By Nora Weintraub
One of the latest buzzwords for sales and marketing is "the buyer's journey," which makes it sound like your customers are going through an epic voyage to purchase your product or service. Without customer intelligence as a backup, it's difficult to identify the exact steps along a prospect's path. If your company sells products to other businesses, the journey gets even more convoluted and tangled along the way. Knowing your customers can give you a better understanding of their pain points, how they found your products and what it will take to convince them to make a purchase.
If you ask a chief marketing officer about the buyer's journey, he or she may have a very different opinion than the customers themselves. And because most people rely on Internet searches to find product information, the buyer's journey usually begins from an online platform. The average CMO only manages to get a 5 percent email click-through rate, meaning most of these executives fail 95 percent of the time when trying to connect with their prospects during the journey, according to a column by Mathew Sweezey in ClickZ. There's a definite disconnect between many of the best planned marketing campaigns and what customers are actually doing.
Buyer's journey is more direct and has fewer stops than marketers think
Yes, it's true that customers have more ways to reach your sales team and more sources of information on products and services than ever before. But in Sweezey's research of B2B buyers, he found that the average client only does a few Google searches before making a decision. Although some people start out by asking their peers for recommendations, they will still consult the Internet at some point during their journey.
Many marketers know they need to provide different types of content for buyers in varying stages of the voyage, but some may not realize that the majority of customers prefer shorter reading material. Most prefer a length of under five pages. Companies need to understand what types of information are most relevant to their customers based on the stages of the buyer's journey.
Shorter trip doesn't mean you can get lazy with marketing
Although your customers are using the Internet to a higher degree to navigate the road to making a purchase, you need actionable insights to help them along the way. While you may employ a variety of marketing techniques, the end goal is the same: to get to know your clients and form a relationship, Jason Thibeault wrote in an article for Econsultancy. Your organization won't be able to adequately meet your customers' needs unless you have a deep understanding of their pain points and create appropriate marketing materials. The Internet has given companies far more ways to market and sell their products, but the basics are the same—personal connections still matter in the digital age.
But that doesn't mean you can't leverage customer analytics to form a better picture of your client base. Although the basic point of marketing is always the same, knowing where customers are in the buyers' journey and how they got there is important to build on the relationship. Marketers that take advantage of chances to make personal connections with their prospects may be able to increase the odds of converting the lead into a sale. Even if the Internet has sped up the trip from prospect to customer, people still want to have a conversation.
The journey may be essentially the same, but everyone is different and may have different communication preferences. The better you know your customers, the more appropriately you can communicate with them, making the whole sales process easier.
By Ryan Warren, Vice President of Marketing
Your sales team is the backbone of your organization. In some cases, sales productivity can improve with training programs, but people who are innately good at selling often have specific traits. As a manager, you need to maximize your team's capabilities to improve sales productivity.
Characteristics of highly successful salespeople
Even though many people choose to make a career in sales, some have the personality characteristics that make them great at what they do and some don't. According to an Inc. magazine article by Geoffrey James, the best salespeople are assertive, self-aware, empathetic and excellent problem-solvers. As sales becomes more customer-centric, emotionally intelligent sales reps will become more valued.
Passive salespeople won't be able to close deals and aggressive reps could scare away potential clients by being too pushy. Being assertive is the happy medium, and reps with this quality may be able to take better advantage of sales opportunities. Empathy is also critical for a top performer because your employees need to be able to understand what your clients are experiencing, such as their unique needs and pain points. And problem solving capabilities can't be taught. Your sales team can't rush in and try to solve a problem for a customer before they really know what it is. Great salespeople can help their customers see how things will be in the future once they have solved their current issues.
Hiring for your company's sales culture
Just because a candidate has an impressive resume with previous selling experience doesn't necessarily mean he or she is a good fit for your organization. Depending on your industry and customers, the sales cycle may be different and the average deal could vary. Beyond these characteristics, the candidate may be used to a different corporate culture or target audience, according to an article in Forbes by Ken Sundheim. Especially for more complex B2B sales cycles, getting the right person in the position is important. Being good at selling is more than just knowing how to find business opportunities. Reps need to be able to understand their customers to sell effectively.
In some cases, you may be able to determine whether a potential new hire has the right stuff by asking certain questions in the initial interview. You can ask him or her to give a sample pitch, about the relationships they maintained with loyal customers and creative ways they have pursued leads to determine if the candidate would be a good fit at your company.
Giving your salespeople the right tools helps them succeed in various circumstances
Although some reps are bound to be better at selling than others—whether they are more competitive, better problem-solvers, more understanding or what have you—your sales team needs to have the right tools to succeed. In an infographic for Salesforce, Kevin Micalizzi reported that 95 percent of sales reps don't even understand their employers' strategies. If you expect your team to maintain personal relationships with your clients and they have no idea about their business, are your reps coming through? It can take a while for an employee to become fully productive, so sales managers need to start training early.
As companies become more customer-centric, it will be more important to hire and develop sales reps that know your customers and can maximize productivity. Organizations that boast a large number of engaged employees can grow profits faster than those that don't. With the right tools, your team can take advantage of every sales opportunity.
By Ryan Warren, Vice President of Marketing
When it comes to selling, some employees either have it or they don't. Top performers obviously have the best results, but in many cases, they can still improve sales productivity. Hiring the right employees can help any business stay profitable, but even the most highly motivated workers need to be given the right tools to succeed, especially when it comes to your sales staff. The best employees essentially pay for themselves because they deliver value to your organization. While hiring good people is a sufficient start to maximizing sales productivity, how can you motivate your team to deliver consistently great results?
Employees need goals, systems and processes to meet or exceed their sales quotas. No salesperson can achieve a maximum output in a poorly designed organization, according to an article by Matt Garrett in Entrepreneur. Even though top-performing sales people often go above and beyond the expectations, you may be able to encourage even more results with the right tools and processes. Here are some tips on maximizing employee performance to achieve sales optimization:
1. Tie company profit to each employee
In case you're unsure, this can be a helpful way to determine your most profitable employees. Who has the highest sales figures? Highest revenue per sale? You can set minimum standards for quality and performance to measure who is doing the best, Garrett wrote. This kind of model can instill a healthy sense of competition among your sales team.
2. Take a blended approach to employee engagement
You can catch more flies with honey, but stay tough on employees for best sales numbers. Many studies have indicated that happy, engaged employees produce the best work. However, if you kill your team with kindness, your representatives may not achieve the sales you want, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman wrote in the Harvard Business Review. It's probably no surprise that sales teams with an ineffective manager tend to be disgruntled and disinterested in producing their best work. The article identified two main types of leaders: drivers and enhancers. Drivers can establish high standards and get their teams to reach for seemingly unattainable goals. Enhancers function as role models and stay in touch with the issues and concerns of their teams. They give regular feedback to help their employees develop to their fullest potential. While some managers want to act as a pal to their employees, as a leader, you need to stand firm in your commitment to holding the team accountable for performance.
3. Set high standards for behavior
You can't expect great results from your employees unless you're asking them to do the right things, according to Garrett. The same code may not apply to every employee in the organization because you probably already have workers who meet their quotas month after month. You should only judge your team based on things within their control, such as the number of calls they make per day or the deals they close. Since sales is largely influenced by incentives, performance should be appropriately tied to compensation for extra motivation.
You're only as good as your salespeople
While you may have a great team of sales employees, your revenue productivity is tied directly to the performance of these workers. Although great managers and the right standards and incentives can motivate your team, they need the right tools in place to close deals and maximize productivity. Reassessing procedures and providing additional coaching can help, but sales reps also need to get a boost from technology to ensure they are following up with customers at the appropriate time.
Wayfare Tavern | 558 Sacramento St. @ Montgomery St.
Wayfare Tavern sits in the heart of the Financial District—a perfect location for an after-work-drinks bar. It’s also owned by Tyler Florence, so you know it’s good. The bar is totally swanky (it looks like a 1920s speakeasy meets a Parisian bistro), the appetizers are to-die-for, and if you want to stay for dinner, I’ve heard that’s pretty great too.
Waterbar | 399 The Embarcadero @ Folsom
Exactly a mile away from Moscone, Waterbar is an upscale San Francisco classic, sitting right on the Embarcadero with a gorgeous view of the Bay and the Bay Bridge. Though the food is fabulous, they’re best known for their extensive oyster bar… so you can throw back more than just their drinks. It’s not silent, but the noise level is on the quieter side—perfect for doing business.
Prospect | 300 Spear St. @ Folsom
Focused more on food than on drinks (but with a full bar, don’t worry!), Prospect is less than a mile from the Moscone Center, and is a classy, modern spot—but the attitude is relaxed and low-key. Their cocktail menu is outstanding, as are their appetizers (word on the street is: try the Wagyu beef tartare) and desserts to sweeten the deal.
Rye | 688 Geary St. @ Leavenworth
Venture slightly further afield to Rye, which is Prospect’s partner of Newton’s Law (nerd alert! opposite but equal): it’s more bar than restaurant. This means a little louder ambiance, but the wide-open décor is awesome and the drinks delicious. Special shout-outs go to the Basil Gimlet and the Dark & Stormy … so you can have your cocktail without worrying about any unprofessional umbrellas in your glass.
The View | 55 4th St. @ Mission
Last but not least: this bar might just have the best views in all of San Francisco. Situated at the very top of the Marriott Marquis on Union Square, you can take in 270° of SF. They do have food if you get hungry, but this is the perfect place for a happy-hour/post-work drink—especially if you’re trying to impress out-of-towners.
P.S. If you really just want to get a beer or three, check out 21st Amendment Brewery. It’s not “business casual” by any means—but it’s awesome!