By Rod Griffith
October 13, 2015
Technology marketers today are faced with a customer base that is quite different than the technology decision makers of 15 years ago. Traditional selling models need to be revised accordingly - though many companies lag far behind the paradigm shift in their customer behavior.
The clear fact is: today's customers are far more savvy, more informed and farther into their decision cycle before they typically are ready to talk to a vendor/supplier's sales people. The reason is quite simple: they have access to far more information than they used to. They can access detailed product specifications and other documentation, vendor-to-vendor comparisons, benchmark data, customer testimonials, tutorial videos, and educational materials, white papers, implementation guides, industry analyst reports and a plethora of a customer/user opinion, experiences, insights and recommendations.
But many technology companies haven’t realigned their selling strategies to how customers behave today. They still use traditional selling models where they attempt to generate leads (through trade shows, web advertising, emailers, etc.), qualify them (somewhat), and then if qualified, send them over to their sales force for follow-up and pursuit.
But let’s face it: Are those leads really qualified and is the customer ready to talk to a sales person? Not likely, if the research statistics are correct. And here’s one of those findings:
According to the National Sales Executives Association, 80% of complex B2B purchase engagements begin on the fifth or later sales attempt. That is, a typical customer will require at least five attempts to reach them before she/he will agree to a serious sales discussion (and thus begin their purchase engagement process with you).
Source: National Sales Executives Association, 2011
But 82% of sales reps will typically give up their efforts to reach a contact after they’ve made three attempts to reach out to the contact to try to engage with the prospective customer.
They effectively abandon their selling effort toward that contact, declaring them uninterested, and move on to the next prospect on their list. This lack of synchronization with the behaviors of today’s customers can lead to lost opportunities, left sitting on the vine for a competitor to pluck.
You need to truly listen to your customers. Are they saying, “We’re not interested in what you have to offer,” or are they really just saying, “We’re not interested in talking to you right now.” There’s a huge difference, of course – and you need to recognize that many of the contacts you attempt to reach may be excellent opportunities for you – just not right now.
While it’s often called “lead nurturing,” we think a more accurate term is “relationship incubation.” In this early stage of engagement with a potential future customer, it’s not about the constant effort to qualify them further hoping they’ll eventually become a qualified lead. It’s really about helping to establish and grow a relationship with that contact by helping them understand and recognize the VALUE you offer. And at this stage, your perceived value is not your products or services (at least not yet). It’s your knowledge, expertise, insights and experiences (we’ll call these your Informational Assets). Your future customers need to recognize that you bring value to them through your Informational Assets. And they will see this value when they believe your Informational Assets could potentially help them either a) accelerate a goal, or b) overcome a challenge or obstacle. (And it’s important to note that the goal in question can be either a business goal and/or a personal goal – such as achieving a new promotion, reducing work stress, getting positive recognition from their management, etc.)
That’s why you need to leverage your Informational Assets wherever possible in your efforts to build relationship incubation programs. And that’s also why tools such as videos and online tutorials, webinars, interactive presentations and demonstrations, e-newsletters, customer testimonials and case studies, and other informational-based tools can be highly effective in helping you incubate these relationships.
So recognize that today’s technology decision makers are far more savvy and more informed – precisely because they can access so much more information without having to interact with a sales person. Understand that “we’re not interested” may sometimes really mean “we’re not interested at this point in time.” And offer potential customers your Informational Assets as a means to establish and incubate your relationship.
Rod cofounded MarketReach in 1994, after working as a Marketing Manager at DEC, and brings a wealth of B2B technology marketing strategies and tactics to the table. Rod enjoys working with customers and sharing his vast experience of marketing initiatives, programs, events, and sales tools. If you’re a Beatles fan, plan to set aside a solid week when you chat with Rod.View our Team