B2B Outbound Marketing is Dead! Long Live ______________?

Can you fill in the blank in the headline?

Many experts believe outbound died. Traditional marketing techniques like direct mail, advertising or telemarketing washed away with the roaring digital flood of the last decade.

Think about it. Is it harder to sell today than ten years ago?

Of course, it is.

Harvard Business Review (HBR) researchers discovered it now takes 18 or more phone calls to reach a prospect. Callback rates have fallen to one percent. And only 24 percent of outbound sales emails get opened. What’s a salesperson to do?

Worse yet, the HBR study reveals 84 percent of B2B buyers begin their purchasing process with a referral. And peer recommendations influence more than 90 percent of all B2B buying decisions. Not much room left for outbound marketing.

On top of this situation, B2B buyers now try to avoid salespeople altogether during their buying process, especially during the awareness and consideration stage. Why?  “Sales reps tend to prioritize a sales agenda over solving a customer’s problem,” maintains Forrester Research, now Gartner.

Well, no wonder.

So how do we reach prospective decision makers hidden behind administrative assistants, office doors and overbooked agendas?

Stop selling.

And you say, “but if I stop selling, then what am I doing?

Enter the inbound magnet of social selling.

The guru of inbound marketing, Hubspot, explains that:

Social selling has “become a crucial way for successful sales teams to communicate with their prospects. Social selling is when salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects. Salespeople will provide value by answering prospect questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy.

Thus, the use of social media in sales allows salespeople to delight their prospects rather than interrupt their daily lives with cold calls and hard sells, eventually converting them into loyal customers.”

So social selling softens the shell around prospects who do not want to be “sold.” And that’s why you need to change your focus and sales process to match how prospect wants to buy.

Sound simple enough?  Don’t fool yourself. It is tough but important work. You need to do your research so you can develop a unique perspective on the prospect’s business issues. Then, you must bring that perspective to every interaction.

However, social selling is one marketing channel. You still need to establish your sales structure.

Create what I call a valid business reason backed by critical thinking and insight to enable your prospect to see the value you bring to the interaction.

In your messaging, use MERGE 2.0s CAVP formula in our eBook [see page 11] to craft language with meaning and impact.

Then, land your first conversation with the prospect using social media in your strategy. With social selling, salespeople can use social media platforms to research, prospect, and network by sharing educationally based content, as well as responding to key questions in various discussion groups where your prospects frequent.

These actions build awareness, particularly when you are on the lookout for triggering events that give you a solid reason to reach out in a timely way. Above all, build your brand and relationship basis well before the prospect is ready to buy.

In my business, I write weekly blogs, occasional white papers, and share studies and research reports of educational value to my clients and prospects who seek strategies for revenue growth. I am also active in discussion groups. These marketing elements attract inbound website traffic as people reach out and download the content they deem valuable.

After several months of viewing my site and consuming different content, prospects contact me to discuss specific situations where they feel I can bring value. Inbound at its best.

In a recent study by Objective Management Group (OMG) The Modern Science Behind Sales Effectiveness, researchers asked respondents:

“Does social selling impact sales effectiveness?”

Notice the OMG graph below: Nearly 60 percent answered yes, with nearly 20 percent using formalized social selling initiatives.

Researchers also wanted to know how social selling contributes to the number of qualified opportunities in their pipelines. Thirty-eight percent shared that their social selling initiatives produced more qualified opportunities in their pipelines.

Then, researchers zeroed in on the 38 percent reporting more qualified opportunities to discover what they were doing differently:

  • More likely to employ 25+ salespeople, booking $25 – $75 million in revenue.
  • 30 percent more likely to register a significant sales increase than the overall population.
  • 50 percent conducted quarterly sales training compared to 22 percent of the overall respondent population.
  • Social selling was practiced equally across traditional, inside and lead generation teams. In the overall population, social selling was practiced by the traditional sales teams 50 percent more often than by inside and lead generation teams.
  • Those analyzing the data believe that traditional salespeople, aware of social selling channels, were informally dabbling in it, while inside and lead generation teams pounded the phones.
  • 85 percent reached out directly to prospects over social selling channels compared with 59 percent overall.
  • Social selling offered little benefit to salespeople who routinely maintained a full pipeline. Only one percent experienced an increase in pipeline size.
  • Two possible explanations: Perhaps, certain salespeople had not yet adopted social selling or they used it but had full pipelines anyway, and it served only as an alternate source for opportunities.
  • Social selling did help salespeople with weak pipelines. Twenty percent of the respondents reported their salespeople showed significant improvement in pipeline quality compared to only 11 percent overall.

Companies which formalize implementation of social selling reach out directly and more often to prospects, achieve more qualified opportunities, and achieve significantly more sales─a notable way to deflect the 18-phone call barrier to reaching prospects today.

Next, the researchers turned to those companies reporting neither an increase or decrease in qualified opportunities. And learned here’s why:

  • 67 percent took an informal versus a formal approach to social selling
  • 75 percent just implemented or recently implemented social selling in the past 12 months
  • 75 percent direct their traditional sales team to practice social selling
  • 75 percent focus more on LinkedIn Group participation; 66 percent on blogging, while only 50 percent reach out directly to prospects.

The OMG report concludes that while social selling impacts the size of but a few sales pipelines, when it does, the impact is significant on the quality of the new opportunities generated.

If your firm lags in adopting this social way of selling, you will lose ground in the race to build market presence, new connections, new prospects, and new, quality opportunities to your pipelines.

Don’t allow social selling to fall into the “missed opportunity” category in your company.

See you on the upside,

Bill

For more information, go to www.pleinairestrategies.com
Or call William L. MacDonald in San Diego at PleinAire Strategies LLC at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700

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