Today, as in the past, there are too many service providers chasing too few jobs. Many still believe that the answer to survival is finding a new salesperson who promises a large book of business or perhaps a better motivated and skilled sales staff that excels at prospecting, time management, and closing. The answer, however, lies elsewhere. Today’s providers can generate greater revenues by focusing more on marketing and less on selling.
Companies need to support their sales staff with effective marketing tools. Branding is at the heart of these activities. Last year, an InfoTrends report (Lisa Cross and Kate Dunn) identified best practices utilized by print providers that had experienced double-digit sales growth in the prior 12 months. “While engaging potential customers in person is essential,” the team writes, “it is also important to support those efforts with printed and digital communications to create a productive sales force.”
If you want to have a competitive edge, you need to differentiate your brand. Well-perceived brands have a tremendous advantage over those perceived as just being average. From the customer’s perspective, promising great product, price, and service is the minimum. It’s average. Grow your sales effectiveness by establishing your brand as a recognized leader. “Your brand is a promise and your work is delivering on it” – Seth Godin.
According to a LinkedIn study “The State of Sales 2018” (download here https://bit.ly/2Pnlicz), your brand’s awareness and perception account for more than half of your sales engagements. For 52% of buyers, the top factor for engaging a vendor is whether the salesperson represents a well-known company with a strong professional brand. Stand out. Be top of mind. Be the company that your prospect remembers.
When it comes to being remembered, don’t take this for granted. There are lots of brands out there, but in each category, the average person recalls only three to five of them. In order to get in their heads, you have to push another brand out. Once you get there, you need to stay there. This requires repetitive engagement with quality, thought leadership, and relevant, helpful content.
Your brand is what your customers and prospects perceive it to be—not what you claim it to be. Eighty percent of companies believe they deliver a superior customer experience, but only 8% of their customers agree. (1) When you consider that as much as 80% of the buying process is complete before the prospect initiates contact with you, you gain a greater understanding of the role branding plays in sales performance.
For 67% of prospects, the first place they go is to your website. You are what your website content says you are. This is where most sales are being won or lost. People now expect you to have a blog. In fact, 81% of B2B decision makers reported using online communities and blogs to help make purchasing decisions (2). A blog should be up to date and contain useful, thought leadership information.
Set your website address as your default page when you go online. Constantly looking at it makes it easier to make incremental, ongoing improvements and updates to your site. View your site as a one-on-one conversation with your best customer. How your site compares to the other three to five sites the prospect will evaluate will likely determine what the prospect will do next. Your site needs to foster trust and credibility. At the end of the day, most people will give the job to the company they trust the most. Price is often the excuse.
Content is king. Take a multichannel approach. With the customer now controlling the sales process, being in the right channel, at the right time, with the right message is critical. This is easier than it sounds.
Generate great, useful content, then push it out via print and email and share it out via your website and social media. This is a simple but effective push, pull, inbound, outbound marketing strategy. It’s not hard, and it doesn’t require a lot of resources. What it requires is a commitment to execution. Start with a 90-day plan. I am happy to advise on this at no fee.
(1) Bain & Company from Harvard Management Update.
(2) 2016 Marketing Think. / Deborah Corn.