The expansion of a small business relies on several factors. One of them is an effective and focused marketing strategy that can be aligned with an informed and engaged sales team, nurturing potential customers around their most priced posession: their knowledge.
- You are an established startup, and you are working on your consolidation and expansion.
- You believe your marketing efforts are great, but your sales representatives are not making the cut.
Sales teams from incumbent companies have several perks:
- They have a bigger sales budget.
- They have a large sales team.
- Their brand precedes them.
Dharmesh Shah, founder, and CTO of HubSpot and author of On Startups: Advice and Insights for Entrepreneurs, noted:
"Don't try to outspend the incumbent. Startups need to find marketing that gives you leverage."
Once a company has ended their startup process, many times they’re left on their own to grow. In Chile, one of the main barriers to entrepreneurship and innovation, according to CORFO, is the support for marketing and sales.
It’s a struggle to keep heads above water and grow from the second stage of our business growth, exploring new markets and eventually expanding abroad. During the launch of CORFO and Startup-Chile’s follow- up fund, Scale, Desiree Grinspun, an entrepreneur who adjudicated a startup fund, told La Tercera that “when you’re done with your startup stage, and you have to consolidate a company, in this second period, generally, there are no funds. They are scarce, and this is the phase in which a project lives or dies, and why it is relevant to create funds such as this one”.
According to HubSpot’s Lindsay Kolowich, “trying to get found as a startup is no easy task. Not many people know your business, your team is small, and you're working tirelessly to get your brand's name out there.”
This can have disastrous consequences. The website Emprendedores.cl cites that 80% of SMEs fail before they reach 5 years. Among the issues that led to these numbers, there are is series of sales problems due to:
- Resistance to comply with customer preferences
- Lack of focus in segments or market niches that are precise
- Inexistence of formal marketing and sales plans
- Lack of systems to detect market opportunities
- Deficient qualification of the sales network
- Lack of knowledge of what is sold and who it is sold to
- Ignoring the customer
- Ignoring the competition
- Unawareness of competitive advantages
- And more
Marketing and prospecting, an up and coming challenge
According to HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2015, “Prospecting is the most difficult step of the sales process. This issue is compounded by the fact that salespeople lack vital information before they reach out to leads”.
According to the study, “executive buyers are not very trusting of salespeople. To regain credibility among executives, salespeople should arm themselves with content and become active on social networks.”
We´re clear, most companies’ top sales priority is closing more deals, while improving the efficiency of the marketing and sales funnel. However, a pitching with no context is often a very dangerous strategy.
So, don’t blame sales. It’s a two-way communication process.
In the Technology Innovation Management Review article “A Sales Execution Strategy Guide for Technology Startups”, by Ian Gilbert and Stephen Davies, the authors conclude:
“Typically, startup organizations will “take a product to market” focusing on the technology with no attention paid to the actual execution of sales. Therefore, traditional product commercialization efforts often amount to little more than a ´build it and they will come' approach to growth, which is about as effective as one would expect. Consequently, many companies are only modestly successful in their early growth efforts and seek structured external funding before fully exploring the opportunities afforded by their selling model.”
“Startup operations are focused on feature development, not on scaling sales. (…) This demands a fundamental mind-shift so that the operations side of the business can better support the efforts of the sales team”.
New value proposals- especially in the area of technology or Software as a Service (SaaS) needs to expand its client base after its initial startup, where it found resonation from their peers (other innovators) and those customers with an "early adoption profile", willing to try new products before the mainstream market.
The authors call executives, among other things, to:
- Structure the company operations to enable quick and rapid scaling to support the sales team.
- Develop a sales execution strategy that matches a value proposition to the early majority.
- Roll out the sales execution strategy using real metrics that are appropriate to the particular market.
- Utilize effective technology to support the sales execution process.
- Engage only in marketing activities that directly generate qualified leads.
Marketing & Sales: Why can’t we be friends?
According to HubSpot's State of Inbound:
- 87% of the terms sales & marketing use to describe each other are negative
- Sales states that “Marketing leads are terrible ”
- Marketing states that “sales doesn’t work our leads.”
- Companies with strong marketing & sales alignment get 20% annual revenue growth.
With inbound marketing - and now, Inbound Sales- we can address the facts: the power in the buying and selling process has shifted from the seller to the buyer, and sales can be part of the process. It is highly possible that, before your sales team even picks up the phone to offer a solution to a prospective customer, the person already has undertaken a thorough market and options research for their solution.
According to HubSpot, “if the salesperson cannot add value beyond the information the buyer can find on their own, the buyer has no reason to engage with the salesperson”.
Nowadays, customers have gone through an extensive process denominated The Buyer’s Journey, before deciding for a product or service:
Buyers identify a challenge they are experiencing or an opportunity they want to pursue.
Buyers have clearly defined the goal or challenge and have committed to addressing it.
Buyers have already decided on a solution category and one that best meets their needs.
How do we work together, then?
If a company fails to understand how potential customers go around looking for their product, it is hard to pitch. That it’s why it is essential to building a sales process that supports this buyer journey, so that sales representatives and customer feel they aligned, rather than at odds.
However, companies, whatever their size, need marketing & sales alignment in terms of:
- Common and visible organizational goals.
- Linking the marketing pipeline to sales quotas
- Closed-loop reporting
- Open communication.
This implies a stream of mutual communication in a more developed marketing/sales funnel where both parties nurture each other with information that can help the sales process and improve the marketing efforts.
With automated advertising systems such as Google Adwords, a company can actually acquire more visitors to their website. However, there are several problems:
- When a campaign ends, the number of visits drop.
- You did not earn those visits because of your expertise, (and your visitors know it)
- You’ve got visitors, not leads. To secure return on investment (ROI), they must convert into your website and begin receiving further information from you, which requires an extensive work of lead nurturing from marketing and sales representatives.
Your team is reduced, so you must focus on quality instead of quantity. Marketing officials must communicate with sales counterparts in closed loop reporting and lead qualification. That way, your team focuses their efforts on the best fit for your company.
Benefits for Marketing
- Get up-to-date contact info and status updates
- Learn which marketing programs are working and which aren’t
- Increase Marketing ROI
Benefits for Sales
- De-duplicate leads
- Help prioritize leads
- Help make warmer calls
- Increase close rate and Sales ROI
Does your company face alignment issues between marketing and sales? How are you dealing with them?