Like many fast growing companies, a recent client of mine plans to hire business development reps as their primary resource for growing sales. As an inbound marketer you might ask yourself: why was Max so excited to hear this? The answer is simple: business development reps can build a personal relationship with leads that have been generated through inbound marketing. Personal relationships are extremely important in the buying process, especially for Millennial buyers who recent studies show are most heavily influenced by vendor sales reps. Marketing doesn't build a relationship with buyers because marketers don’t speak with leads and they don’t send personal emails. Sales doesn’t do this work because they only want to speak with the folks that have asked to be sold to. Without business development reps, the inbound marketing middle men, qualified leads just sit at the top of your lead management process waiting to be plucked by your competition.
So, for your benefit I have summarized at a high level the marketing and sales activity at each stage of the lead management pipeline. Keep in mind that the role of business development reps at your organization will change based on when and how leads get handed from marketing to sales. Biz dev reps simply fill the gap.
Hang on – why is building a personal relationship so important in the sales process? I thought B2B buyers want to self-educate and not be bothered.
It is true that buyers are getting 60% through the buying process before engaging in a “sales” conversion – we have all seen those studies from Google’s ZMOT and DemandGen Report. Buyers want to be educated first. But HOW buyers prefer to be educated is changing as the next generation of B2B buyers, Millennials, take over buying roles. The changing values of Millennials and their reluctance to trust any form of advertising makes it more important than ever for your sales reps to begin personal a relationship early in the buying process.
Do yourself a favor and read this article: The real reason why Millennials buying behavior is difficult to influence.
Big takeaways from this piece and the supporting research referenced:
Google surveys report that more than half of B2B researchers are Millennials. These are the researchers that will find you FIRST.
IBM’s Institute for Business Value Millennial Survey 2014 asked B2B buyers from different generations to rank the sources of information they will most likely turn to when researching a purchase. The top answer for Millennials: VENDOR REPRESENTATIVES
It makes sense that Millennials need a more personal experience. Millennials grew up with TV and internet advertising – most of which we eventually found out were lies. We have been trained to second guess the information we find on the internet. We need a human touch to validate what we read and watch.
So, we need to re-think the definitive line between leads that marketing “owns” and leads that the sales team “owns” and recognize that the sales team (or business development reps) need to play a role at every stage of the buying process rather than patiently wait for leads to be "qualified" by the marketing team.
How has the inbound marketing process changed?
This is how I always thought of inbound marketing. Content automatically delivered from the marketing team to match the buyers' expectations and needs at each stage of the buyer’s journey. This essentially builds trust between the buyer and the brand: marketing acting as faceless representatives of the brand.
As Millennials gain influence in the B2B buying process, we need to start addressing what sales should be doing to facilitate content delivery such that trust is built up between the buyer and the sales representative. Millennials are often involved as researchers in the early stages of the buying process. So these personal relationships need to be established as early as possible.
The part of the process where leads are handed from marketing to sales (highlighted in red in the screenshot above) is where most companies have trouble. If the relationship is established between sales and the buyer – the handoff gets easier as the sales person is much more informed of the buyer’s intent to purchase, and the buyer isn’t threatened by a sudden shove into an aggressive sales process. That is a turnoff.
My recommendation is simple. Use business development reps (or your sales people if they aren’t swamped with lead volume) to build a relationship with leads through social media, personal emails and in-person events. Buyers need to know there are real people that can help them behind all that helpful content we are producing.
Make your inbound business development process idiot-proof
That’s right, tell them exactly what you want them to do on a daily basis. Make sure each rep has their own list of “leads”, “marketing qualified leads” and “sales qualified leads”. Give them an every-day checklist for establishing contact and nurturing with thought leadership content. Make sure the buyer has everything they are looking for and knows your business development or sales reps are there to help ensure the buyer is getting the information they need to make the best decision.
Participation: a key for engaging Millennial buyers
Getting that first call with the buyer is often the most difficult. How do we get the information we need as salespeople (budget, authority, need and timeline) when the buyer isn’t ready to speak with a salesperson? They are still in research mode.
Again - read that article above: The real reason why Millennials are hard to influence in the buying process. It explains why Millennials need to participate.
HINT: Millennials crave recognition and visibility.
You need to think of a creative way to allow buyers and customers to participate in your marketing process: your mission to educate a specific audience about a challenge and potential solutions, so ask yourself how your buyers can help you educate your audience...
Those of you that know me personally might know that I use an “interview approach” to engage buyers and get them to participate in my marketing process. I don’t want to post that in a blog just yet – but for anyone reading this that is struggling getting folks to participate in a discovery sales conversion, give me a call and I will be happy to share all my secrets.