5 tactical reasons your sales strategy just isn't working anymore
By Chris Marr
As IMPACT partner Marcus Sheridan likes to say, “We are all in the business of trust.”
All companies need sales to survive, but without trust and buyer confidence, it’s impossible to build long-term relationships and close sales. Trust is also the one thing that’s impossible to fake. You either have the trust of your ideal buyers or you don't — there is no middle ground.
🔎 Related: Why trust is the true currency for all businesses
That's why your sales strategy has to be built on a foundation of honesty and authenticity in order to be successful. So, if you're finding that your sales strategy isn't working, a lack of trust is likely at the root of the issue.
But let’s dig deeper.
There could be a few reasons your sales team is struggling to close the sale, but here are five of the most common:
- You are not creating content around The Big 5.
- You are not using sales enablement content throughout the process — hint: assignment selling is the key here.
- You are not using personalized video in your sales process.
- Your sales team are not getting access to the decision-makers.
- Your sales and marketing teams aren’t working together.
Let’s discuss each of these in greater detail.
1. You are not creating “The Big 5” content
Before we talk about what The Big 5, we need to take a step back and ensure we are on the same page about the purpose of content and how it should be helping sales teams.
Traditionally, a content marketing is thought of as a marketing strategy. When done correctly, however, the right content strategy will drive more qualified leads and empower you to close more deals faster.
In short, your content strategy really should be thought of as a sales initiative — and the data supports this. For example, organizations with a content strategy achieve a 27.1% higher win rate than those without one. This is because the way people purchase has fundamentally shifted in the last decade.
Ten years ago, if you wanted to buy something, you would likely go into a store and speak to a sales representative face to face, but now, 81% of B2B purchase cycles start with web search and over 90% will contact you only when they are ready.
With all of this in mind, it’s estimated that over 70% of a buying decision is already made before a prospect contacts a company.
In other words, buyers are researching their options independently. They don’t want to be sold to. They want to learn and deliberate on their own. Creating content is how you can ensure you’re still guiding the conversation.
Here at IMPACT we’ve helped hundreds of companies across the world double (or even triple) their annual revenue and sales by implementing Marcus’ digital marketing strategy, They Ask, You Answer.
They Ask, You Answer is an inbound business philosophy characterized by an obsession with your customer and answering their questions that they may have about your product or service in an open and honest manner.
This means the questions they have and research when they’re considering a purchase; the ones that used to be handled person to person by sales reps.
📚 Buy the book: They Ask, You Answer, Second Edition
Consistently, we’ve found that there are five categories of questions that people search for when looking to make a major purchase. We call these major topics The Big 5, and they routinely drive the most leads, traffic, and sales across all industries. They are:
- How much does it cost? (cost/price)
- Which are the best options? (best in class)
- How does this option compare to others in its class? (comparison)
- What are some of the problems with this solution/product? (problem)
- Are there reviews of this product/company? (review)
We know that 81% of people start their purchase journey with a web search. So, by creating content around these five topic areas, you are ensuring that your products or services can be found by your customers in the research phase.
Showing up in the research phase builds trust, and gives your company the opportunity to be considered as an option.
If you are not creating content, you will not show up in the research phase, and the chances are when it comes time to contact companies, you will not be on that list, and your sales will reflect this.
Creating content will also give your sales team content to share personally with prospects in order to build trust and answer any questions throughout the sales process.
2. You are not using content in your sales process — hint: assignment selling is key!
Now, it’s a mistake to assume that content can only be used to build awareness.
Inbound marketing is a powerful tool that can be used to generate leads, but it can also be used to help move prospects through the buying process, increase conversions AND shorten the sales process.
Imagine you could increase your closing rate from 25% to 80%. What kind of difference would that make to your sales and revenue?
That’s what Marcus did when he started to use content in the sales process at his company River Pools & Spas.
You see, when Marcus started to track the way website visitors were interacting with the company website, he noticed one number in particular stood out.
That number was 30.
When potential customers requested a sales call viewed and read 30 pages or more, there was a closing rate of 80%.
In comparison, potential customers that had requested a sales call and read less than 30 pages had a closing rate of 25%.
The only difference between these two groups was that latter was consuming content in the consideration phase of the purchase.
This led him to develop a process known as assignment selling.
This is when the sales team puts the educational content that you are already creating directly in the hands of prospects They use this content to address and resolve questions that may have ahead of the sales appointments.
You are essentially giving your prospects homework, building trust and if necessary allowing any “bad fit’ leads to disqualify themselves before you take time to speak to them.
🔎 Related: 5 real-life examples of assignment selling in action
We already know that 70% of the buying decision is made before a prospect gets in touch with your organization so, when people want to speak to your sales team, they are probably serious, bottom-of-the-funnel leads.
Building and maintaining trust is even more important in this decision-making stage than ever.
You need to ensure your prospect has all the information they need to help them make an informed decision about your product and service.
Failing to use content at this stage can be detrimental to your sales strategy. Content can increase consumer knowledge and build more trust, resulting in an increase in conversions, ultimately improving your sales strategy.
3. You are not using personalized video in your sales process
The average salesperson spends 36% of their time communicating via phone and email, and I’ve no doubt that, as remote working increases in a COVID-19 era, this will increase.
While this is great in many respects as it allows your sales team to close deals remotely, it can also result in removing the personality and personalization from the sales process. This makes ghosting and no-shows that little bit easier, leading to reduced sales.
This is why not using personalized video in your sales process is a mistake.
🔎 Related: Why video is a must-have sales tool
IMPACT’s video for sales expert Myriah Anderson likes to say, “Video isn’t just a tool for marketers anymore.”
Remember, we’re all in the business of trust and there is no quicker way to build trust online than to use video. Ninety-three percent of all communication is nonverbal. That means without video, we are operating at only 7% of our communicating capacity.
Video increases our communication capacity to 100%, as we are seen and heard, and this automatically increases trust.
It’s been shown that video can have a monumental impact on email click-throughs and response rates as well, with a 500% increase in open rates. It can also triple response rates and increase booking by up to 500%.
And I know what you are thinking: “How can my sales team possibly scale personalized video?”
It doesn’t need to be a time consuming process. In fact, the whole point is that the videos are off the cuff, and authentic, allowing you to connect on a human-to-human level with your prospect.
With a tool such as Vidyard, which we use here at IMPACT, it can be as simple as hitting a record button and then sending.
There is also a time and place for personalized video, for example, if you are in the process of closing a deal or want to send follow up questions following a call.
The average retention of a personalized video is up to 35% higher than non-personalized videos.
You can use video at multiple stages of the sales process to help build trust and increase conversion:
- Sales-to-service hand-off
The question is, with all these benefits why is your team not using video to help close sales?
🔎 Related: How to use personalized video at every stage in the sales process
4. Your sales team are not speaking to the decision-makers
The traditional sales and marketing model casts a wide net in order to generate as many leads as possible. These leads are then nurtured, with the aim of converting as many as possible into customers.
The assumption in this scenario is an increase in leads will lead to an increase in conversion, but the problem is that’s not necessarily true.
In fact, research from Forrester suggests that over 99% of leads never become customers. Your sales team needs to speak to qualified decision makers in order to successfully close deals. This is where account-based marketing can come into play.
Account-based marketing flips the classic sales and marketing funnel on its head and directly targets the “qualified leads.” It is a more personalized and direct communication approach targeted towards B2B industries with longer sales cycles.
🔎 Related: Can account-based marketing and inbound marketing work together?
It starts with identifying the businesses you want to work with and that have the potential to bring the biggest revenue to your business. You then need to figure out who the key decision maker on that team is, and directly target them in order to make the sale.
“Account-based marketing: A focused approach to B2B marketing in which marketing and sales teams work together to target best-fit accounts and turn them into customers.” - Terminus
Account-based marketing is often equated to “fishing with spears,” treating the customer as a market of one rather than targeting a wide demographic like inbound and “fishing with nets.”
This sales approach can ensure that you are targeting the people within the organizations that you want to work with, that are able to make the decisions, and thus increases the chances of being able to close the sale.
There is no point in your sales team speaking to people who don’t have the final say, and account-based marketing eradicates this problem.
🔍 Related: 5 most common challenges with B2B account-based marketing
5. Your sales and marketing teams are not working together
A tightly aligned sales and marketing team has the power to increase revenue and sales.
An organization where the sales and marketing team effectively collaborate are 67% better at closing deals, can increase revenue by 209% and have 36% higher customer retention rates.
Unfortunately, many organizations struggle to get their sales and marketing teams to work together, even although they both have the same overall goal — lead generation and revenue.
This lack of alignment can be rooted in misconceptions around the roles that each department plays.
Traditionally sales was a commission driven role, and there is a perception that they will do anything in order to close a sale, but, today, the role of sales is very different.
It is a solution-based role, primarily focused on solving the customers’ problem. So, in order to have a successful sales strategy, you need to address the buyer’s pain and offer a solution that will address that pain point.
If these pain points are not successfully communicated between the sales and marketing teams this could lead to a breakdown and ultimately a failure to close sales.
On the flip side of this rivalry, sales teams often thinks that marketing is not invested in generating leads.
In fact, 15% of salespeople say they need more leads from their marketers while23% say they need “better quality leads. This doesn’t mean marketing isn't doing their jobs, though. It comes down to a miscommunication between sales and marketing.
Your sales team speaks to your customers every day. They are intimately acquainted with the issues they face, and the solutions that your organization can provide.
They know what questions customers are asking, and what questions your organization needs to address in order to obtain their trust, and eventually their business.
But, your marketing team, understandably, might not have the same detailed first-hand experience with your ideal customers and their problems.
If the marketing team is left to create content and campaigns in isolation, then it’s likely that they will attract the wrong type of lead. Not due to a mistake, but because they do not have the full picture.
Integrating lead qualification into your sales and marketing process is an effective way of tackling this problem and will help ensure the marketing team is targeting relevant and qualified leads. This usually starts with sales and marketing outlining agreed criteria what for a qualified lead looks and behaves like.
This often includes factors such as:
- Total pages viewed
- First page viewed
- Number of downloads
- Forms completed
- Campaigns engaged in
- Engagement in free trial
- Discovery call requested
- Emails received, opened, and click-through rate (CTR)
- Total contacts from a single organization
Ultimately, sales and marketing alignment also requires open communication, and a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of each team.
Organizations with a service-level agreement (SLA) between the marketing and sales department are three times more likely to effectively work together. This will give each team the confidence to hold themselves and others accountable and facilitate alignment.
These are just some of the things that should be included in a service-level agreement:
- Individual responsibility and expectations for each team member
- Frequency of team meetings, set agendas, and talking points
- An agreement of criteria for qualified leads across the products and services we offer
- The process of communication between departments for marketing campaigns, and how sales will be involved
- What the sales team needs to know from marketing, and vice versa
- Agreed time frame on communication - what are the expectations in responding to requests from each other.
- How success will be measured - agreed metrics and KPIs
If there is no communication or agreement between the marketing and sales team, then it is likely that they will struggle to work together, and this will likely cause your sales strategy to fail.
🔍 Related: What is the #1 thing sales people get wrong about marketing?
How to fix your sales strategy in 2020
I started off by saying that a successful sales strategy is embedded in trust and ultimately, if your sales strategy isn’t working — it likely comes down to a failure to build trust with your prospects in this new digital age.
Cold calling and pitching are no longer effective ways of doing that in 2020.
Your prospects are hyper-aware of the marketplace. They are more keen to old sales strategies and rather independently research the product or service before ever getting in touch. They don’t want to be sold to.
Creating written and video content and embedding it strategically throughout your sales process is at the core of generating leads, building trust, and increasing sales.
If your current sales strategy isn’t working, take a hard look at your tactics and see if any of these five deadly sins may be at the root of your problems.
Ultimately, the key to building trust and increasing sales is to allow your prospects the autonomy to educate themselves and make their own decisions. You just need to help them along that journey.
Wondering where to begin?