Category Archives: Marketing

What does a healthy sales pipeline look like?

According to research by Vantage Point, 60% of sales managers say that their company does a poor job of managing their sales pipeline, how do you rate yours?

A sales pipeline is a visual snapshot of where prospects are in the sales process. Sales pipelines show you how many deals salespeople are expected to close in a given week, month or year and how close you are to reaching targets.

If you have a pipeline worth £100,000 in contract value and your conversion rate, from lead to sale, is 10%, then you can expect to close £10,000 worth of new business.

If your sales target is £20,000, then you will need to convert twice as many leads.

This is where pipeline analysis comes in. If you can identify improvements within your pipeline that will help you move more prospects from one stage to another, then you’re going to be more successful in your business.

For B2B sales in particular, having a healthy sales pipeline allows you to:

  • Improve your sales process
  • Forecast future business results
  • Analyse different sales strategies for your business,
  • Review your progress for the current financial year
  • Know how far you are from your targets.

A sales pipeline plays a key role both in closing more sales deals and indicating the overall health and future direction of your company. Here are a few tips to manage your sales pipeline.

Follow up, follow up, follow up.

Buyers today have more choice than ever before and with it, they need more help to make the right decision and choose your product or service. The best sales people will make sure they keep following up with leads and keep following up.

Focus on the best leads

Concentrate your efforts on the best, most sales-ready, high value leads.

To help, you could sort your sales prospects from high to low, instead of by date so you can instantly see which leads are most valuable. Also, if you view your sales activities for each lead, you can identify which prospects are the most engaged.

Let go of the dead leads

It is important to know when to let go of a lead. A lead is dead when they clearly tell you they’re not interested. If you can’t contact them, or you’ve spoken to them repeatedly but have not been able to move them forward.

Recognise these dead leads quickly so you can move on. 

Regularly monitor your pipelineYour sales pipeline is changing all the time so you need to monitor the key sales metrics. This includes things like:

  • The number of deals in your pipeline
  • The average size of the deals in your pipeline
  • The average percentage of deals that you win (close ratio)
  • The average lifetime of a deal before it’s closed (sales velocity)

These metrics give you an ‘at a glance’ view of the health of your sales pipeline and your business.

Review pipeline processes

The best sales organizations regularly review their sales pipeline and techniques to make sure things are optimized to ensure maximum efficiency and success.

When it comes to the sales process, each stage can be looked at and adapted/improved over time. This can be done one bit at a time!

Keep your pipeline updated

Don’t let your sales pipeline can get messy and confusing.

It is important to keep details up to date on every single lead by adding regular notes and information for each stage of the sales process. This does mean more admin time, but if you use this time to remove dead leads or update outdated contact information, then it’s time well spent.

Above are just a few good practices for managing your sales pipeline, there are more!

If you would like to discuss ways of improving yours Your Business Development Team would be happy to have a chat and see if we can help.

And please share this article if you’ve found it useful.

How do you know which half of your marketing is working?

I assume many of you have heard this before: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half,” John Wanamaker (1838-1922).

Although this is an old quote, it is still very relevant and represents a source of great frustration for many companies. Marketing often seems like an endless pit which you must continue to spend on, regardless of the results you might get from it. Indeed, many companies I meet want us to provide guarantees that we can deliver results. To the marketeers and sales people that might sound problematic, however, not to an engineer who might spend 80% of their time ensuring processes deliver expected results.

This frustration leads many companies to decide not to spend any money on marketing and rely completely on existing clients and referrals. I think this is a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water. The good news is that there are many things you can do to measure your marketing results. Here are a few examples:

  1. Use a CRM system which has an effective dashboard, providing you with an overview of your pipelines and sales opportunities. Make sure that you are including an accurate picture across your sales process, for example new leads, prospects and opportunities. This means that you will be able see an accurate picture of your sales funnel.
  2. Use Google Analytics regularly to evaluate your website performance. Although it takes time to get your head around it, you can find a wealth of information from traffic fluctuation, website usage and sources. If you don’t have the time to do this yourself, ask your marketing company to help or get training.
  3. Ask for reports on any marketing activity you outsource and set up reports for any activities you carry out in-house. From Excel sheets to sophisticated tools such as Keyhole or Hootsuite, find the tool that works for you and use it.

 This is all very well and might help with the initial discussion, but today, statistics and numbers are relatively easy to get hold of. The real question is what it means and whether it’s any use to your business. Let’s say that you have had 500 more people land on your site through Social Media in quarter two; does this mean you are going to hit your sales target this quarter? Of course, the answer is, not necessarily, which brings us back to square one…

What can you do then to understand if your marketing is working?

Here is what I recommend:

  1. Have a plan and a strategy that you update regularly
  2. Get close with your marketing and understand how it works and what results it brings
  3. Ask the right questions about your results
  4. Be patient and realistic about time scales
  5. When in doubt, bring in an expert

 Hope this is helpful. As always, if you are looking to discuss your options or just for some advice do get in touch.

What is your favourite B2B marketing strategy?

This week I have discovered that there is definitely something about the North Sea air that really clears your thoughts. I assume it’s the cold wind that hangs around even on a lovely sunny day. I am sat writing this during our summer holiday to the Scottish Island of Islay, a very peaceful and beautiful place indeed. We have just had a picnic and as you can see from the picture, I am ready for the Scottish summer. This means that my family can run around and enjoy the rock pools whilst I stay warm enough.

This brings me to the point of the Blog today which is all about diversifying and working with the conditions you are faced with. We all have a favourite marketing strategy which we tend to believe works for us. For some people it’s e-mail marketing, for others it’s Blogging and for quite a number of SME owners it’s repeat business and referrals. Fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with this. If you have been in business for sometime you must be doing something right. 

Having said that, I believe you need to consider two important elements besides whatever it is that you think is working for you:

  1. Market circumstances do change and being able to foresee this in advance can help you prepare and diversify to ensure you are ready for the new situation.
  2. Measuring your results is very important as there is often a big difference between what you think a tactic is generating and what you actually get.

Just in case you haven’t considered the above before, here are a few things you can do going forward:

  • Changes to the market: None of us have a crystal ball but we can still react to change and create a plan B using a variety of tools such as:
  • Developing possible scenarios and analysing how they might affect both growth and business retention
  • Identifying some low-hanging fruit which are relatively straight forward opportunities you can capitalise on
  • Considering new products or services 
  • Considering new markets to tap into
  • Increasing your reach in your existing market 
  • Measuring your results: This is never an exact science but its is important nonetheless. Here are a few things you might want to consider:
  • Get to know how to use Google Analytics better
  • Learn how to use digital analytic tools for your Social Media activity
  • Make sure you and your team are using a CRM system to record any sales activity 
  • Run some surveys with existing clients 
  • Ensure you always ask new people where they heard of you

These are very broad ideas and I am sure that you and your team can come out with much more specific strategies. When you have, we will be very happy to support you in taking your new ideas to market. Click here to get in touch.

How long does your summer holiday really lasts?

Research into wellbeing points out that levels of burnout are increasing, work-life balance is getting worse and many of us experience stress like never before. If you look at it in this light, having some time off in the summer seems like a really good idea.

Most people must agree, which is why July and particularly August tends to be a quieter time at work. So far so good but the problem is that many take this to mean that they can have a break from marketing too. Go off line for a bit and save some money on on-going campaigns. Good for them. There is nothing wrong with some cost and time saving exercises, no one is listening anyway, right?

After all this build-up I am sure that you understand that I don’t quite agree. Before I am accused of being a sad person and a party pooper, let me explain why: I am all for going on holiday, in fact some people might tell you that I have more holidays than most. But that does not mean I stop looking for new business and working through my marketing plan. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Because of the level of exposure to content and easy access to work stuff, most people don’t switch off. Even if they don’t read work e-mails on their holiday, they will be thinking about the problems they need to solve when they get back in the office. Your Blog might just get in front of them at the right time.
  2. I have said this before about December but it’s also true about August: people don’t take the entire summer off, unless they are teachers, but when they are in the office they have less meetings so they are more available to take your calls. You never know, you might just be able to get hold of that prospect you have been chasing for months.
  3. Most importantly, a new sale does not start with the crunch, it starts with a load of other work designed to identify interest. This takes time and you always have to go through it first, unless you just want to sit tight and wait for sales to come to you that is. So if you stop all of the interest creation and new business activity you may well find that you don’t write any new business until January 2020. Can you afford to do this?

So, by all means, have your holiday and enjoy it. Try to switch off and leave all the worries and stress for when you get back. Before you go, make sure you schedule the Blogs to go out as normal, keep paying your marketing company and make sure someone is following up on all of this activity. This just might help with your stress levels when you get back.

If you need help augmenting your resources this summer, check out how we can help here.

How easy is it to buy a G&T?

We all either love a chilled glass of G&T on a summer day, or at least can appreciate the notion. This is why I was particularly delighted to discover that someone clever had organised a festival dedicated to sausages and gin in Portishead last weekend. The local butchers have advertised it for months wearing colourful t-shirts and promising to supply their lovely sausage creations. What else can you ask for?  We were signed up to attend SausageGin as we fondly branded it.

What happened next was unexpected, even if you attend more local events than I do. We turned up on time to see our favourite band, Three Day week.  It wasn’t raining and sausages were still sizzling. The gin tent was prominent and there was even a Pimm’s tent. All looked great and as expected so we headed to the gin tent and asked for our long-awaited G&T. It was then promptly explained to us that we needed to go to another stand to get a glass, come back to them to buy the G and then go to the Pimm’s tent for the T…. Guess what happened: we ended up with wine from the pub instead.

I have no idea how well the gin tent did at the festival; the overall event was popular and pleasant. However, as someone who promotes sales for a living, the convoluted G&T sale was a lesson I had to share with you. It is so easy to do this; we all have a story or two to tell about how we forgot an important small detail that made our campaign a disaster. I just think it’s worth reminding you that if you want people to buy, you need to make it easy to do business with you.

This means that if you are planning a marketing campaign, you need to make sure that all the links work, the landing pages download quickly and your contact details are nice and bold in case someone wants to contact you. It also means that if you can provide a ‘one click service,’ don’t make it three. People’s time is their most important asset so make sure you respect that.

Sometimes this means that you are better off working with marketing and business development experts who can help you consider the best way to take your product to market. This might save you some costly mistakes like the above. Visit our website for more details.

 

Intent data, what and why?

I have written before about the five obstacles to making a sale as described by Zig Ziglar, one of which is desire. It makes perfect sense that people will not buy from you unless they have a desire – also referred to as pain – which forces them to do something about a situation. The Million Dollar Question is of course, how you find out that a company in your target market is having an issue which you can solve…

One of the latest buzz words in the B2B industry is intent data marketing; in this Blog I attempt to explain what it is and how it might be used by SMEs.

  1. What is intent data?

There are many definitions out there, here is my favourite one which was taken from a Blog written by Aberdeen, who are a supplier of Intent-based marketing and sales solutions:

‘Intent data comes in two flavours: First-party and third-party. First-party intent data is user behavioural information you capture on your own website, in your CRM system, through customer feedback, or application logs. Third-party intent data is user behavioural information that is collected by co-operative networks of B2B publishers via user registrations, tags, cookies, or tokens embedded within a website’s code.

An intent data provider captures online buyer behaviour, tracking specific companies’ active research levels against specific solutions / products / industry categories. The data is then used to calculate an intent score, which indicates the likelihood that the company actively researching will make a purchase in the category.’

  1. Is it worth focusing on?

Most analysts seem to agree that purchasing intent data is not a cheap solution. It, of course, depends on the platform you use and your requirements. Many companies might also be uncomfortable with putting many eggs in the ‘data basket’ particularly when it involves spying on people’s behaviour.

That said it seems to be an effective way of identifying warm leads who might be easier to convert. Building a pipeline in the B2B environment can be both lengthy and costly so finding ways to make it more efficient should not be sniffed at.

The next question is of course, is it a solution that can be used by SME’s or is it more geared towards corporate? I believe it is the sort of solution which is open to any company if they are prepared to invest the time and budget in making it work for them.  Any company can improve their first party engagement through using good content, calls to action and effective customer journey on their website. Third party intent data is an area where relatively high costs may make it less accessible for SMEs.

  1. Intent Data for SMEs

When it comes to marketing and sales SMEs, in general, have smaller budgets, less resources, time and expertise. This means that they often end up unaware of new solutions that might be all the rage in the marketing world. Whilst intent data sounds like a big, complicated term, a lot of it is not new. Moreover, you may already have some of it at your fingertips.  Here are some examples:

  • Google Analytics reports
  • Lead Magnets
  • Downloadable materials
  • Social Media
  • E-mail marketing

The important thing is to understand how you use this data to increase your lead conversion. We now offer a new lead generation product which combines using intent data with direct marketing. Read more about it here.

Entering new markets can be a real challenge – Why do it?

One of my big bugbears is the saying, ‘Better the devil you know’. My esteemed colleague Google tells me that the proverb is of Irish origin and has been traced back to the 1539 collection of proverbs by R. Taverner. The main point of this saying is, of course, that a new thing is unknown and therefore should be avoided as it may be even worse than the current.

Not surprisingly, this is an approach we come across a lot when dealing with business. I have written before about the fact that most established businesses rely less on new business sales and more on customer retention and referrals. This is as it should be because these are key factors in the development of any company contributing to its stability and profitability.

So why invest in opening up and developing new markets?

Indeed, there are many reasons why not to, here are a few prime ones:

  1. Hiring or developing the resources required is expensive
  2. There are no guarantees that you will get a return on your investment
  3. You might have to make concessions or changes to your product to make sure it fits
  4. Developing new business takes a lot of time and effort

However, unless you are a big believer in, ‘Better the devil you know’, there are many reasons why you should consider new markets. Here are some of my favourite ones:

Over-dependency on your current client base. Depending on your industry your clientele may be very specific and limited or it might have a wider reach. Like everybody else, some of your clients might be great and others less so but any company can change direction, fold or

  1. decide to hire someone else. If you have a healthy pipeline of new opportunities this might be less of a blow.
  2. Over-dependency on specific industries. You may well be an expert and a brand in certain industries which is great. However, as economic circumstances change, some industries may experience a decline which can put you at risk. Adding diversity to your sales can put you a step ahead of your competition and keep you in profit. Diversity does not have to mean a different industry all together but also improving your reach within your existing one.
  3. Limiting your own growth. If you only operate within one target market, you may well reach a saturation point which hampers your growth efforts. A new market can provide you with a fresh opportunity to grow and develop.
  4. Becoming a bit stale. If you always do what you have always done you cannot really expect change, even Einstein said that. Going for new markets will force you to update your products and consider how you do things which is never a bad thing.

I hope this is useful and will support you in including a plan to enter a new market sometime this year. If you do, be sure to contact us to see how we might help. We have introduced some very specific products on top of our lad generation and lead nurturing so you may want to visit our site and have a browse.

Who is your end client?

The very knowledgeable Brain Tracy once said, “Keep your sales pipeline full by prospecting continuously. Always have more people to see than you have time to see.” I agree but before you throw a lot of resources into filling up your diary and pipeline, you might want to consider who, actually, is your end client?

This is an interesting question as most people look to identify their target markets but don’t necessarily consider who their end client is in those markets. This question specifically relates to which entity you sell to and the answer is one of three:

  1. Your end client is a company, an organisation or a person who purchases your product for their own use.
  2. Your end client is a distribution channel, such as a building merchant or a department store, which sells your products to its own clients.
  3. You have a variety of products and target both clients directly and distribution channels.

Not sure? Here are some examples:

  • Which companies typically sell directly to their clients? Most companies who provide a service like IT support, insurance, telecom and marketing.
  • Which companies typically sell through distribution channels? Most companies who provide a product like manufacturers, engineers, artisan food and drink and small clothes and shoes brands
  • Which companies sell through both? Larger companies who have a variety of products, suppliers of outsourced services like security and cleaning, retailers who sell online as well as through shops

 Why is it important to understand this then?

Understanding who you are trying to reach is a key to your lead generation and overall marketing strategy. If you miss this parameter out, you might find it very hard to engage your target market. Here are a few examples of where this might affect your decision:

  1. If you are trying to reach out to companies or people who buy from you directly, you will need to assess them directly. Find out what target markets they are in, where they go to look for data, who do they trust and use this information to build visibility and trust.
  2. If you are selling through a distribution channel, you need to take into account a whole set of challenges that affect branch and product managers in this industry. Of course, distribution channels vary enormously so you will need to identify the different segments relevant to your product.
  3. If you are selling to both, you need to reflect that in your strategy and ensure that whilst promoting your product online, you are also opening doors and building relationships with the relevant distribution channels.

Sounds complicated?

That’s because it often is, putting together a sound strategy takes some brain power, knowledge and expertise. We now operate a B2B lead generation service supporting you if you sell directly or through a distribution channel. Take a look and get in touch to discuss your requirements further.

 

Staying focused can be hard work these days…

‘I try to stay focused on my creativity,’ said Christina Aguilera. Well, what can I say, me too, how about you?

It might have been mentioned before that we live in a very busy world which makes staying focused very difficult. This affects most people and covers all walks of life, making It one of the biggest challenges we face. Now, I cannot really help you if you are a nuclear physicist looking to get more focused but if you are looking at increasing your new business sales, I might be able to offer some advice;

So, what are the specific issues you face regarding focusing your business development?

As I see it there are three key issues:

  1. Short cuts
  2. Silver bullets
  3. Impatience

I do apologise if this sound a bit like a Haiku but it can be further explained with the following example:

Bob is a Business Development Director who has been tasked with increasing new business sales for his company. Bob has a very busy job and is bombarded with communications about how he could take his company to the next level using the latest trick every day. Bob, like many people, likes to use tried and tested tools, preferably ones he feels comfortable with. What will he do now then? Here are some options:

  1. Bob could look at previous marketing campaigns which may have worked in the past and look to re-instate them, praying they still work
  2. Bob could pursue the latest tool promised to solve all his problems
  3. Bob could spend some time reviewing and understanding his target markets and put together a structured strategy to approach them

Will you be surprised if I told you that any of the above options could still land him with no further sales?

This is the problem so many of us come across, no matter how much thought you put into a campaign ensuring your planning is spot on; you still may fail, in THE SHORT TERM. One of the biggest issues with our busy world is that it is full of choice and so we have become dependant on instant solutions that deliver immediately. But, when it comes to selling, particularly expensive stuff, it’s impossible to get immediate results and you really need to apply patience in order to get any meaningful leads.

As patience really is a virtue these days, most people abort business development campaigns too as soon as they feel they have had no results and start again on another old initiative or a different silver bullet and so on and so forth. Now that sort of thing really does not help your focus or your new business sales, does it?

I don’t think there is one answer to this, as it will make me another business person offering silver bullets. All I would say, is that every business has specific needs and details make all the difference. If you want to look into this further, click on this link (preferably on your mobile) to fill in our questionnaire and we can get back to you with some ideas.

 

About making a choice

We recently asked a carpenter to make us some shelves for our kitchen.  In the process of discussing our requirements, we went from having a few shelves for our cook books to having a floor to ceiling unit in the corner of our kitchen. That took some careful measurements and calculations then off he went to make our unit.

Some time passed and he came back to take some final measurements. It was Monday morning and I had about a million things to think about but it was then that I was asked to make a choice between a corner unit or a straight forward shelving unit. What I should have done was to ask him to leave it with me so we could discuss it but instead I felt compelled to make a choice there and then. I chose a corner unit, which came out completely the wrong shape and size for our kitchen. Not a good outcome; luckily it sorts of fits in our living room.

At this stage, I think it’s important to mention that there is never just one choice.  However, if you need to make one, here is what I learned:

  1. Immediate choices are not a must. Some things are better off being carefully considered.
  2. Making the right choice takes specific skill and knowledge. Sometimes it’s wise to involve other people who are better placed to make a particular decision.

Your business development strategy, just like many other elements, involves making choices. In order to make it work for your company, you need to consider a variety of things, such as:

  • Who are you targeting?
  • In what order?
  • What is their key issue?
  • How can you solve it?

Once you are clear on the above, you can work out what tactics to use to better connect with your target markets.  At this stage, your choice should be based on where your target markets search for helpful information. This will almost certainly not be based on one tactic, or platform but rather on a variety of tools which fit together.

Simple, right? WRONG!  Doing this right takes some skill and research. It might take some time to put together and you might have to ask an expert. But done correctly, it will work much better than applying the latest craze which everyone is talking about.

Our Big Ticked Lead Generation system was designed to provide a means which may be right for you if you operate in the B2B market and have a complicated, long sales process.  Check our website for more details or give us a call to discuss further.