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Successful selling really boils down to one common goal: provide value through solving the customer’s problem

Sounds like a simple — and scalable — issue to resolve, right? On the surface, it is. But as you peel back the layers, a few variables enter the equation that prevent businesses from solving for growth.

For starters, repeatable success typically originates from using repeatable processes, but combining each and every activity within the customer acquisition journey into a single consistent strategy adds layers of complexities into the equation.

And let’s not forget, most organizations offer solutions that address multiple problems to either expand their addressable market or maximize the lifetime value of its existing customer base.

If you let your mind wander too far astray, this basic algebra analogy for B2B can look like something out of NASA headquarters.

So, let’s go back to the basics, and deconstruct four common points of failure in the typical lead acquisition funnel and what organizations can do to succeed over them.

Failure Point #1: Targeting the Wrong Customers

One of the most common failure points that often leads to derailed sales and marketing efforts is whether an organization is targeting the right customers.

Even though this may seem like the most basic characteristic of a lead generation or outreach program, you would be surprised how many businesses struggle when it comes to identifying and quantifying their most relevant buying demographics.

There are simple, yet critical questions that every lead acquisition program needs to have answered up front before prospecting commences:

Who stands to benefit from your solution?

There is a fundamental difference between a Total Addressable Market (TAM) and what your true active market. There are two distinguishing factors that help separate the universes: 

  • Common pain points: How can your solution resolve issues and challenges your prospects face? 
  • Opportunity for positive outcomes: While establishing fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) around aforementioned pain points is certainly effective during prospecting, solution-based sales can also pivot toward presenting incremental gains of an existing  aspect of a prospect’s existing business. 

How many of your prospects are truly ready to make the purchase?

Timing is everything. Especially in B2B prospecting. Yet, so often business development teams overlook this variable. 

Want proof? 

Ask most sales and marketing professionals about how they target prospects, and undoubtedly they’ll rifle off a few concepts around segmentation. Namely, how to segment their existing customer base based on core firmographic and demographic commonalities that serve as indicators of high-value prospects.  

But none of those static data points underscore what’s happening within a prospective account now. What does their budget look like? Are they growing or focused on cost management? Has anything significant happened at the company — funding, product releases, executive hires, and more — that indicates now is an advantageous time to target the account? 

Are these prospects actively looking for your solution?

Staying connected to your market is no longer limited to just having the right contact information for the right stakeholders at ideal accounts. Instead, organizations need to understand what companies are signaling they’re in an active procurement phase of a solution.

Leveraging intent data to uncover relevant content consumption across the web from particular companies that match your ideal customer profile is usually a good starting point to identify active research happening within your market. On the other hand, what if no one is actively looking for your product or service?  

Although startups almost always run into this complication, middle market organizations are not immune to the issue as well. Perhaps, your service is too niche to capture buying signals, or that you need to pair multiple topics together to discover additional buyers. 

Failure Point #2: Not Attracting Customers with the Right Message

Present-day customers are overwhelmed with marketing messages promoting a wide array of products/services, be it their personal engagements or business. With the advent of digital channels, coupled with the worldliness of modern marketing technology, consumers are most of the time literally being bombarded by salespeople. Therefore, it is extremely important that your messaging makes the most of those scant seconds it has to make an impression. This can only be done by addressing the prospect’s pain point. You either get through, or diminish.

Here are some of the key criteria businesses need to focus on, when wanting to craft effective prospecting messages at various stages of the sales cycle:

  • Being succinct always works. Honestly, nobody has the time and patience to go through lengthy paragraphs of features and benefits. Get to the point quickly and precisely.
  • Never lose that human touch. Always try to make your prospects feel like you’re humble and easily approachable.
  • Act like you’ve been there. Prospects are always cautious whenever dealing with an early-stage or a new sales professional at a Fortune 500 company. Flip the script. Try to highlight your expertise and past successful projects during client interactions instead.
  • Simplify, whenever possible. Whoever makes it easiest to buy wins. From securing time on the calendar for a discovery call or demo, all the way to creating and distributing follow-up meetings consisting of clear action items for each stakeholder in the aftermath of a call, your process and responsiveness needs to put prospects at ease. 
  • Remember the golden rule. In the end, the customer should be the hero of the story. Granted, it’s hard to maintain a customer-first mindset, especially when dealing with someone who is a prospect.  But even though feature sets, value props and confident understanding of intricate details of your solution or service are essential to a strong sales pitch, each pales in comparison to a potential customer’s needs. Messaging should address the customer’s situation in relation to all the bells and whistles your solution offers. 

Failure Point #3: Distributing Messages Through the Wrong Channels

Your marketing effort, or precisely speaking, your distribution strategy, is the exterior packaging of your offering. Once you’ve put your heart and soul into enhancing your offering, you then need to make sure you are dispensing  value through channels that actually reach your target audience. 

Some of the frequently used channels companies have at their disposal today include:

1) Inbound Marketing is a business methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them. This happens to be the most sought after method for any business looking to create a high-converting growth model and increase its exposure in an organic manner. 

2) Paid Digital Advertising is an extremely rewarding method for bringing in traffic to your website and rallying leads. However, it requires a little investment from your end before results can start being observed.

4) Email Prospecting is the process of finding, researching, and qualifying prospects for a cold outreach campaign. It’s an essential part of any outreach campaign for two reasons: tracking down key information that allows you to personalize emails, and increasing response rates and conversions.

5) Social Prospecting, as the name itself suggests, is nothing but the process of leveraging social networking platforms to identify, study and engage with prospects.

6) Print Media can be extremely effective for field sales teams. Using printed media, such as posters or leaflets, can help you reach your target audience much more easily. For a small business with a local reach, print marketing can easily help create local brand recognition and guide customers directly to your premises.

7) Referral Marketing is spreading the word about a product or service through a business’ existing customers, rather than traditional advertising. This is efficacious for businesses that believe in maintaining good client relations throughout and progress on the basis of word-of-mouth.

Your channel mix should be computed frequently by measuring the cost per qualified opportunity and the cost per lead. It is also equally important to measure the success of lead generation.

Failure Point #4: Final Sticking Points – Proposal, Product and Pricing

If your company hasn’t experienced failure at this point, you’re probably in good shape, but you’re yet to move your deal across the goal line. You have already established enough value for your offering that your prospects are asking for a proposal to assess the finer details.  

The first failure of many sales programs in this particular stage is that the interested prospects are not fully qualified prior to submitting a proposal. Industry experts agree that winning as many proposals as you can is vital to the growth of your business. If that’s not the case, your qualification process is incomplete in all probability.

Once you submit a proposal, there are a few other failure points to consider:

  • Proposal: The failure point in the proposal itself mostly falls under the key business structure and terms mentioned within the agreement. Everything right from the payment terms, limitation of liability, termination, enforceability, and indemnification, to its term can derail your prospect’s potential to move forward and implement the deal.
  • Pricing: Businesses need to understand that in the absence of all other vital factors, there is only price that’s stopping you from closing deals. If you are losing deals based on your pricing, it’s either because you are not actually qualifying and solving your prospect’s pain points, or you are pricing yourself out of the market. Ensuring you are effectively communicating and validating your key value to the customer is extremely crucial at this point.
  • Product: This is the failure that stings the most. If you are constantly being bested by an industry counterpart based on attributes of the product/service alone, you need to step back and address this first. Don’t blame your salespeople if you are converting less than your forecasted opportunities.  Have a self-effacing moment and deal with the problem.

Finally, uncovering each or any of these failures means you’re closer to operating more effectively, since every failure reveals an opportunity. You just need to know how to fix it. 

About the author

Rahul Varshneya

Rahul Varshneya is co-founder and president of CurveBreak. Rahul has been featured as a technology thought leader in numerous media channels such as Bloomberg TV, Forbes, Huffpost and Inc., among others.

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