After interviewing more than a hundred CMOs, Global and Regional Sales Managers, Field and Inside sales reps and Marketing Directors during the last months of 2016 – and reviewing research from Forrester, Sirius Decisions and Gartner – here are our initial observations and recommendations. We’ll be posting more later, but these are the top 3 greatest hits you can act on right away.
Fix the Huge Leak in the “Where to Buy” Process on Your Web Site.
If your public web site uses a “Find a Distributor” or “Where to Buy” locater process, do not let the potential buyer escape without giving you minimal contact information. Here’s why. The latest research is clear that 80% of buyers have already done their homework in deciding what to buy. If they are this far along in the purchase decision journey, they’re not going to be annoyed giving you their name and email address BEFORE you guide them to their preferred Partner.
Further, allowing the buyer to contact the Partner Channel directly will permanently preempt your ability to up-sell, cross-sell, launch new products and control the purchase outcome. Our research has shown that thousands of leads are lost each month by not addressing the attribution inherent in this process. Just think what capturing 10% of those could do to your sales numbers!
Be Certain Your Channel Partners Aren’t Switching Your Sales Leads to Competitor or In-house Products
First, the facts. Almost 90% of the sales and marketing folks we spoke with assumed that ‘switching’ is going on – they just can’t prove it. I know that it might be frustrating to hear that your Partner Channels are being disloyal, but let’s monetize this issue. You paid to generate these sales leads – be it digital, trade show, print, email or a sales rep dialing for dollars. You are throwing your marketing budget out the window if the result of the sales journey supported your competitors.
Likely you already realize that your Partner Channels, for whatever reason, don’t provide you with End-buyer sales outcomes linked to the sales lead’s contact information other than a few that provide POS data which can’t be linked directly to an actual End Buying Customer record. (We sensed it’s almost like a reluctance to ask an ex-spouse how their new love interest is going) .
So, to understand what your sales leads really purchased, you’ll need to create on ongoing Customer feedback process that is shared enterprise-wide with Sales, Marketing, Product Managers and Channel Managers to take appropriate action. There’s a heavy appetite for automating this process into your “CRM”, but at minimum it makes good business sense monthly to ask your sales leads – “What happened? Did you buy? What did you buy? And a huge side benefit will be a better understanding of your buyers’ sales barriers and downstream sales pipeline information.
Implement an Ongoing Post-Sale Product/service Satisfaction Process
40% of Customers indicate they are not satisfied with some aspect of their buying experience (the product/service performance, sales rep product knowledge, timely delivery, packaging, etc.). The leading B2B marketing think tanks speak directly on the importance of simply asking buyers if they are happy with their purchase and if the Customer is less than ecstatic, taking appropriate steps in a timely manner to get the relationship with the Customer back on track.
Of course, every company will say they want to do this – but the responsibility of executing this follow-up process is often blurred between the roles of sales and marketing in terms of funding and project ownership. Another challenge when you sell through Partner Channels is not knowing which End Customers purchased your products. That is can easily be overcome by including all your sales leads in the feedback process outlined in the previous section.
Fact is, Customers will be sure to share ‘bad’ buying experiences with at least 7 other people. Staying on top of what customers are thinking – and fixing issues promptly – is much cheaper than creating sales leads and pushing them through the buying journey. It’s part of the brand experience. Automating this process is the way to go – but if resources are tight, at least reach out to your pool of End Customers monthly.