Want to Sell Smarter? Don't Overcommit on Low-Value Engagements

What is engagement? It means a lot of things in the world of marketing and sales: social media engagement, brand engagement, email engagement—and that's just the beginning. For B2B companies with complex sales cycles, knowing as much as you can about the prospect and how you can help solve their problems is what helps your team sell. Every step, from the first email open to the latest e-book download, tells you something about your prospect or customer.

But the fact that every engagement matters does not mean that every engagement should be treated equally. This is where many companies run into trouble: In an attempt to engage with customers broadly, they often forget to implement an efficient plan that focuses the right resources on the right type of engagement.

Yes, low-value engagements (like discounts or e-book offers) have meaning and can contribute to driving interest in your product. But you should reserve your most powerful and finite resource—your sales team's time—for high-value engagements like phone conversations and face-to-face meetings.

Why is this important? "In our recent study of B2B purchasing behavior, 21.5 percent of buyers said that their biggest obstacle to making a decision is that sales representatives don't understand their unique needs," said Mike Fauscette, group vice president, Software Business Solutions, IDC. Let's take a look at how simple adjustments in strategy can help you focus your high-value resources on the activities that are closing deals.

Major Purchases Still Require a Human Touch

Prospects rarely if ever reply to a cold sales email with an immediate decision to purchase. It's not common for someone to immediately commit to a large contract via an online payment without any questions or negotiation. And even though 70 percent of the buyer's journey is complete before a buyer reaches out to sales, when it comes to big investment decisions, most people want to buy products from people. That doesn't mean digital marketing programs aren't helpful in the research phase and in nurturing prospects, but at some point buyers will reach out to sales.

Not only is this interaction with your sales team important, but your reps need to be engaging in the right way. Buyers want to have meaningful conversations to understand how a product will meet their personal needs before they invest. That means your most valuable selling tool is still your sales team, and that team needs to be armed with a full arsenal of data about your customers. This helps reps build trusting relationships that close deals and turn prospects into lifelong customers and brand advocates.

So if personal, insightful conversations are essential for closing deals, every effort should focus on driving prospective buyers to these kinds of conversations. And since your sales reps are your most valuable assets for engaging in these conversations, every possible moment of their workday should be allocated toward doing just that. Using their valuable time on cold calling or sending countless unanswered emails is unnecessary in today's world, where the buyer is in control of their journey.

Your sales team is likely the most highly paid group in your organization. If they are spending hours chasing down early-stage prospects, they aren't able to focus on the deals most likely to close. That said, you need to get your message out there and attract new prospects. And salespeople need to know which leads are ready for that next step. How do you do this?

  • Awareness: As a marketer, your job at this stage is to create awareness of your product, service, or company, so that your buyers begin to understand what you do, and how you can help them. Content should be focused on your buyer's pain point—not your product or brand.
  • Consideration: Once buyers have their choices narrowed down to just a few companies, they'll enter the consideration stage. As your buyers continue their research, their lead scores are automated in your marketing automation system to further qualify them and keep track of their growing interest. Set up intelligent lead nurturing campaigns, so B2B marketers put low-value engagements on autopilot. The right content is still distributed on a wide scale in the form of personalized, 1:1 messages, but sales reps don't need to be involved until a prospect indicates that they're ready for a conversation.
  • Decision: When your prospect is primed and ready, make sure you have a system in place so sales is instantly alerted of a hot new lead. Along with a slam-dunk lead, they also get a complete history of each past touch point, so they can have an even more effective conversation. Also, have a number of case studies and customer testimonials on hand to show prospects what others have achieved by choosing you, and how positive their experience has been.

Of course the buyer journey is not always linear and buyers often hop in and out of different stages of the journey. By automating the low-value engagements, each team can play to their greatest strengths: Marketing can spend time crafting targeted campaigns with optimized messaging to generate interest, while sales is free to focus on killing their quota. By engaging prospects in a dynamic and targeted way, you can make sure your most valuable resources—your people—are focusing on what's really important.

Adam Blitzer is SVP & GM of Salesforce Pardot, where he is responsible for product management, marketing, and operations. Blitzer cofounded Pardot, the No. 1 B2B marketing automation solution for Salesforce customers, assembling B2B buyer journey data points into actionable insights and enabling marketing and sales teams to sell smarter. 

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