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Despite the usual friction that one generally sees between marketing and sales teams, there’s actually quite a bit that these departments can learn from one another; with measurable results. In this episode we’re joined by FinListics Solutions CEO and Founder Stephen Timme, as well as Vice President of Marketing Melody Astley. FinListics is an Atlanta-based company that aids B2B businesses with their sales and marketing techniques by teaching them to understand the financial challenges of their customers.
With their extensive experience in finance and sales, Melody and Stephen have learned a thing or two about sales that has also improved their marketing tactics.
1. TODAY’S SHIFT IN BUYING BEHAVIORS
There’s a big shift going on in the marketing world – fortunately, as Stephen says. As buying behavior evolves, companies can no longer promote themselves by selfishly discussing their own product in and of itself.
“The buying landscape is changing, and that impacts both sales and marketing, and how they go about what they need to do to resonate with their clients, their buyers.”
In digital marketing, when you’re smart about it, you can align your touch and your campaign so that you’re touching the right people at the right time with the right message.
Now the challenge isn’t reaching your prospects – the technology takes care of that – but rather, developing the right message.
Developing the right message is difficult because traditionally, the sales message that we inherit from our predecessors in the department goes something along these lines:
“I have the fastest product!”
“I have the most efficient product!”
“We serve clients in 50 countries!”
“We’ve been around for a hundred years!”
“We, we, we!”
And to complicate matters even further, not only is technology enabling your buyers to educate themselves on what they need… but your buyers also differ depending on their position within their company. A Chief Operating Officer and a CTO and a CFO may all have the same goal within their company over-all, but they have different needs, and you need to adjust your message accordingly.
“You can be selling the same product, inside the same organization, but there are going to be buying decisions for totally different reasons.”
And the priorities of your audience aren’t the only things that vary. Different people in different careers also process information differently; and that means you have to communicate with them differently.
“There was a study… that said that people in marketing were 40% more creative than us finance types. Now that hurt my feelings, but I had to agree with some of it. So how I process information [differs from] maybe someone in operations.”
In short, digital marketing is largely evolving into account-based marketing, which means making a message as specific as possible for your targets. So instead of casting a wide net, a message for a company like GE could be very specific to GE, and it could differ in a few detailed ways from a message for Honeywell.
2. SELECTING THE RIGHT MESSAGE
The stakes of ignoring these changes in the market can amount to both missed opportunities and, as a result, lost business. A technical message or a feature-function specific message may not resonate with the executive sponsor or final decision-maker.
The companies who get their message right and do it first will capture the minds of those executive buyers, and then it’s a competitive loss for any marketers who were dragging their feet.
And sometimes even if you do get revenue, you find yourself settling for a lower margin because it’s your buyers who decide how much you’re aligning with their goals. That means lost revenue opportunities, lower profit margins, and smaller deal sizes.
“If you come to me and you know what my challenge is and you can solve that challenge, and you speak directly to that… Well, I’m going to listen.”
It all starts with the client. What are they trying to accomplish? It’s actually not that hard to find out, because they’re sure to talk about it.
“I’m trying to digitally transform the business to have a greater customer experience.”
“I’m trying to transform the business to have a greater workforce experience.”
“I’m getting beat up by foreign competition, soI have to find a way to lower cost per unit.”
“We have limited capital budget, so this equipment… I want to get as much out of it as possible.”
“I want to have greater capacity utilization.”
Even if your buyer is part of a private company, you can look at the publicly-traded companies in the same industry and get some inferences into what your buyer wants.
The next key to determining your message is by figuring out how their executives are compensated; something that marketers and sales teams almost never consider.
“When we share with companies, ‘Okay, your client’s executives are compensated this way,’ they think we’ve got insider information.
‘How did you find that?’
‘Well, it’s called the annual report.’ ”
So if they’re compensated on growth, if they’re compensated on some type of return measure, if they’re compensated on safety… use that terminology. Don’t come in and say, “We’re here to improve your profitability,” or, “We’re here to reduce costs.”
You need to be able to walk in and say, “We’re here to help you improve your Ebitda margin,” if that’s what they’re compensated on.
Most companies are focused either on operational efficiency, workforce transformation, or a greater customer experience. If you don’t help with at least one of those things, you’re irrelevant.
“A lot of times they’ll say, ‘Our goal is to improve our profit margins from 10% to 12%.’ And it’s real easy to figure out, ‘Well they’re looking for benefits of $100 million a year… You come in tell me you found a million out of that $100 million? Somebody might be interested but I, as an executive? It’s too small.”
Selecting those specific needs that you can meet is certainly a far cry better than the “spray and pray” buckshot approach.
3. CHANGING YOUR MESSAGING TACTICS
But like most other marketing transitions, making a major messaging change like this will take time. Perhaps not as much as one might think, but it’s like any other habit; the more you repeat the process, the more it will become second-nature.
When looking at buyers, stop asking yourself “How can we sell this?” and instead ask, “How can I help them? And by how much?”
Suddenly your attention shifts off of yourself and onto your client. Then you can get into the specifics, and a profitable conversation is born organically.
“ ‘We can help by taking out cost.’
‘Well, great, what are the elements… specifically that you can help with? And how much can you improve the efficiency? And where and when you can, what could be the potential financial benefits?’ ”
If you find that your client has a goal like “improve operational efficiency,” for example; that’s useful, but also very big and vague. The specific ways you can help will vary by each buyer’s role within the organization. Take a look at the following graphic, or download a copy here.
“You walk in and tell me… ‘We’re pretty confident that we can reduce your maintenance emergency or reactive maintenance by 10 to 20%…’ Just tell me HOW you’re going to do that.”
The first thing to do is to find those three or four lines of businesses that are going to be involved in your over-all goal. Then start thinking about how their initiatives differ. In the case of operations, success would likely be defined and measured by on-time delivery.
The message is going to be different, but it all starts with the “how,” and then moves into the “how much.”
The great thing about this technique is that it works regardless of product or solution. It’s all about learning to speak the language of your personas, and learning to meet their needs.
“You’re not going to talk to a CFO about first-pass yield. He or she doesn’t necessarily care about it. They know what it is, but it’s not in his or her purview. Whereas when you start talking about cash operating cycle, it resonates.”
It’s the old marketing story: when you go to the store to buy a drill bit, what you really want is a hole. Besides that, just know your own history. Know not just the average percentage of improvement you bring to the table, but also how much that percentage would amount to for that particular buyer.
So, to Recap…
As your buyers become more educated thanks to the same technologies that you’re using to reach them, you need to make sure that your message and tactics are changing along with the rest of your assets. Stop asking yourself “How can we sell this?” and instead turn your focus onto the needs of each specific buyer that you have. As yourself, “How can I help them? And by how much?” and examine the particular improvements for which that they might be compensated. Marketing is no longer a selfish inward-facing business, but is now a business of outreach. As your sales and marketing departments learn about each specific buyer persona’s goals, they need to communicate with one another so as to reach future prospects more effectively.
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