Close the Gaps to Close More Sales with Marketing Automation
What we are currently doing in marketing and sales is not giving us the success we deserve. I believe this is because our underlying assumptions are faulty about who a buyer is, how to sell to them, why/when/how they will close, and how marketing automation can be used to support our sales efforts.
In fact, the buying process itself is far more complex than we are managing. As a result, we are entering the buying path haphazardly, without focusing on the areas we could actually be managing. This results in losing a lot of sales we could be closing. So, let’s look at the numbers.
Closing Less Than 1 Percent of Warm Leads
As part of my prep work when developing sales training for a few new clients recently, I tracked the success of their marketing automation initiatives. I received approximately the same numbers regardless of industry:
- Out of 100 names determined to be prospects, 3 will agree to an appointment.
- One quarter will cancel, leaving 2.25.
- Of these, 75 percent will express interest and possibly get as far as pricing.
- Of these that express interest, 38 percent will close, or .59 percent.
Based on these numbers, you have to wonder if there is something missing in the process we are using? I’m told that marketing automation is better at closing than using conventional sales models. I can’t help but question that assumption, given that we’re closing less than 1 percent from the 100 deemed “hot prospects.” There’s no telling how many of the originating number of collected leads – around 3,000 – might have been good prospects.
Why is it OK to waste over 99 percent of a seller’s time, making 10-15 calls to each lead, over months and months, to get an appointment that has less than a 1 percent chance to close? Or is this the new norm? With the existing strategy, we’re left to question how can we identify…
- The number of real prospects within the thousands who came to our sites and weren’t called for an appointment?
- Those that got as far as pricing might have closed if sold to differently?
- Whether they would have purchased from the original 100 if they were not first approached to take an appointment?
- Who would buy if they weren’t first called for an appointment?
We Must Eliminate the Gaps Behind the Scenes
Supporters of marketing automation, to date, have maintained the thinking that has driven sales: bring people to a site, follow their online activity, assume they are leads because they exhibit a certain amount of interest, nurture them to make sure they receive the right data, and then try to close.
The problem starts with the sales model itself: as a solution placement activity, it merely addresses the final 10 percent of the buying decision path, and has little input as to how buyers manage change and buy-in. Quite simply, buyers will take no action until the user touches a solution, buys-in to making a change and is willing to learn/add/pay for something new.
Using current practices, there are five fundamental questions that remain unanswered…
- Who is a real buyer from all of the names gathered?
- What is the interest level and and role of the person who filled out the contact sheet? Does he/she have decision-making power?
- What stage of the buying journey are they on and what data is relevant to that stage?
- How is the received material being used and who is it being shared with (i.e. competing vendors? In-house teams)?
- Is the entire buying decision team already on board? Are all who touch the solution in agreement to bring in a new solution?
Whether using just the sales model or marketing automation with some sales activity, leads will not become buyers until all of the above takes place – regardless of the amount and type of data being sent. If the entire series of unique behind-the-scenes issues are not managed, the buyer cannot buy.
How Can Marketing Automation Bring in More Business?
Far too often, sales addresses a need as if it were an isolated event, but the caveat is that buyers don’t buy in isolation from their people, policies, rules, politics, or market forces. Marketing automation is uniquely positioned to actually help buyers manage the entire route down their buying decision path. This is a path that often starts with one person and an idea, but also has to manage people and their diverse relationships.
Marketing automation is uniquely able to initiate the buying process earlier on, making it quite possible to:
- Lead visitors through their entire buy-path, starting with an idea;
- Know exactly what stage of the buying decision journey – both change-related and solution-related – buyers are on;
- Know what buyers are at the last stages and ready to buy, separate from those who are too early in their off-line change management issues to make a purchase;
- Identify the appropriate material to send for that stage in the buy path (even make it possible for the site visitor to choose the data they want and then follow them).
Marketing automation is a very powerful concept that is being underutilized, causing us to miss the opportunity to lead a lot more buyers through their non-solution-related, off-line decision issues. They must manage the buy-in and change issues anyway – with us or without us. And instead of us wasting resources following folks too early in their buy-cycle, we can better target our efforts to navigate the entire decision journey, know who’s ready, and nurture those at an earlier stage.
Let’s add some thinking around navigating and facilitating the entire buying decision path, from idea through to purchasing decision. Then we can close more, and serve more people.