Over the past ten years, we have witnessed a shift in how sales and marketing teams approach how they engage buyers when buyers quite often block their traditional efforts via phone and email. The use of social channels have become popular mediums, especially during the past five years, to try and reach buyers in new ways.
There is no one way to drive your pipeline and revenue.
In some ways, I think the pendulum has swung too far. Using content as one way to attract buyers into a conversation with you should be part of your marketing and sales strategy, but it doesn’t replace other activities that are part of the acquisition of new customers. Outbound phone calls, emails, in-person visits, online Skype meetings, presentations, referrals, and networking. These things all matter, regardless what you hear from the social selling fanatics. You need a balanced approach to generating leads, and if you are in sales, that means picking up the damn phone too, as my colleague Joanne Black would say. If you think sharing content is all it takes, come performance review time, you’ll be in trouble. Social selling isn’t some stand-alone methodology that done on its own generates leads. Far from it. If that were the case, 50% of salespeople wouldn’t keep missing quota, and lead generation wouldn’t top the list of challenges most companies are struggling to overcome. Frankly, it’s all just sales! The integration of social into the selling process is a part of the process; it is not THE only thing you can rely on to make your numbers.
Lead generation remains a top priority for most organizations.
68% of B2B companies are still struggling with lead generation. -CSO Insights
From the conversations I have with sales and marketing leaders, building a strong pipeline from effective lead generation is a top issue. This challenge has led to the outgrowth of a multitude of strategies and new technologies designed to help companies improve their lead generation effectiveness.
In addition to direct outreach to prospective customers, content has become the “hot” approach to driving leads through inbound inquiries. As with social selling, the inbound crowd has crowed for years that inbound is all you need. Except for one thing. It is a lie. Even companies like Hubspot, who coined the term and made it their mantra, put in place an inside sales team that does outbound – wait for it – cold calls.
Buyers do use content as part of their buying and decision-making process.
51% of B2B buyers rely more on content to research and make B2B purchasing decisions than they did a year ago. – DemandGen Report – 2016 Content Preferences Survey
Yes, buyers are using content to aid them in decision-making, and I would argue that they are becoming increased overwhelmed with the sheer volume of content out there for them to sift through.
Companies are producing all types of content. Videos, interactive presentations, analyst reports, infographics, blog posts, eBooks, webinars, white papers and more. But which type of content is the most effective? In DemandGen Report’s 2016 Content Preferences Survey, they found that white papers were the most effective at 82%, webinars came in at 78% and in third place was case studies at 73%. That doesn’t mean that eBooks (67%) and blog posts (66%) aren’t effective. They are, but they rank 4th and 5th respectively. The only reason that I bring this up, which might seem obvious, is because it is the right kind of content, as part of an overall integrated lead generation strategy that makes a difference in getting buyers to pay attention to your message.
Forgot what’s hot today and gone tomorrow. Fancy names mean nothing.
Account based selling (or marketing), in my opinion, is simply another example of an old strategy dressed up with a new name and definition. It’s catchy, and proponents tout it as the best way to improve your lead generation strategy.
I pulled this definition from a KnowledgeTree blog post – “Account Based Selling is a B2B sales model that uses an account-based approach, rather than a lead-based or contact based approach, to predict which companies are ready and likely to buy. Under this model, sales teams focus on a set of highly-targeted, high-value accounts with the goal to convert them to customers. To do so successfully requires talking to the right people, at the right time, with the right content and messaging.” With all due respect to my friends at KnowledgeTree, how is this different than the way successful sales teams have always sold?
Maybe I’m just old-school. I have always started with a targeted list of companies I want to hire me. I then look for opportunities to build relationships or secure introductions to the key decision makers. And, when has it not been about talking to the right people, at the right time, with the right message? Did I miss something these past 25+ years selling?
There is no one way. Accept it.
Much as I wish I could tell you there was an easy fix to a tough problem, there is no one way to solve the lead generation challenges that plague your sales organization. Don’t believe anyone who tries to convince you that there is. Nothing related to sales and marketing these days is easy. It is time to ignore the hype, buckle down, create a strategy that you test and refine until you find the one that works best for you. Anything else and your pipeline results will continue to be more of the same.