As a business owner, you are expected to make the decisions, call the shots and be the all-round entrepreneur. Try as you may to employ experienced sales professionals who will take your business to new heights, they never seem to cut it. No more so than in new business development. Agreed, they all make the right noises, but collectively, they never really move the needle.
New business is as hard to obtain now, as it was thirty years ago. Even with all the most amazing digital technology available at our fingertips, you still haven’t got the motor yacht in the Med. And there’s a good reason for the lack of success or profitability and it’s surmountable, but first it needs you, as CEO or Managing Director to rethink how your business is set up and be open to the possibilities of Digital Selling - and before we get started, it will both reduce your overheads and significantly increase your exposure and turnover, even if it does mean loosing or 're-deploying' certain members of staff.
To begin with I want to start off reviewing sales and marketing: -
Sales: a process by which black books and previous business relationships are desirous, despite non-compete clauses in contracts of employment. Where marketing provides little or no decent leads, and the business expects salespeople to achieve their targets, because that’s why they’re paid such high basic salaries.
Marketing: a process by which scant/minimal content is created for prospects and any existing content is hidden behind an email form, euphemistically called 'demand generation', which, when completed constitutes a marketing qualified lead and with some additional lead scoring becomes a sales qualified lead and handed off to sales.
Combined, the above processes are based upon a one-to-one engagement strategy, with the expectation to track a prospect from cradle to grave and thereby achieve a monitoring and management practice that quantifies marketing as it does for sales.
This has been the same process for sales since the 1950’s. It’s not changed because sales have not changed. Even with expectation of digital marketing, no one has demonstrated consistent and repeatable success.
There is also some confusion when it comes to deciding what digital marketing is and the role of a digital marketing company and the difference, if any, to what a digital consultant does.
And then there’s all the different titles; digital marketing, digital consultant, digital sales consulting, digital B2B sales consultants, digital transformation, digital marketing transformation, digital strategy consulting and digital sales and marketing transformation, I mean the list goes on.
Over the past ten to fifteen years, the word digital has simply become just another word for marketing and therefore, nothing special! Can we be completely honest here? Marketers are only seen as the next level up from office administrators and come in marginally before the accounts department and then you have the sales team.
Some background: Before 2000 marketing was aligned with advertising. There was a popular title used, called ‘The Sales and Marketing Director, but the marketing bit only consisted of doing the odd mailshot and agreeing on some corporate colours.
The Internet spawned the digital age and with it, a host of new skills were required. The sales and marketing director wasn't going to learn it, and neither were the creatives in advertising, so it fell to the group who are considered an extension of the managing directors’ creativity i.e., the marketing admin team.
Over the next ten years the marketing admin team produced mainly websites and email spam and then by 2010, marketing automation arrived that integrated with landing page software became available which, combined with Google pay-per-click, revolutionised the whole marketing industry.
Marketing automation platforms such as Marketo, Eloqua and Pardot became ubiquitous. Big tech convinced CMOs it was the Holy Grail of marketing, who in turn convinced CEOs to invest.
The problem was not realised at first, but eventually although vendors believed automation was a good plan, but it was not welcomed by business owners/buyers. As we all know, before the Internet, business was obtained by cold calling starting with a cold, unannounced visit to an office to gather information, followed by telephoning to get an appointment. Business owners soon realised this was the case with filling out online forms.
On the face of it, marketing automation sounds or looks fine; however, we've all become aware of the tactic. As soon as the document is downloaded, we unsubscribe. But sometimes we're still cold called, this is described as a soft follow up, yes really! This is no different than collecting complement slips and telephoning to get an appointment. We have not moved on since the 1950s.
The bottom line, marketing automation platforms are great for business to consumer, but not for business to business. People are happy to engage with their preferred brands but not anything that's strictly business. This is because people are eager to say that they look good in something like a pair of trainers or a tracksuit, but you can't look good in software!
Furthermore, deciding to buy a pair of trainers is completely different to buying a business-related product, software or service that potentially could cost thousands.
Businesses buy to make an ROI and increase profitability. Consumers buy for personal reasons; therefore, the strategies cannot be the same for both.
All marketing automation platforms did, was to automate the above. Now, a business has to use Google for pay-per-click, to drive traffic to a landing page, following the agreed construct i.e., hero image or video, a short description, a few bullet points followed by some customer testimonials, and their logos, and for all above to appear above the fold or visible above the bottom of the screen, and then there’s the sign-up form. And if it didn’t work, the A/B split test it or better still, if you had the technology, use multi-variate testing (MVT).
Most would agree straight off, the current digital B2B strategies don't work, they never did, which is why every business reverts to cold calling. To further support this statement, you only have to look at the general business failure rate, then the investment failure rate and finally the average turnover per person per annum, which is on average £100k per person per annum for businesses up to about 20 staff and it rises up to £168k per person random for businesses turning over £5m or more.
It is crystal clear: Business to business organisations cannot successfully and consistently achieve more than £100k to £150k per person per annum because the stuck in the mindset of one-to-one selling and as you are aware, there are more businesses at the bottom of the pyramid then at the top – and that’s a lot of businesses.
Business growth cannot be achieved at scale, even if you do have a superstar salesman. If every other moving part of your sales process is dependent on a person, then your hopes of business growth/expansion will be dashed.
Some business owners are happy with their lot. They’re okay with earning a minimum and they are also happy cracking the whip with a bunch of telesales and salespeople. On one hand it all looks quite impressive, and a feat of management expertise exemplified. But scratch the surface and you start to wonder when they promote their series E, F, G round funding. I just think, “when are they going to make profit?”.
Lest we forget, not every investor expects their protégés to make them a fortune, far from it. The odd unicorn here and there never hurt anyone, but consider this:
40% of all invested business fail
75% of all invested business fail to achieve their own targets
95% of all business fail to achieve an ROI for the investors
Source: Harvard Business Review
For many, it’s not the running of the business and profitability that counts, it’s the kudos of raising the money in the first place – hence pitch decks being freely available online.
At £100k per person per annum and a 30% margin, even 50% margin means no one’s making much cash to reinvest. You only have to read the desperate job descriptions for superstar magician marketers who are expected to have experience growing a business from a million to 50 million ARR and then they will receive the handsome salary of £60k to £80k a year and perhaps a bonus! Yes, seriously I read that one personally.
When everyone is doing the same thing, it is very difficult to even think there's an alternative. Even more so as a business grows, the silos begin to appear and the entrepreneurial spirit that may have existed in some employees fizzles out.
Digital selling is not about some new SaaS or PaaS it's about understanding and seeing how things work and how they are interconnected. It means being aware of how you, as an individual, thinks about buying and how you react personally to new products and desires for the development of your business, then looking and how your teams apply themselves to your prospects. Difficult as it might be to hear there's a great deal of “do as I say, and not do as I do”.
The first stage is to take a step back and assess what is going on, and how each element or business unit within your organisation is working. It is probable that the individuals within sales and marketing believe implicitly they’re doing the right thing for the business and can't conceive new business development strategies, possibly because they think that’s your job?
The basic tenant of digital selling is to transpose your business to online and on-demand, thereby negating the need for direct human-to-human conversation. Yes, I know people buy people, but only when it suits the buyer, not the salesman.
Dating back to 2016, LinkedIn posted that digital selling was about salespeople using CRM, social media and a variety of digital tools to keep front and centre of their prospects. This is no different than pestering prospects or waving a flag in front of them. It does not constitute engagement.
As you begin to work through this business psychology, you'll start to see people and processes shifting. It is something unusual because we've all heard of digital transformation, but something like 60 to 80% of these projects fail. In my opinion, because the highly intelligent computer and digital experts from large consulting firms are detached from the actual behaviour of people and the real objective of the business, making enough money to stay in business.
Digital transformation is supposed to be about customer experience (CX), and the process needs to start with the primary question of who the customer is?
Customers are prospects
Customers are existing clients who keep the business afloat
Customers are your employees who engage with the above
Digital transformation consultants need to be consummate business development reps (BDR), sales development reps (SDR) and completely understand telesales. They also need to be one of the world's best salespeople, a digital technology guru and a business process management expert as well as a human resource is superstar. Because if they're not, this interconnected business process will fail. I guess what, it does.
I can be called a cynic. Hear me out. When marketing automation started to go south, the switched-on players from Marketo and others decided to approach the sales strategy from a different direction. They believed corralling the decision makers and presenting the relevant documentation to everyone involved and wheeling out the managing director to speak to the counterpart of the prospects, along with any other aligned CXO, seemed like a good approach, whilst maintaining the ongoing subscription payments for the marketing automation software and gate-keeping functionality of the software and CRM integration.
The trouble is, whilst it is agreed that different people have different requirements, the facts remain that the decision-making process is diluted because of the desire to buy something that will deliver an ROI. If the purchase failed, it means everyone is responsible and not just one person.
A study by https://clari.com stated that 14 stakeholders are involved in 19 meetings for a purchase value of approximately £100k. The cost and time involved potentially outweighs the possible ROI, either way, the actual cost needs to be calculated to include the 19 meeting and the salaries of the respective attendees.
Personally, I believe fear plays a part in ABM, from both the reason to implement it within a sales operation and to share the group decision-making expectation that a sales company has of its prospect.
The bottom line, if you want to change the income effectiveness of selling products or services, you have no choice but to return to the drawing board and redesign both the marketing and sales processes. Even if it does mean creating a few casualties along the way.
Since the 1950s sales has been a one-to-one exercise. Sayings like people-buy-people and, sales is a numbers game, keep being repeated to individuals who think possessing the gift of the gab or perceiving they can sell ice creams to Eskimos simply does not cut it, because the £100k per person per annum ceiling prevails.
No one can traverse the £100k pppa based upon current strategies. We have had nearly fifteen years of marketing automation and everything digital and still no one has been able to flip their business unless it is aligned with ‘big tech’. When was the last time you got cold called by Google? Their average turnover pppa is $1.5m – say no more.
Everything about digital selling and business growth is about engagement and accessibility, so forget for a minute about people and staff, imagine you have none and you want to sell your technical product, software, or service to as many people as possible, therefore you have to start with the possibilities, so where would you start?
The next stage is to connect with your 1%. The only conceivable way to achieve this is by the following:
Produce a live stream show every week with features, guests, opinions, demonstrations etc.
Obtain an email database of your total addressable market and email them once a week to inform them of your live stream show.
Upload the database to LinkedIn and/or Facebook and utilise pay-per-click banners to promote the live stream show. If a faction of 1% attend every week, this will exceed the performance of BDR’s and telesales at a fraction of the cost.
The above is not commonplace, because sales and marketing teams want to keep their jobs and wouldn’t want to rock the boat. Marketing wants to keep doing as they’re told, and sales have become used to receiving leads. The experienced one’s don’t do the cold calling anymore, BDR’s and SDR’s do that. So, when the figures are down, they can play the ‘blame-game’. But don't be too hard on them, they’re not the entrepreneurs. You are!
This is the interesting bit. Redesigning marketing and sales will mean the reward process becomes more equitable for everyone. If everyone is responsible for the sale, then everyone can share in the rewards, as an end of year bonus perhaps.
No one element of the business community is more aware of the problems within marketing than the recruitment industry. Marketing is their bread-and-butter and don’t they know it.
The average tenure of a senior marketer s about eighteen months. The average salary is about £100k+. That’s because it takes three months to get their feet under the desk, twelve months to execute their new plan, and three months to find a new job before being fired, because the plan made no difference – yet again. And in steps the recruitment consultant (again) with new instructions from you to find someone better or at least someone who know how to make the very expensive software you paid for - work.
Only you as CEO, CFO or CXO can affect a change within your business. The facts are undeniable and everywhere, but when everyone is doing the same thing, it has become a situation akin to the Emperor’s New Clothes’.
The current agreed and common-place digital marketing strategies do not work; however, business owners and CEOs believe they have been told the truth by countless marketers that marketing automation and demand generation techniques work. They don’t and the people who are supposed to be buying or should I say being sold to are just like you and me. We don’t buy the nonsense. We know the techniques. But with so much pressure to keep doing the same, nothing changes, businesses keep failing and recruitment consultants just do as they’re told.
Digital selling is the process of using digital channels and tools to engage with and sell to prospects and customers. It involves understanding and responding to their needs, building relationships through personalized interactions, and using data to inform and improve the sales process.
Why is digital selling important?
Digital selling is important because it allows businesses to reach more prospects and customers, provide a better customer experience, and increase sales efficiency. By leveraging digital channels and tools, businesses can engage with customers where they are and provide personalized, relevant information that leads to better outcomes.
What are some common digital selling tools?
Common digital selling tools include CRM systems, social media platforms, email marketing software, sales enablement tools, and video conferencing software. These tools help businesses to connect with prospects and customers, deliver targeted messages, and track and analyze sales data to improve performance.
What are the benefits of a digital selling strategy?
A digital selling strategy can lead to increased sales and revenue, improved customer relationships and loyalty, and greater efficiency in the sales process. By leveraging digital channels and tools, businesses can engage with customers where they are, provide a personalized experience, and streamline the sales process for faster, more effective results.
How can businesses get started with digital selling?
To get started with digital selling, businesses should assess their current sales and marketing strategies, identify gaps and opportunities, and develop a plan that incorporates digital channels and tools. This may involve building a strong online presence, using social media and email marketing to engage with prospects, and leveraging data to personalize and optimize the sales process. Working with a digital selling expert or consultant can also be helpful in developing and implementing an effective strategy.
Every cloud has a silver lining. The salesXchange website is one of them. Well, I think so. There are no sign-up forms. There are videos, articles, podcasts, downloads, infographics, social media personal pages, company pages and social media groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. We’ve covered it all. We’ve even documented every stage to help you transform to B2B Digital Selling and for you to get to work on restructuring your sales and marketing.
So, it only leaves me to wish you well on your journey and to also offer you our services to assist your existing teams to get digital selling up and running as quickly as possible. So let’s have a chat on Zoom or Teams or phone to see where the best place would be to start.
Digital marketing is about providing the content your prospects are demanding before they'll speak to you. So speak to us first...
Go to our Digital Selling pages to see how you can change the way you work and scale up your business.
The author and founder of salesXchange, Nigel Maine is a B2B marketing and sales expert with a proven track record in scaling up growth for Technology, SaaS, and Professional Services organisations. With 30 years hands-on experience and unique approach, Nigel has developed an effective strategy that dramatically increases exposure and profitability for B2B organizations.