Summertime is traditionally when most of us kick back and relax in the sun. But marketing managers know it's also the calm before the storm. With so much revenue potential on the line in Q3 and Q4, summer is when managers turn their attention to setting strategy for ramping up their sales teams toward fall success.
So, how is your money best spent? What really helps salespeople move business through the funnel? What messages are most likely to resonate with customers? The following 10 tips are based on years of experience living the challenges you face at yearend.
Tip No. 1: Know how your efforts fit into the big picture
Too often, marketers are overwhelmed by the "crisis du jour" and not afforded the opportunity to look at whether individual projects can make a measurable impact on marketing or company goals. As you approach Q4, remember: While you may be working toward short-term objectives, they can have long-term results.
The ultimate goal of your efforts, of course, is to support your sales team's ability to generate revenues. We call it "marketing for sales enablement." And, as you'd expect, the discipline of enabling sales is a process, not an event—just like the discipline of sales.
As a marketer, you're likely very familiar with the customer "buying cycle" of awareness, consideration, preference, purchase, and repurchase. What you might be surprised to learn is that 70% of a company's marketing budget is typically spent on the awareness phase of the buying cycle , and too little on the balance, where the real selling is happening.
Salespeople actually follow a similar cycle of embracing, and then successfully representing, your company's product or service. If you consider that your salesperson is your first customer, the process makes sense. We refer to this as the "buy-in cycle," and it includes awareness, knowledge, application, expansion:
Think about the projects you've completed throughout this year. Next, attempt to map each project into this table.
Is the table balanced across internal and external audiences? Have you populated each stage with meaningful tools? This chart is helpful when considering what tools to create and when they are appropriate.
Print and cut this out and tape it to your wall. Once you start using it, it'll become second nature to consider at which point in the process everything you build belongs, and whether you've supported a complete sales cycle for both customers and salespeople.
Tip No. 2: Understand the end-of-year goals
Make sure you know what the goals and expectations are for sales in Q3 and Q4, and work toward developing the tools and resources to support those goals. Instead of full-blown sales kits, consider smaller, targeted tools that can help speed the selling process.
We've found that opportunity briefs (focused on specific industries or market segments) can help salespeople understand specific selling scenarios.
Tip No. 3: Increase efforts for the Consideration and Preference stages of the sales cycle
These are the stages where your prospects are deciding whether you have answers to their problems and whether you can solve them better than your competition. In an era of extremely knowledgeable customers, thought leadership is more important than ever.
The table above provides examples of some of the kinds of tools that support consideration and preference stages. But remember, it isn't enough to just create them. Salespeople have the responsibility to move the customer through the buying cycle as quickly as possible, so they need to understand how to leverage case studies, white papers, ROI tools, and other thought-leadership pieces into the selling process.
Tip No. 4:Use demand-gen only in appropriate circumstances
The reality is that every company on the planet announces something in Q3/Q4, whether a product, a service, or a special promotion. So, your targets are going to get bombarded with demand-gen programs, and the possibility of getting any traction is difficult in the best of circumstances.
Your best chances for success are in these areas:
- Campaigns designed to expand your presence in existing accounts—upgrades and cross-sales, for example
- Campaigns where the resulting net-new customer lead can realistically close in fewer than 60 days (usually leaves out any hope of an enterprise sale—think SMB)
- Campaigns where you're trying to build some momentum for calendar 2007 business
In all cases, remember these demand-gen tips:
- Make sure your campaign budget is aligned with the resulting sales opportunity. For example, it doesn't make sense to spend $50k on an integrated demand-gen program for maintenance renewals valued at $399 each.
- Always offer something meaningful—something of intellectual value, such as a white paper, executive brief, or event.
- Try to instill a sense of urgency to motivate your customer to act quickly for competitive advantage.
- Make sure that your sales force is aware of the campaign, and also understands its goals and what is expected of it.
Tip No. 5: Step up your field communications program
Regardless of the methods you use to communicate with your sales teams, kick it up a notch in Q3 and Q4. That doesn't mean blasting them with useless information; it means making sure they understand you're poised and ready to help them with every sale.
For example, a simple list (including links) to resources goes a long way for a busy salesperson. Work with sales management to monitor sales performance. Publish internal case studies in real time to help educate and motivate field salespeople regarding wins as they happen.
Tip No. 6: Touch all the people who touch your customers
Sales enablement isn't only for field sales people. Remember pre-sales engineers, telemarketing, and any other organization that participates in the sales process. Make sure they are included in whatever sales tools and communications programs you develop.
It's always important to be sure that you're all using the same messaging and definitions when you talk to a customer, but it's even more important that you're all moving them in the same direction—toward closing the sale.
Tip No. 7: Support the close
Providing current, accurate proposal information can be a nightmare for some companies. If you're one of them, spend time this summer updating your proposal library so salespeople have what they need when the heat is on. Better proposals make it through legal faster, and provide better transition from the messaging and communications you've been presenting throughout the sales cycle.
And for the deals that do close, consider creating special Q4 "welcome kits" that build loyalty faster and pave the way for add-on business sooner.
Tip No. 8: Get face-time with channel and alliance partners
Most sales managers would love to hear about a strategy to get "more feet on the street." But, the reality is that channel and alliance partners already offer those feet—and they're already targeted on the midmarket accounts that are more likely than their large enterprise cousins to close deals in the Q3/Q4 timeline.
Be sure to provide your channel and alliance partners with enablement materials to support specific opportunities or segments. For example, try diverting some internal telemarketing cycles to contact channel partners directly to be sure they have the marketing and enablement materials they need to support your Q3/Q4 product launch. You may find the partners understand the launch and appreciate its value, but still need a little more help educating their salespeople to support the campaign.
Tip No. 9: Don't forget that 2007 is just around the corner
Q4 is the time to gear up your 2007 sales enablement programs. And now that you're adept at mapping tools to sales cycle, you're better prepared than ever to hit the ground running as your company launches new products, services, and programs.
You and your team will be able to show up at the January kickoff with a full suite of tools and resources for both internal and external audiences that are both on time and on target.
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