In his book "Sales Shift" (that you should be reading), Frank Belzer calls the approach of a prospect like approaching a red light. You go slow and look before advancing.
I like to use a dating analogy. When you first meet a girl that you think might be the one, you don't want to scare her off by rushing into things. You wait for her to give you an indication of interest in taking the next step with you. Then you are advancing on her timeline, when she is ready, not yours. That alone sometimes speeds things up because she won't feel like she is being pressured. You are able to learn more about her and customize your approach at every intersection of the conversation. If you are a sales person, you might be able to gain the next appointment, or gain a new connection that can refer you to others.
Some might think of using workflows in the same way, you automate the personalized process by pre-planning every step. And for larger companies, with lots of data on current customers, that is more viable. But for start-up entrepreneurs and small businesses who don't have all that customer data to scale marketing automation successfully- how do you get started?
A Sales and Marketing Problem and Smarketing Opportunity for Entrepreneurs
There are two distinct problems and opportunities I have observed with the way that some companies and inbound marketing agencies set up and use workflows.
Problem/Opportunity #1: Marketing that has no idea what the buying process looks like and therefore has no idea how to create a personalized workflow that delivers relevant information at the appropriate time. They have run out of ideas on what to test or try to get more people to raise their hand. Meanwhile, sales is waiting to follow up on leads because they are in a 'workflow' or 'lead nurturing campaign' and so they never talk about what leads they are getting. Marketing doesn't share info with shares that helps them adapt their approach, and sales doesn't check to see if they have other connection to that lead.
Problem/Opportunity #2: Sales that have no idea what to do or say to engage prospects and learn their buying process and adapt their approach accordingly. They don't try to call and start a conversation to find out, but instead send 'personalized' emails that they have cut and paste from the previous one they sent that says something like; "I saw that you downloaded our latest ebook and wanted to thank you for your interest. I was also interested in learning more about your business and see if our XYZ product is right for your needs at ABC company. Would it be possible to have a quick conversation this week? If there a time and date that would work best and I will be happy to schedule a meeting with you to discuss your needs."
Both of these problems and opportunities have something in common don't they? The buyer and their buyer process, or in this case a lack of seeking it out. (You thought I was going to say something like revenue optimization weren't you? Next you will accuse me of target customer acquisitions. How un-personalized is that?)
So if both sales and marketing are trying to get to the same place- which is understanding the customer's needs and wants (because that is what turns into revenue), but from different perspectives, doesn't it stand to reason that the thing that have in common is how you turn a problem into an opportunity?
For successful small businesses that interact with their customer or client on a daily basis, the gravitational pull of their customer is stronger because of their proximity to them. Big business wants to be seen like small business for this reason.
- Invest in yourself and cultivate your sales abilities. If having small talk with strangers immobilizes you, or if when forced to follow up all you can say is what you want ("I just wanted to call, follow-up, send you...") get an objective sales assessment and if it can help- sales coaching. You will never get a lead to just lay down for you, no matter how awesome a marketing workflow is.
- Do your due diligence. You can build buyer persona profiles that help keep you on track as an entreprenuer and help you to scale sales and marketing when you are ready to grow. Everything should orbit around your customer, and buyer persona profiles are a tool to help you do so.
- Get sales involved early and often to make sure you are in alignment with the customer and their buying process. Start building your Smarketing SLA (even if this is just you and your one part time person!)