By Ardath Albee, Marketing Strategist and Author of the Marketing Interactions Blog
As BtoB marketers of complex sales gain traction in developing content across buying stages, they've got to remember that answering objections and correcting reversals is not just a sales activity. With sales conversations pushed farther back in the buying process, you can lose prospects before they ever speak with your sales reps if you don't remove any doubts that arise for them along the way.
Step Backs cause stalls to pipeline momentum. They tend to happen when your prospects have determined your company has a viable solution to their problem, but something pops up that causes hesitation. This can be a competitor's claim, a new ripple effect your prospect has uncovered that the solution will impact or something they've heard from a colleague or peer. There are a ton of things that can happen to cause hesitation.
Obviously, you can only address Step Backs if you learn what causes them to happen.
Some ways to do this include:
- Win/loss reviews with your sales force
- Customer interviews
- Past customer surveys
- Listening to and monitoring social networks
I've seen a number of questions asked on social networks lately about solutions. Someone posts a question asking for recommendations for a type of solution or what they should know about a specific solution before they choose to buy it or even why one solution might be better than another.
The amount of information being shared is extensive—some factual, but much that's based on opinion more than fact. Nevertheless, what's being said about your solutions on social networks needs to be listened to and, sometimes, responded to.
What marketers may struggle with is even admitting there are concerns about buying a type of product. They seem to have trouble talking about anything that's not evangelizing their products. Even though we all know that complex purchases are evaluated based on risk assessment as well as benefits. That's a part of the process. So, meet it head-on and be authentic while you're doing it.
I'm not talking about writing a piece about why buyers have chosen not to buy your solution. I'm talking about addressing concerns directly. For example: if your sales reps are reporting that you're losing deals because a certain type of influencer isn't buying in, find out why and develop content to address that concern to help eliminate that obstacle.
One of the best ways to identify Step Backs is with marketing automation. Here's one scenario made possible by the technology:
A prospect has been engaged by all your nurturing touches for the past five months and suddenly ceases to click through. Take a look at the prospect's individual profile and see if they've returned to some previously viewed content. If so, perhaps something in that content hasn't fully answered their needs and they've gone back to look for reassurance that their assumptions are correct. This is the perfect time to reach out to them personally and ask if they're looking for specific information you can provide.
Most marketing automation solutions have a rules or work flow process that allows you to automatically send a message if your prospects do or don't do something. If you uncover certain patterns of behavior, you can develop content and distribution processes to address Step Backs as they occur, keeping prospects moving forward.
Or it could be that their priorities changed. You won't know until you ask. There's never a cut-and-dried rule for prospect behavior, but there are ways to try to address it helpfully.
Addressing Step Backs with content is a proactive way to show the depth of your understanding about your buyers' needs. By engaging with them about concerns that cause hesitation, you gain the ability to get them moving forward again, rather than losing them to a competitor or even to a decision to do nothing.
Ardath Albee, CEO of Marketing Interactions, Inc, helps BtoB companies with complex sales increase and quantify marketing effectiveness by developing and executing customer-focused e-marketing strategies driven by compelling content. Her clients experience results like an increased 375% of sales-ready leads in just 8 months, which translates into millions of dollars added to their sales pipelines. But, marketing isn't just about generating new demand. Ardath helps clients re-engage customers and build loyalty that adds longevity to customer lifecycles. Visit Ardath’s website: www.marketinginteractions.com and find fresh marketing insights on her blog at http://marketinginteractions.typepad.com.
Ardath's new book, "eMarketing Strateies for the Complex Sale" was recently released from McGraw-Hill. Visit the book's Web site www.emarketingstrategiesbook.com for more information.