Improve your sales process with an integrated marketing platform

Winning new business doesn’t stop after Internet lead generation. Your sales employees need to proactively manage the buyer’s journey without being intrusive. Many issues can stem from having an internal sales process that doesn’t align with the buyer’s journey. An integrated marketing platform gives you better visibility into leads’ actions so you can map your processes to buyers’ needs for better results.

Part of the issue in the disparity between sales representatives and key decision-makers is because sales organizations view the process as strictly linear, according to a post for Salesforce’s blog written by Anthony Iannarino. His analogy is that the sales process is more like following turn-by-turn directions on a GPS, but as anyone who has ever tried to drive somewhere new with one of these devices knows, the guidance isn’t infallible. It’s easy to take a wrong turn and end up completely lost. In addition, salespeople often get lost right at the moment when they need clear direction, increasing the chances that the deal won’t come to fruition. This process is even more challenging when sales reps don’t have reliable access to data about leads.

Even if you think of the sales process as linear, it probably isn’t anyway. While there are often steps that many leads take, some prospects may be different. The B2B sales cycle is getting more complex all the time. Your sales team can’t approach all prospects in the same manner. For example, it’s highly unlikely that you have only one target. While you may only focus on companies in one industry, individual buyers will vary. In some businesses, lower or mid-level employees are tasked with researching solutions and passing the information along to executives. In other firms, higher-level decision-makers may do some preliminary research and pass it along to stakeholder teams to evaluate and narrow it down to a few vendors. Having accurate information about leads can help sales teams take the right approach.

Considerations for your sales process

Ensuring that every employee is following the same map for the sales process can be a major challenge for managers. However, a unified sales process can actually work against you at times, Mark Hunter wrote in a separate post for Salesforce. While data is important for making decisions about the sales process, benchmarking can lead to inaccurate notions about averages. Sales managers should focus on numbers that are far from the average because these can be more telling and may help them catch a problem before it gets out of control.

In addition, managers need to assess the information sales reps are sharing with prospects. Could leads find this content themselves on the Internet? If the answer is yes, your sales team isn’t delivering an engaging experience for potential customers and they may end up selecting a vendor that provides this. The best salespeople offer more value to prospects that they wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else.

One of the most important questions sales managers need to ask themselves is whether the length of the sales cycle is decreasing over time. If the time between lead generation and closing the deal is increasing, there may be an underlying problem. While buyers have been taking more time to do research and arrive at a decision in the past few years, this is only one variable, according to Hunter. If there aren’t any performance issues on the team and the time to close is still lengthening, it may be time to consider implementing marketing technology to streamline some of these issues.

Sales and marketing alignment plays a role in mapping the process

Sales and marketing departments typically approach the buyer’s journey differently, but these two teams need to get on the same page to make a more compelling experience for potential customers. Sales employees obviously have an agenda, but they need to account for buyers’ needs and emotional connections to your brand. Marketers are often skilled at creating content that guides leads through the sales cycle, but sales reps may have better knowledge about prospects on a personal level. Collaboration between these two departments can ensure your company produces better, more relevant content that resonates with buyers.

An integrated marketing environment can enable these teams to work together harmoniously because they will have access to a shared set of data. Because it isn’t always easy to maintain an accurate map of the buyer’s journey, sales and marketing employees need to take a more creative approach to reaching prospects. Relevant, engaging content can move the sale along. In some cases, it may work to have specific marketing materials sales reps share with potential customers that are not available on your website. An integrated marketing platform can help sales organizations manage these challenges.