If cold calls are still a key part of your sales strategy, it’s time to change that. A study by the University of North Carolina revealed that 80 percent of B2B decision makers in the United States “absolutely, positively will not buy” as the result of cold calling.
It’s not just that they don’t want to be bothered — in reality, customers today have a wealth of information at their fingertips, and they are often uninterested in discussing a product they know nothing about. That’s why traditional lead generation, in which salespeople work their way through long lists of unqualified prospects, is no longer a viable method.
In today’s digital world, generating sales and building your customer base requires something more sophisticated — it requires comprehensive demand generation, in which sales and marketing teams work together to nurture long-term, influential relationships with potential and existing customers to methodically usher them through the purchasing process.
An effective demand generation program can result in more qualified leads coming into the sales department, and it allows for a more informative exchange between salespeople and customers. It also helps companies build deeper relationships with their existing clients, which can drum up even more business.
Generate Higher Quality Leads
If you play any role in purchasing for your company, you’ve almost certainly been influenced by demand generation marketing initiatives. For example, when you consider a new software program for your department, you may start off by visiting several websites to get basic information on each software platforms’ capabilities. During that process, you might register for a white paper, sign up for a webinar, or listen to a supplier podcast. As you move through this process, a company’s marketing professional begins to monitor your activity and will often feed you additional content and materials to help you through the customer journey. At some point, the company will deem you a “marketing qualified lead” and will turn you over to its sales department for initial personal outreach.
By the time you connect with a salesperson, you’re an educated prospect: You have a good idea of what you need, and you’ve already been exposed to a great deal of product or service information. You’re now a “sales qualified lead”, and you are more likely to make a purchase.
A sales professional who initiates contact with you at that point in the purchase process is talking to a potential customer rather than wasting time offering information that you aren’t yet prepared to digest. The step-by-step process of qualification vastly improves conversion rates, allowing salespeople to close quickly and more often. Buyers are 131 percent more likely to purchase from a company immediately after they consume early-stage, educational content, according to Conductor’s 2017 research.
Bridge the Gap Between Marketing and Sales
Implementing a demand generation strategy benefits both sales and marketing groups, creating a stronger, more productive relationship between the two. By offering a wider array of thought leadership and product content upfront, and thereby facilitating the collection of more detailed prospect information, marketing specialists can provide their sales teams with far more qualified leads.
For example, a director of IT who is charged with implementing new security procedures across a company’s online channels may have read two white papers, watched 80 percent of a webinar, and visited your product’s website six times in the last 30 days. Once marketing has distilled this activity into a profile that creates a qualified marketing lead, the handoff to sales is not only more efficient but also helps align incentives between marketing and sales. The salesperson then understands what the prospect already knows and can provide that person with customized, relevant information. The sales team can spend more time with these educated customers and prospects, who are more willing to give them time when the information is relevant to what they are looking for.
Companies can measure how successful this collaboration between marketing and sales is by tracking the percentage of marketing qualified leads that actually close, and measuring how long this process takes. Marketing teams can use the information to assess the effectiveness of their educational materials and determine what kind of content they should be focusing on — whether it’s thought leadership to create awareness of the solution offered, detailed tutorials explaining a product’s features, or case studies that demonstrate the benefits from other customers’ perspectives.
The 2018 Demand Generation Benchmarks Report ranked the effectiveness of different types of pre-sale marketing content. Among top-of-funnel acquisition strategies, in-person events and webinars rank as the top engagement tactics (selected by 68 percent and 61 percent of respondents, respectively). Other tried-and-true formats, such as white papers and case studies, continued to rank high (50 percent) as did newer methods like video and content syndication.
Sales and marketing teams can work together on the best materials to educate users, and constantly revisit feedback to identify the topics that optimally generate opportunities. This collaboration creates an ongoing dialogue that helps both sales and marketing understand customer needs.
Nurture Additional Sales
Demand gen doesn’t end once a customer has made a purchase. The educational materials your company produces should keep your customers coming back for more. For instance, customers who are currently using the community version of your CRM software could be prompted to purchase the enterprise version after learning more about additional product functionality and how these added functions can solve their business challenges.
When existing customers consume and share your educational materials with their colleagues, more people within your client organization will learn about your company, start using your product, and better understand the value of your offerings. The more people get involved and engaged with your company and information about your products, the more buy-in you can secure from your clients when they are making additional purchases. All of this activity generates a return on investment.
Technology is always changing, and customers need to stay ahead of the curve. Targeted, educational, and above all useful content, such as white papers and webinars, can help them understand current industry trends and stay informed about how your products and services are addressing their challenges. In this way, demand generation not only helps generate qualified leads and help sales teams close deals quickly — it takes customers through every step of the journey, from initial research to point of purchase and beyond.