The continued importance of the sales representative

Much has been made about the rise of marketing technology and how it may come to replace traditional sales processes. However, the sales representatives are still instrumental in converting prospects and closing deals. While an integrated marketing platform can make your sales team more effective and streamline their workloads, technology isn’t a complete substitute for human interaction.

Before the Internet, buyers got most of their information directly from sales representatives who nurtured prospects through phone calls. However, that has all changed in a relatively short amount of time. Content marketing has been all the rage in the B2B sales world for the past few years, which has cemented the notion that sales employees are being phased out. A number of studies have revealed that buyers increasingly contact a salesperson later in their journeys. This is largely because businesses are providing content that allows decision-makers to make an educated choice. But sales employees still play a crucial role in guiding the buyer’s journey, according to an article for Salesforce written by Joanne Black.

Modern buyers aren’t skipping their research. In fact, 86 percent of B2B decision-makers conduct independent searches for information outside of the traditional sales cycle. It’s unlikely that a prospect will contact you without scoping out your website first. This also means leads are aware of your competitors’ offerings. If your employees aren’t proactively managing the buyer’s journey, you could easily be losing business, which is detrimental for small, growing firms.

Address your readers as real people

Content is one of the best ways to increase traffic to your website, allowing you to attract prospects who aren’t ready to directly engage with a salesperson. While it isn’t the newest Internet marketing method, many B2B companies still struggle to get it right. When this tactic first originated, the writing was largely driven by the best practices of search engine optimization. However, SEO has changed dramatically in the past few years, and firms that write content strictly for search engines risk alienating prospects and dropping in the rankings. For example, Google’s latest algorithm, Hummingbird, places the emphasis on delivering value to readers over keyword density, which is a major transition for marketing professionals.

Because of Hummingbird, you need to create marketing materials for actual people, not search engine crawlers, Zak Jacobs wrote for Business 2 Community. It’s important to know your target audience. What are their pain points? What can your solution do for them? Your sales team probably has a firm understanding of this information, which means they can provide insights to your marketing team to get content right. Most B2B buyers consult content on brand websites before reaching out to a sales rep, and high-quality content can keep prospects coming back. If a potential lead visits your site for the first time and finds poorly written content, it’s unlikely that he or she will continue to consult your blog during the decision-making process.

Technology can’t close the deal for you

With complex, expensive B2B products, buyers aren’t going to a commit to a decision until they have extensively researched and weighed their options. Although marketing technology can help you create and disseminate content, it can’t close the deal for you. However, your sales team needs to be actively engaged in monitoring the sales process or reps could miss a crucial piece of information that would help them win the customer. If your sales employees aren’t involved throughout the cycle, it could impact their ability to close deals.

There are a number of reasons why prospects choose not to convert, according to an article for Intero written by Colleen McKenna. An interested buyer may not have the executive approval or budget to make the final call. Prospects may not understand what your product would actually do for them. An integrated marketing environment can give you better insight into these issues, allowing your sales employees to refine their approach. This data also helps you create more relevant marketing materials that deliver value for prospects, which is a valuable addition to lead-nurturing campaigns.

Although technology has streamlined many aspects of life, it is making the B2B sales cycle more complex. Sales teams are still highly necessary for driving revenue growth, but your employees need the right tools in place to get better visibility into the buyer’s journey. An integrated marketing environment gives your sales reps actionable data. This helps them make the right connections with prospects, boosting sales effectiveness. Despite all the online information readily accessible to buyers, they still want human interaction. Business is increasingly becoming more customer-centric, which means that salespeople need to put more focus on building the relationship with prospects to win contracts. An integrated marketing platform eliminates many repetitive tasks that prevent sales professionals from having real conversations with leads.

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