As we've discussed in the past, buyer behavior has changed drastically in the last decade or so, and it's forcing channel sales programs to evolve in order to keep up. This was brought to light yet again in the 2016 Hubspot State of Inbound report that listed sales people as the least relied-upon source of information for making business purchasing decisions. This was true across both geographies and job titles.
In fact, the only source of information that rivaled sales staff for lack of trust and preference among B2B buyers were crowdsourced review sites! And that's undoubtedly because most buyers know it's incredibly easy to buy favorable reviews on most crowdsourced sites. Some have become downright infamous for being propaganda mills.
A key tenet of inbound marketing: stop selling and start helping. But that leaves the problem: How can you find and leverage the sources that your buyers do trust as they make their way through their self-guided buying journey? And for those selling through sales channels, how can you help your channel partners better utilize those sources?
In the last couple blogs, we've taken a look at the past and future of marketing as it relates to indirect-sales focused organizations. The short version is outbound 'push' marketing is out, while inbound and visually-based outreach is in. As we discussed in those blogs, there are simply too many demographic trends and shifts in buyer behavior to ignore, and companies surveyed about their future sales and marketing choices are fairly united in seeing this shift taking place.
Today, we're going to get a bit more practical. If you're responsible for managing sales partners or developing marketing initiatives for your indirect-sales program, we have compiled seven key steps to follow.
We have not listed them in any particular order, but we feel they are all important in their ability to help you improve partner engagement and sales effectiveness in the channel.
As channel marketing evolves at an increasingly rapid pace, one underlying truth remains: The sales organizations that remain agile and stay on top of shifts in marketing are going to reap the most rewards. Those who are unable to adapt, and continue using 20th Century methods, are going to find themselves falling further behind. This is every bit as true for SMB as it is for global enterprises.
There has never been a more dynamic time in the history of marketing, with more opportunities for companies to adapt and stand out from the competition.
One of the key factors, therefore, is just being able to recognize when older methods are no longer working as they should. In the next few blogs, we're going to look at some of these changes, and what steps your organization can take to adapt in time and embrace the future.
If you haven't seen it already, the latest edition of HubSpot's seminal State Of Inbound Marketing Report has been released, and - as always - it's packed full of fascinating facts and insights into both inbound marketing and the overall state of B2B sales and marketing today. We've been going over the report, and in the weeks to come, we'll be talking about some of its findings while discussing solutions to a number of the challenges it highlights.
One of the key sections of the report covers the most common challenges facing today's sales and marketing executives. As we review several of the key findings from this report, we'll relate some of the best practices we've learned through our years of channel strategy and ways that a PRM-driven technology approach can address these issues.
Last week I visited a client that sells large tube processing equipment to attend their open house with customers from all over the country. They had just launched a new laser cutting line and were showing it off to existing customers and prospects.
A guy walked up to the owner and said 'we looked at a bunch of laser manufacturers and have narrowed it down to 2 companies, you and another. We eliminated 3 others based on features, price and reputation after doing our research. Can we talk about a proposal?'
3 Counterproductive Obsessions
The inbound marketing movement has led to lots of interesting discussion around sales approaches. That's understandable - after all, as buyers have more tools at their disposal to self serve and avoid sales people, it's reasonable that more than marketing needs to change. Foresightful companies are creating a continuum of prospect experience with an inside sales person as the quarterback.
Traditional silos of PR, marketing, field sales & customer service will be melded together into one complimentary revenue growth team. (For more background check out this 10 minute narrated picture book and this presentation on a prospect buying continuum.)
That's a tall order though. Org chart changes have to be CEO driven - and most of the work I see underway in companies is intra vs. inter departmental. In other words, the marketing department recognizes they have to adapt to digital and undertakes to do so. But the sales department, with a different perspective, leadership, and priorities continues down their narrowing path.
That's creating lots of waste and inefficiency - and companies can ill afford either.
While I see many examples of waste, three pervasive obsessions exist. These include:
Nice Folks to Drink a Beer With...
If you work with reps or distributors, you've probably got some channel partner teams that look more or less like this. They're good people, honest and loyal. In fact they've probably been representing your products for 20 years or more.
Most firms are basically a couple industry veterans who are coasting toward retirement. They have a rolodex (in many cases, literally...still) full of industry contacts in their territory. Many of their contacts are also coasting toward retirement.
You've probably ridden many miles with them between sales calls over the years, sharing stories of family and hobbies. You've stayed in the same well-worn motels and eaten mediocre chain restaurant meals together. You're buds. You've earned your service stripes as partners over years of hard work.
Recently, they may have brought in some young blood - perhaps a child of a founder - in hopes of keeping things going.
This was an awesome business model in the 80s & 90s. You probably made good money together.
But it's no longer a business model - you, your rep partner and their contacts are from a different era. These are legacy relationships with very low future value.
In past years, resellers were just that: re-sellers. You sold a product to them, and then you hoped they could sell it to the customer on your behalf. Maybe you had some promotional flyers or brochures to provide, but that was about it. Direct oversight and involvement was often too difficult, or too intrusive, to really implement on large scales. Vendors are now much more responsible for driving the marketing efforts that will help their partners sell more successfully.
Modern technologies have been instrumental in making these changes possible. Your sales channels can now truly become part of your marketing structure, with access to most or all of the same resources as your own sales and marketing team. These automation services result in better business for you and for them. After all, the better their business performs, the better your business performs.