in control of their buying decisions. This has been promoted by instant access to customer reviews, competitive products, ease of access of information through social media and pricing comparisons.

Consumers don’t want to be ‘sold to’ anymore which means that the way you advertise your products or services will have to change to suit their preferences. Your potential customer wants to conduct their
own research into what is available to them, and rely on word-of-mouth and the experiences of others to make a decision. Once they have weighed up all the options then they are prepared to discuss with a sales person – but not before.

The sales and marketing relationship

Inbound marketing is an essential element of generating leads, but is ineffective if leads are not turning into revenue and this is where relationship between sales and marketing becomes crucial.

Sales and marketing must be talking to one another because sales can share invaluable input into who the potential customers are, what their needs are and what type of information will be necessary to convince them that your product is the best to suit these needs. Marketing can then develop and share this content to successfully attract further leads.

The following four steps will help integrate marketing and sales to better service the customer:

1. Define marketing and sales responsibilities in the customer buying process

Identify the steps that the customer goes through before making a buying decision and organise marketing and sales around this process. Get to grips with how your customers collect information, form their purchase intention and ultimately go about buying your business’s product or service.

Once you have identified the buying process, assign responsibilities of marketing and sales for each of these stages. In this way, you are ensuring that marketing and sales are working together to meet your customer’s needs and guiding the customer to take the final step in the process.

2. Define one focus for your most valuable customers

In most businesses sales and marketing departments function in silos, but these approaches need to quickly change so that both divisions can focus collectively on your business’s most valuable customers.

Marketing plays an important role in identifying the most valuable customers and targeting these with the right content. Sales need to know who these valuable customers are so that they can focus their attention on them, with marketing assisting in servicing sales to close deals. A unifying objective for the two must be developed to ensure a successful working relationship.

3. Emphasis on customer, not product

A good product begins with the customer, in fact anything good begins with identifying the needs of the potential user.

Most businesses focus too exclusively on function and not enough on the actual customer. Instead, organisations need to organise around the customer, which can be achieved through creating customer groups as opposed to product groups.

By organising customers into groups, you will also be placing marketing and sales jointly in groups to service these segments. Marketing and sales can be split into upstream and downstream customer teams, each focusing on different aspects of the lead management process. This will align all efforts to serve the customer and reduces blame-shifting and conflict.

“Use market data, not product data. Set the buying criteria in your favour. Find the ‘smoking gun’, the one thing that undeniably positions you over everyone else. Make sure you hit their pain points. Include your own pitch for your product or service only after you have covered the education thoroughly,” says Chet Holmes in his book ‘Ultimate Sales Machine’.

4. Combine customer information

Often sales and marketing each have their own customer information as they uniquely service these customers, but this is impractical and ultimately weakens business strategy. Your business must actively manage the sharing of customer data through establishing a systematic approach to gather information and sharing these databases across the board. Sharing content will also facilitate interaction between sales and marketing so that the customer will be better serviced at the end of the day.

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