5 Critical Components of B2B Marketing

critical components of b2b marketing

Its a simple mix – and yet missed by so many

There are five critical components of B2B marketing— neuro-science based claims development and messaging, content, website traffic, a website, and, of course, conversion. These are ultimately the only five that really matter and yet the B2B marketing landscape is like a field of broken dreams.

I originally wrote in the context of social media marketing – but I’ve expanded for digital as a whole.

People buy based on fears and needs

Start with a neuro-science based approach that focuses on your customer’s needs, fears and pain—and extend this into all aspects of digital.

Content is the driver

Whether it’s traffic or conversions, content is the piece that attracts and helps drive conversions; especially when it’s relevant, useful and audience specific.

Traffic matters

When it comes to the big metrics – traffic is one of the big three. Traffic can originate from organic sources, PPC and social ads.

Website

Our CEO likes to ask our clients – “is your website your lead sales person?” Your website should generate consumption and conversion.

Conversion matters

Even with great messaging and the right traffic, conversion is the most important piece. Whether it’s micro or macro conversions, we all want real results and tangible outcomes.

Yes, it’s challenging to get all five components right, but the outcomes make the effort worthwhile.

Do You Have A Stand-out Offer That Your Customers Can’t Resist? Or Are You Regularly Left Standing Out In The Cold, While They Wait To Make Their Minds Up?

Increased product and service offer commoditization and customer indecision are severely reducing the effectiveness of the sales operation, says Bryan Gray of Revenue Path Group. Taken together, they form one of the Five Great Threats to revenue growth through effective selling.

Hanging on the Telephone – Fully 88% of Sales Calls Are USELESS !

There’s a stark truth every business that depends on sales growth needs to take on board. According to Forrester research, around 88% of sales calls are viewed by customers as being ineffective; i.e. they add no value at all to the customer’s life. Paying anyone to succeed only 12% of their time at work in any role is a terrifying thought. But when that pitiful strike rate applies to the very engine of the company’s growth – sales – it’s enough to leave the most seasoned business leader screaming!

The situation may be tough. But at least there are no mysteries surrounding this level of failure. The customers surveyed by Forrester confirmed they don’t respond to that mighty 88% of sales calls because there’s nothing in it for them when they do. It’s just more noise and more stuff –“cognitive overload” if you want a technical term.

The people making the calls are unable to communicate the full value – or any real value – of their sales message. They often don’t know enough about their industry, their market and their solution to be convincing. And when you know less about what you’re selling than the guy you’re trying to sell it to knows, it’s a fair bet that you’re in trouble.

What Other Operational Area of YOUR Business Would Accept a 12% Success Rate?

Of course there are organizations that would regard a 12% success rate as adequate. Successful even. They would see themselves as keeping pace with competitors. Maybe even outpacing them. So that’s ok? Well sorry, but no it isn’t ok. Not if you want to create a profitable organization, fuelled by vigorous sales led growth. Drill down into the successes – those times you do get through and have your message listened to by a customer. Even in that situation of viable opportunity, you’re likely losing out around 76% of the time. How so?

Credible data suggests that 16% of sales lost will be to competitors. Again, you might think it perfectly ok to retain well over 80% of your closable sales. That looks like a home run … until you dig deeper. Competitors leave you with four fifths of the potential pie. But it’s not your commercial rivals who are eating your cheese (and whatever other filling you have in your pie). The culprit isn’t an honorable foe in a clean fought battle. It’s the miserable, skulking, creeping fog that is customer indecision.

Customer Indecision – Accounting for a Pretty Decisive 60% of Lost Sales

Indecision accounts for around 60% of lost sales. Customers take an age to make their minds up. Somewhere along the way, the love and enthusiasm die. And you lose out. What are the reasons for this very undesirable situation? And what can you do to improve it?

Start with a deep realization: there is no advantage to you in letting customer indecision creep in and take root. You need to stand out fast. You need to stand out enough to trigger a decision – even if that decision goes against you. And you either need to make the sale or make your way out of the situation and on to the next opportunity. The long sales cycle never makes you a winner. Take a hard look at your current pipeline. If it is clogged with sluggish, wannabe deals that are not really going anywhere, examine the root causes and take action.

Effective action depends on making a second realization. Most customers are “indecisive” for a small number of important reasons. The key driver is commoditization. Customers do not see what you are offering as being different in any significant way. They could find it somewhere else, with at least a couple of viable alternatives and maybe dozens, or even hundreds, of other choices. And the first rule with any commodity is that you always buy it for lowest price not top dollar.

Can You EVER Win a Race to the Bottom on Costs?

Buying for lowest price means a race to the bottom for your costs, your margins and any prospect of a decent profit. You can only win this game if your whole operation is configured around delivering lowest price and you know you can work on wafer thin margins. BUT … If you need to make the best profit you can on the most sales you can achieve, you literally cannot afford the luxury of a bunch of “indecisive” customers. And you must, therefore, wake up and get real.

Think of the commoditized market as a Roman gladiator arena. You and your fellow combatants are out there on the sand under the burning sun. You’re the ones sweating and straining. Literally giving your life’s blood. In the end only one of you can win. Along the way, you’re providing entertainment for a bunch of guys sitting in the shade, in no hurry to put their thumbs up or down, as long as the show continues. Unlike a real gladiator, fortunately, you have the chance to walk away. So do that. Leave the arena. Work on some new moves. How?

Don’t be afraid to look very rationally – critically – at what you’re selling. If it is a commodity, re-configure to make the sale on a new basis: price led, fast, no prisoners. Thumbs up or down in a quick clean fight. If however you truly believe that your offer is stand-out, that it deserves real, focused, positive customer attention that leads to winning the business, then equip yourself to be a winner.

Get Yourself Some Lethal Weapons

Your new sales armory will include three lethal weapons:

Lethal weapon 1. Make Your Offer A “Must Have” Some estimates say that we are faced with around 35 thousand decisions a day. Even if the figure is closer to 350 or 35, that’s still a lot of decisions. So, clarify and tighten your offer. Strip out the “cognitive overload” and make choosing you – quickly and decisively – a no-brainer for your customers.

Lethal, weapon 2. Make Your Sales Team Make Sense Become certain, through message clarification, training and real understanding, that every time one of your sales people makes a sales call, they will add value to the customer, drive a positive decision and eliminate indecision.

Lethal weapon 3. If You Don’t Win, Don’t Lose Out In The Sales Process Stop confusing activity with achievement. As soon as it becomes clear that your “customer” is just playing you, disengage. Cut your losses and move on. It’s a certainty that you will save resources and protect your credibility. It’s not impossible that some of those “indecisive” customers will quickly realize that you are exactly the kind of confident, successful and determined supplier they need.

Identity Crisis. If They Don’t Know Who You Are, Maybe It’s Because YOU Don’t Know Either?

You can’t expect customers to come to your door if they’re uncertain who you are or what benefits you can bring them, argues Bryan Gray of Revenue Path Group. Lack of a Strong Message – AKA a unique, compelling and consistent value proposition – is one of the Five Great Threats to revenue growth through effective selling.

Say Again, What Do You Do For A Living?

Picture the scene. We’re at the Court of King Arthur. Somebody has decided name badges are a good idea, along with the swords and chain mail. Those badges read “Kevin. Knight In Shining Armor”; or “Cedric. Swineherd”; or “Arthur. King”. Everybody does exactly what it says on the, limited, labels on their tin.

Scroll forward a few centuries. Kids may still dream simple dreams of becoming fire fighters, railroad engineers, nurses and veterinarians. (Some may even long for the day when they are lawyers.) But their parents are experiencing the complexities of the modern business world.

Rushing out the door each day, they grab their work security pass. It confirms they are a “Solutions Architect”, a “Vertical Marketing Specialist” or a “Regional Business Development Lead”. Only a trip to the top of the tallest tower in South East Asia would give enough time for the elevator pitch on how they actually make a living.

Now, step up the complexity from the individual to the entire organization. Could that Solutions Architect, Vertical Marketing Specialist or Regional Business Development Lead tell you, in a single sentence, what their employer sells? With equal brevity, could they explain why customers buy whatever it is from their outfit and not their competitors?

To Explain What It Does On The Label, Would You Need A Very Big Label?

Achieving total clarity of expression of the corporate purpose is one of the biggest challenges facing business today. Global corporations spend billions hiring the best communications brains around. Their task is to distil horrible complexity into memorable messages with real impact.

Make no mistake; this is not about navel gazing and vanity. (You find the true vanity and lack of self-awareness in the corporate speak so many organizations still inflict on their markets.) This is a recognition that everything – including an effective sales operation – flows from a unique, compelling and consistent value proposition.

Once you have that proposition cracked, you have a strong core for your message -wherever and whenever it appears, from advertising to online presence to what your sales people say out in the field. Think of your ideal message as magnetic. Pulling your customers and prospects towards you. Lining your sales team up behind a consistent pitch to the market. Making sure that your external marketing and communications counsel has strong direction.

Does YOUR Sales Message Have “Magnetism”?

To discover whether you already have a magnetic message, you can do a couple of quick and simple experiments. Ask your sales team to write down what they believe they are selling and why they believe customers buy it. Ask some of your customers to state why they buy from you. Do the same exercise yourself. Then look at the results.

If you get a series of strong, single-minded and consistent statements, you likely have a magnetic message in place already. If you get as many different versions as there are respondents in your sample group, your message needs some work.

Of course you could say, “So what if I don’t have this great single-minded message? We still sell stuff. We are still an effective organization.” That’s a legitimate response. BUT … It does not take into account significant risks to your business. Risks that may not hit you today but will surely have an impact over time.

The Message Is Clear and Urgent: Not Having a Clear and Urgent Message Means Serious Risks to Sales

The first risk is the sales relationship hijack. If YOU don’t own your value proposition, then you are leaving it to your sales people to own it instead. If they are inconsistent and unconvincing, you are losing impact in the market. If they are excellent, your business is still at risk. Why? If they believe your customers buy them – and not your unique message – then in reality the sales guys own the customer relationship. What happens if (when) they decide to walk and take that relationship with them?

The second risk is the marketing muddle. If you are not in command of a strong message, your advertising people, your PR, your digital marketers and anybody you involve in promoting your business will very likely do their own thing. They will be marching to their beat, not yours. And, over time, that can only drive inconsistencies, mixed messages and a diluting of your market presence.

The third risk is the competitor-favorable vacuum. While your offer lacks clarity and your profile remains low, or off the radar, competitors will move into the resulting vacuum. And they’ll do it as quickly and vigorously as they can.

The final risk is arguably the most disturbing of all. It is lost market opportunity. Every day, every hour and minute that the impact of your message trails behind the strength and the quality of your offer, you are losing opportunities to make a sale. And that’s damaging your business.

Really Nail What Makes YOU Different and Special. And Start to Nail It TODAY

The bottom line is this: if you have a corporate identity crisis today, you cannot live with it until tomorrow. The risks are just too big. It is time to nail down that unique, compelling and consistent value proposition. Unique – what is it about you that no competitor can touch? Compelling – what is it that makes your message magnetic to the people who matter most to your business growth? Consistent – how do you say what you need to say, strongly and simply every time, so that the impact of your message is always increasing?

The path to value proposition clarity may be tough. It may throw up fundamental questions along the way. Why do you do what you do? What you do? Who do you do it for? You may even, on behalf of your business, have to ask “Who Am I?” But one thing is for sure: unless you have the insight and the confidence to answer that question yourself, nobody (and certainly no customer) will answer it for you.

 

 

 

“The Long Goodbye” AKA The Extended Sales Cycle

Extended sales cycles are NOT an indicator of positively developing relationships, argues Bryan Gray of Revenue Path Group. Quite the opposite. They are one of the Five Great Threats to revenue growth through effective selling.

Don’t Let Yourself Get Sold on the Long Sales Cycle

Let’s be honest. There can’t be many of us who haven’t, at some time, allowed a sales cycle to drag. Even if in our hearts we know it’s going nowhere. The reasons for allowing this sorry soap opera to play out are many and varied.

We may truly believe that the other guy is about to sign. All those rain checks and requests for a little more work on the numbers are part of a real decision process. So we cut some slack and then some more slack. And, somewhere along the way, we lose sight of the fact that the rope has gone slack.

We may need something to put into our time management system. Maybe business is a little slow and something, anything, to feed the job justification machine is welcome.

It may even be that we come to like the guy at the prospect’s end of this elongated ritual dance. So we can’t bring ourselves to think he would knowingly jerk us around.

Whatever the reason, it’s time to throw a big pail of very cold water over the extended sales cycle. The initial shock will be bracing, horrendous even. But the long term effects – feeling alert, clear eyed, ready to look reality square in the face – will be worth any immediate pain.

It’s Time to De-clutter the Pipeline

Looking honestly and rationally at your current sales cycles is the corporate equivalent of a home de-cluttering. Today, you may be comforted and reassured by those bales of unread magazines in the garage or that fancy exercise machine that’s still in its box, even though any day now you’re going to set it up and put it through its paces.

Tomorrow – after the passing pangs of getting rid – you’ll realize that you can live without them. You’ll enjoy room to maneuver more easily and headspace to plan better replacements for the stuff you just threw out. Heck, you may even get around to reading today’s paper or going to the gym for real!

In business, you’ll have the same sense of freedom to do something better, something more effective. Note too that this new freedom is not simply desirable. It is imperative. Why? Because other people don’t play fair. You’re sustaining a long-drawn-out sales cycle (that in reality isn’t leading to a sale). Meanwhile, your competitors won’t respect your investment in sales time, effort and cost.

The Other Guy WON”T Play Nice

In the already far distant past, the sales dance floor was level. Nobody had any spectacularly different techniques than anybody else. Today, while you’re slow dancing your way through complex wannabe-customer footwork, your rivals can burst in body popping and ram you right off the floor.

Under no circumstances will they wait in a gentlemanly queue until your dance is, finally, over. They will jog your elbow, spill your drink and muscle in on your desired date. Make no mistake, they have the moves. A timely (timely from their perspective, potentially disastrous from yours) email. A webinar. A special offer. A new product or service fronted with brutal efficiency on social media. These techniques – and many more – are easily accessed and implemented. Competitors will use them. And all your elaborate tail feather display can end up as just so much wasted effort, as a rival sashays off into the sunset with a triumphant arm around that signed order.

Long Sales Cycles FEED Your Competition

In more strictly business terms, each extended sales cycle contributes to a dangerous asymmetry for your revenue generating operation. Meaning? The effort is entirely out of whack with the rewards. You take time to engage with a prospect who isn’t committing. Then you take more time. And more time after that. All the while, the prospect is learning more and more about you, about your market, about the product or service you’re selling. So they’re growing in knowledge. They’re gaining deeper and deeper exposure to your pricing structures and your willingness to do deals. So they’re growing in negotiating strength. They’re increasingly tying down your sales teams, setting the sales cycle timetable and deciding the key events and outcomes. So they’re growing in power.

Short version: you are paying for someone who isn’t even your customer to gain knowledge, strength and power. And all the time you’re doing this, your own position is becoming weaker and weaker. You could end so weakened that you find yourself relying on the psychology of the roulette wheel: you’ve already staked so much that you may just as well keep going and hope the next spin rolls your way. At this stage, you are no longer a rational sales operation. You are a love struck suitor living in a state of desperate hope!

The Last Shall Be First, And the First … 

Meanwhile … a competitor who has invested nothing in the very sales cycle that has siphoned months or even years of your energies can come in at the eleventh hour and steal the prize. Fortune favors the brave and this guy can afford to be brave! After all, he has nothing to lose. He can make an offer. He can fine-tune his offer (assuming he even wants to) against benchmarks you kindly provided during your endless detailed negotiations. He can say, “take it or leave it” and really mean it because it’s your skin in the game not his!

From your prospect’s point of view, this guy is the new hero on the block, complete with heroic powers of agility and flexibility. From your perspective, you have unintentionally bred a ‘super-competitor’ by pumping him up with your resources.

Sadly, the typical outcome of the extended sales cycle is the long goodbye. And its destination is the land of unintended and unpleasant consequences. You started out in the belief that it would go somewhere. It went nowhere. You thought it would build a relationship. It encouraged exploitation (of you). You thought it represented safety and security. It brought uncertainty and competitor threat (driven by the competitor advantage you inadvertently created).

So …

The next time you are even contemplating engagement with a commitment-phobic prospect. The next time all the signals indicate a long-drawn-out but ultimately fruitless courtship. The next time you find yourself saying “they’ll surely sign any time now”. STOP. Now remember the insightful advice offered by Beyonce: If you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it!

“Silent Super-Salesman”? Or “Turnoff Time Bomb”? Make YOUR Website Make (the right) Noise!

Stop thinking of your corporate website as a “thing”. Start looking at it as your lead sales person, says Bryan Gray of Revenue Path Group. Is this a person you like? Or even respect? Are they effective or just also-rans? Keeping a website on the team that can’t do the job is one of the Five Great Threats to revenue growth through effective selling.

Close Encounters of the Sales Kind – 70% Now Happen Online

For sure, there is a lot of subjectivity around the often fraught issue of the company website. “Look and feel” is always going to be open to debate. It is rare that total consensus is achieved when design is under discussion. BUT … What simply cannot be ignored – or even debated – is the following hard fact: around 70 per cent of pre-sales research is now done online by your prospects before they even think about engaging with your sales team.

So your website is de facto your lead sales person. Handling the bulk of initial enquiries. Determining to a great, even frightening, extent whether a prospect takes the next vital steps to becoming a customer.

Where Does YOUR Website Sit in the Customer Persuasion Hierarchy?

Now in ANY organization, anyone who was guaranteed to have 70 per cent of all the initial close encounters of the sales kind would be the alpha, the silverback, the 700 pound gorilla who got everything from the best bamboo shoots to the bragging rights, every time and unchallenged.

The hard question to be asked therefore is this: is your website as it stands today, right now, a 700 pound roaring sales-making gorilla? Or is it something a little more modest? A shy lemur, perhaps? Or a timid little bush baby only appearing at night and frankly preferring to stay out of the limelight? Worst of all, is it a sloth? Happy to spend its days lazing in a tree? How can you tell?

“Sloth website” tendencies include the following: high bounce rates, indicating that visitors aren’t engaged by what they encounter and don’t stick around for long; lack of leads, proving that few visitors feel inspired to follow up and get in touch; low conversion rates confirming that prospects have little interest in becoming customers. These tendencies might, might, be easier to accept while you continue to think of your website as an inanimate object; a kind of techno-phenomenon that’s just too hard and too expensive to fix until you really run into trouble. But now try that trick of thinking of your website as a person and see how rapidly your attitude changes.

Sales Warrior? Or Lack-of-sales Worrier?

This guy is your lead sales warrior. Yet he is basically doing nothing! How long will you go on paying him? How quickly are you going to demand that he show you some radical improvement before you show him the door? If you could get rid of him right now, would you? And if you did cut him loose, would it make ANY real difference to your business?

If strong feelings are aroused by this process, that’s good. Anger is the precursor to action. But for an effective fight back, don’t (just) get mad. Get even better at selling through your number one sales person. Finally, make your website work for your business.

And here is where it gets a little more demanding. Now that you’re looking at your site as a human sales person, you can’t just roar at the guy for an hour and finally give him a month to shape up or ship out. That might make you feel better momentarily but it’s not a long-term answer. You have to look at your own role in the development of the current situation.

Did this ineffective sales person really know and understand what was expected of them? Did they have quotas? A personal development plan? Training and ongoing professional development? Sales aids and full marketing support? Or did you, being honest, equip them with the online equivalent of a sandwich board and an arrow on a stick reading “Golf Sale This Way”? Then did you plant them on the end of a virtual street and hope to catch some passing trade? If this was your approach, blaming the poor guy for not cutting it out there in a tough market seems a little harsh!

It’s Time to Equip for Success

From now on, things will need to be different. Your website will persist in being a truly horrible salesperson for just as long as you persist in giving them a horrible working environment: one of uncertainty, lack of support and absence of clear goals.

First base for positive change is defining what you want the poor guy to achieve. What does website-led success mean to your organization? How many initial sales meetings (visitor traffic) do you expect each month? What proportion of those visitors – as a minimum – do you expect to go further and convert into customers? How much money do you expect your head sales honcho to make for you?

Answering these questions will clarify the basic issues. You simply cannot succeed – or expect anybody else to succeed – if you can’t express quickly and clearly what success means. With the success parameters clearly defined, you can turn to the question of supporting your lead sales guy effectively. You have set them a series of expectations. That’s good. We know where we stand. How are you going to support them in achieving those expectations? (Not doing their work for them but making it possible for them to be effective in their own right.)

If you’re unsure how you’re going to support them. If you don’t really know what kinds of support are needed and what is going to be effective, it’s worth taking some advice and taking it quickly. After all, this virtual sales guy is directly handling 70 per cent of your prospects’ search for the stuff they want and the answers they need. So you can’t let him struggle on month after month, alone and ill equipped.

The Real Damage a Poor Website Does is to YOU

To sum up, if you have a website that’s the equivalent of an unprepossessing fellow with a clammy handshake – and who’s in acute need of a breath mint – then you also have a problem. It’s not your customers’ problem – they can simply say “not today thank you” and shut the virtual door. It’s not your shaky salesman’s problem because he isn’t actually a human being after all; ‘he’ is just a bunch of code on a server somewhere. It’s your problem.

So make it personal. Make fixing your web site issues an immediate priority. Start taking your share of the mighty 70 per cent of the enquiry process that’s happening out there right now. Because, if you don’t and your lead sales guy stays pallid instead of pushy, there are thousands of others out there who will get their foot in the door. And customers who could potentially be yours will open right up to your competition.

 

Is Your Sales Pipeline A True Business Lifeline? Or Does It Risk Going Flatline?

Even a regular flow of orders is NOT the same as a true pipeline, argues Bryan Gray of Revenue Path Group. A pipeline that in reality is only at best a dotted line – with serious underlying business health issues – is one of the Five Great Threats to revenue growth through effective selling.

Don’t let fear of what you might find out become a barrier to accessing the knowledge you need.

Many people – and men are by far the worse offenders – would rather stay out of the doctor’s office at any cost than go anywhere near a check up. The thinking – or rather the subconscious fear led denial – goes like this:

“I feel ok. Maybe not super great. But not terrible either. If I let medics poke me around, they’re sure to find something. And when they do, the fact that I get to know about it will permanently jinx my health. Even if there is plenty I can still do to change my habits and prolong my active life. So I’ll carry on as I am, thank you for your concern.”

Yes it’s irrational. Crazy even. But in daily life we tend to derive a great deal of comfort from letting things be and not waking a sleeping dog. And we do the same in business, particularly when it comes to the sales pipeline.

We’re doing ok? Well aren’t we?

Just as we often let fear rule over the rational realization that having our blood vessels checked out at sensible intervals would be a good thing, we leave the vital business artery that is the sales pipeline un-scanned and unattended. We interpret superficial indicators – such as the fact that we are still in business and that the cash comes in – as proof positive of good underlying sales health. And when the ultimate shock of system failure comes, we are genuinely surprised.

BUT … this fear led and comfort oriented approach is no longer good enough. Too many of our competitors are now taking too much good care of their own sales pipeline health for us to be able to ignore ours and still sleep soundly at night. So it’s time to get that good ol’ pipeline on the treadmill and subject it to some stress testing. (By the way, it’s much better to do this in a controlled environment, with supportive intervention at hand, than be left to pick up the pieces after a collapse in the real world.)

If your best customer goes, does your business go with them?

Let’s get started by asking a simple question: What would happen to your pipeline of sales if your best customer today dropped out of it tomorrow? Would the impact be noticeable, but you’d still do just fine? (Because your healthy system is always delivering alternative revenue sources and one of those will quickly grow to compensate for the loss.) Would the business take a knock but carry on, although in a weakened state? Would the blow be terminal?

Time out. How are you feeling about this test? Confident? A little breathless? Somewhat anxious but you’re ok to carry on? Good, then we’ll continue. Now ask yourself what shape your pipeline would be in if you lost your best customer AND your second best customer AND your third best customer. All in rapid fire order. All unexpectedly. You’re looking pale. Very pale. The monitors show that your pipeline is flatlining. Code Red here!!

Happily, we are still in a controlled environment. We can stop this virtual test any time and start to learn from its lessons. The first key learning is that we need a benchmark, a definition of “healthy” for the sales pipeline that we can use to compare with our own situation. Clearly, no two businesses are identical and there will never be a single “ideal”. But there will be common indicators of basic health we can all profitably become aware of.

What are the vital signs of true pipeline vitality?

First and foremost, a properly functioning sales pipeline will carry a healthy mix of business. There won’t be over-dependency on a small number of existing customers. Contrast this with a so-called “pipeline” that only delivers repeat business. This is not a pipeline in any true sense. It’s an order calendar. It’s completely under your customers’ control, not yours.

Of course it’s tempting to look at this situation as the ideal. Generations of sales wisdom tells us that a diet of regular customers is the healthiest possible. They cost far less, or even nothing, to support in terms of sales operation. Their revenues are predictable. Their margins are respectable. But they also carry as much high, and hidden, risk to the sales pipeline as heavy cream does to the arteries. In both cases, with over consumption, the pipe becomes inflexible, hardened and narrowed. Any sudden stress and …

A sales pipeline with real vigor will enable healthy growth and not just in new business, but even among the longest-established accounts. There will be fresh activity, signs of new life and evidence that the sales operation is still capable of teaching old customer dogs new ordering tricks, instead of just letting them lie.

A sound sales pipeline will – just like a three-dimensional pipe – have real physical integrity. In plain terms, there won’t be any holes. There will be a continuous flow, from effective new business prospecting at the top, to a steady flow of revenue-boosting orders at the bottom.

Steady is the key word here. A jerky or spiky supply of business – with long gaps between orders and sudden spurts and floods – suggests a worrying underlying pathology. In layman’s terms, you have not so much a sales pipeline as a sales dotted line. Irregular. Not fully joined up. This in turn makes true business planning impossible, given the absence of predictability. And a business that can’t plan can’t grow on its own terms. It can only react.

Finally, a healthy sales pipeline will be just like a healthy blood vessel: flexible, open and rapidly responsive to changing conditions. It won’t depend on old and slow techniques; approaches that are already far outpaced by the technology and cultural impact of online based, social media influenced selling.   

What’s really under YOUR comfort blanket?       

The comfort of assumptions is an illusion. So stop assuming that your sales pipeline is in the state it ought to be for optimal performance. Get it on the treadmill and model the impact of a few tough scenarios. Don’t accept the status quo. Taking action today will save you from reaching for the statins tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Great Threats to Revenue Growth Today

Have you read this blog post?

Seven Great Reasons To Do Three Things You Never Thought Of To Achieve One Guaranteed Result: NOTHING!

Blogging lists suck hard, usually being no more than a way to peddle a tool, technique or service. But there are key themes worth thinking about if you want your business to succeed. In fact, (spoiler alert “list” coming – but it’s a good one) argues Bryan Gray, CEO Revenue Path Group, there are FIVE GREAT THREATS to revenue growth through effective selling. You can choose to ignore them. They will be unlikely to return the favor.

Okay, we’ve opened this blog by deriding those endless lists of things you must avoid/embrace/do now/never do again/make a priority/put to the bottom of your priorities. That could be a high risk strategy, since you might already have concluded our thinking falls into the same instantly ignorable category as all those other attempts to hook you in. Trust me, it doesn’t.

In this introduction to our series on The 5 Great Threats To Revenue Growth Through Effective Selling, we promise you won’t find ANY lists! (You won’t see any in the individual articles either.) This is time for grown ups. We know that life in business isn’t simple. If the path to sales led revenue growth were a gentle downhill stroll through a flower filled glade, we wouldn’t have founded Revenue Path Group. It’s tough out there.

To succeed by design rather than accident, it helps to have some accurate coordinates. And that’s what we’re offering: a set of key coordinates to help identify what really matters. We’re not claiming to have all the answers in advance: that would be impertinent as well as dumb. We are stating, based on the strong foundation of successful experience, that if your business depends for its growth on revenue generated by sales, there are five very focused and practical areas you need to take a close look at.

Think of them as the key function checks a pilot would carry out during flight. You don’t have to be in a tail spin already to do them. But they will reward you with information and improvements that make for a smoother trip. And yes, occasionally, they will help to head off disaster. What are they?

The five “instruments” we monitor on our sales led revenue growth dashboard relate to:

  1. Your Sales Pipeline
  2. Your Website
  3. Your Sales Cycle
  4. Your Sales Message
  5. Your Sales Offer

We said we’re not in the lists business – and we really aren’t. But we cannot see how any business where sales matter can ignore these five key areas. If you don’t have the instrumentation to monitor them, or if you just don’t bother to check your readings, then at best you are missing out on a bunch of key data and insight. And at worst? Well you could be flying through fog at 400 miles an hour towards a mountain.

Let’s look at each instrument in a little more detail.

Your Sales Pipeline The sales pipeline is the aorta of your business circulatory system. So what kind of shape is it in? Strong, flexible and healthy? Is it pumping a variety of new and regular business into your organization? Or is it perhaps a little more sluggish than you would ideally like? Are you fundamentally fearful of what a detailed examination might reveal? Overcome that fear. You really need to know what you’re dealing with, so that you can take informed and effective action.

 

Your Website Is your website doing all it could and should be doing to help grow your business? To make the question more personal, imagine your site is a human member of your sales team. Is this guy appealing, hard working and a star player? The best possible ambassador your business could have out there in the market? Or, if you could, would you put him on a month’s notice? Or fire him today? And how much are you doing to ensure he knows what is expected of him and then to help him succeed?

 

Your Sales Cycle Are your sales cycles typically a straight arrow’s path from initial engagement to deal closed and long-term relationship initiated? Or do they more closely resemble a roller coaster, with steep dips, side loops, sudden mid-air halts and multiple twists and turns before you’re deposited back where you started? If you’re regularly taking that roller coaster, you may want to consider what it’s costing you in terms of sales time, misdirected effort and lost opportunities for an easier ride.

 

Your Sales Message Do your customers get yours? Do you?! Who owns what you say to your key targets? Do you have a “magnetic” message? Does it pull prospects towards your business? Does it give your sales team a single platform to operate from? Is it making sure your marketing is crisp, consistent and convincing? Or is there as much variation in voice as there are people doing the talking? One message: the strongest. One owner: you. Anything less and you risk problems down the line.

 

Your Sales Offer A great sales message won’t work (for very long) without a great offer to support it. So how great is yours today? Is it surviving commoditization and pressure from customers to pay the least they can? Or is it stand-out, commanding a premium on quality? Either way, you need to know. And then you need to act accordingly, with clear action to overcome customer indecision, cut through the noise and make the sale (or disengage before you waste resources and weaken your reputation).
At Revenue Path Group, we believe that keeping an eagle eye on these five areas will reward you with the insights you need to take timely and effective action. Of course, there are numerous other areas that impact wider business performance, ranging from product quality to innovation to the price of gasoline. But when you focus in on sales – and the effective selling you need to do in order to ensure revenue and growth – it’s hard to see how any of the issues we have identified can be ignored safely … or for long.