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The Connected Web

Phil Wainewright

How Your Sales People Can Always Be Closing

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Listen to my interview with Mike Pilcher, VP of sales and general manager, international, at MarketBright, which helps businesses use the web for more effective marketing.

In this podcast, learn how marketing automation can help utilize expensive sales resources more cost-effectively, and find out why most companies are still at the early stages of defining best practice for using such technologies.

Listen to or download the 7:53 minute podcast below:

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PW: Mike, you're the author of a book, ProSultative Selling, which we recently ran an excerpt of as part of ebizQ's coverage of the Connected Web. What is the theme of the book and what made you decide to write it?

MP: The theme of the book is that consultative selling — the typical enterprise sales process — is becoming a thing of the past. And, frankly, I think it is something that really should have been a thing of the past, because when I --

So Mike, what was wrong with it?

Some very highly paid people were doing some very repetitive tasks — which I think we now in marketing refer to as nurturing — where back in my day, when I first started doing it, it was just called selling: which was calling people, following up with sending them collateral, making them aware of events. Some demand generation that really should have been automated, really should have done by the marketing department, but really got done by the consultative salesperson, which wasn't very good use of their time.


So the principle is moving those pieces of demand generation away from the consultative salesperson, away from the very expensive resource, and moving it to an automated process so your consultative [salespeople] — an enterprise sales team — really only work on qualified opportunities.

Right, okay. So really, in the past we were using these highly paid salespeople to do things that was a waste of their time and the company's money for them to actually be putting that time into.

Exactly right.

And perhaps they were not necessarily best qualified to do those activities either.

Well, that's a very nice point. One of the things that I always used to observe when I attended club trips or achievers trips, was it was always the same 10, maybe 15% of people that were on the same trips, which meant that what you would not — what was not happening was, the best practices of those people that were successful salespeople were not being replicated across the team.

And I think that's a very good point, which is those people that were good at that demand generation were not necessarily well trained in the next piece of the sales process or maybe in the closing part of the process. But certain people were very good at that, but very bad at demand generation. So you should really be putting demand generation in the hands of experts and then also having the selling and then the closing of the sales process in the hands of other people specialized in that.

Right. And I gather that the theme of the book — and also the mission of your company, MarketBright — is really around the fact that the web and modern technology allows us to separate out those roles and put the lead nurturing in the hands of people that are better qualified to do it and can do it in a more efficient way.

That's exactly right.

Right. And so — what sort of thing does MarketBright do, then, that helps companies support this particular selling process?

Well, what MarketBright does is to automate all of the different touch points that you might have in order to get somebody to become a qualified lead. So the things that you might be doing are the very obvious things, like e-mail marketing, direct mail, but also things like events, webinars, Google, potentially social media if you're using things like Twitter or things like LinkedIn to generate demand.

But then also integrating that with sales applications in a Web 2.0 world such as Salesforce.com, or other applications where you can hold all the interaction with the prospect in one place. So potentially saying, well, we're going to send them six emails, and if at any point during those emails they choose to jump onto a webinar, we'll move them up to a webinar, and maybe our next step after a webinar is to touch them with telesales. Well, all of that should be automated and integrated, so you can have an end-to-end view of each prospect — and also learn which things are working for which types of prospects, and then obviously repeat that so you can replicate best practices.

Right, right, so it's really making sure that you've got a joined-up process, and using automation and a single customer record — or a single version of the truth, certain people tend to call it — so that it's all co-ordinated sensibly. And I think people sometimes talk about this as Sales 2.0 don't they?

I think they do. My feeling for Sales 2.0 — and one of the reasons when I was writing the book, I considered calling it Sales 2.0 — but I feel — wrapping it within that wrapper of Sales 2.0. But I think the trouble with Sales 2.0 is, it's very focused on just the sales part of the process. And to me, the very highest level of what consultative selling is about, is about pulling sales and marketing together.

I know we talk about this all the time. Everybody is always talking about how sales and marketing should work together, but I honestly don't see that on a day-to-day basis. I think when we just talk about Sales 2.0, we end up just focusing on the sales team. We need to engage the marketing team fully at every part of the sales process, all the way through to the close as well, so they understand what's working and what's not and why.

And this use of automation, and this use of technology — is this something which is very prevalent now or do most companies still need to catch up with it?

I think most companies do need to catch up with it. We're seeing the same sort of adoption that I saw with CRM tools — initially the first pass in the late '90s with products like Siebel and then again, really in 2002, 2003, when they first started to adopt Salesforce.

But I think what you see is, there's a time delay between the purchase and acquisition of those products and the actual implementation of them. It takes a while to understand what they actually do and then how to do them. So we're seeing that early adoption now of people buying the technology, using nurturing in concept. But think in practice we're still in the very early stages of understanding what works.

One of the questions I'm very often asked is what's the best practice? And my answer is always, well, it depends what you're selling to who, at what price point, in what geography, and what vertical. Because if every company is different, which one assumes it is, then your nurturing process is likely to be different, depending upon, do you have a large base of customers or, is it a new product in a new market? So I think we're still at that early stage of trying to find out what works and what doesn't for every individual company.

Right. And I suppose therefore actually hooking up with vendors that understand the space and also probably getting into communities where you can exchange ideas with other people doing similar things is a very good idea, at this stage of adoption and definition of best practice.

I agree. I think sharing in terms of principles; but then my thorough recommendation every time I'm talking to a client is, it's very important to be looking at your own processes, and your own products, and your own price points, and your own sales process. Because everyone has their own route to market. And therefore if you're a very partner-centric model, something that works for a direct sales model is very unlikely to work for you in terms of a nurturing approach and in terms of a selling approach. So it's very important to be looking at each individual case.

Phil Wainewright blogs about how businesses are using the Web to get better plugged into today's fast-moving, digital economy.

Phil Wainewright

Phil Wainewright specializes in on-demand services View more

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