By Stuart Wheldon, Director Client Services, EMEA and Asia Pacific, Eloqua
Today’s fastest growing businesses have embraced the web as a platform and are using its strengths to connect them with prospective buyers. In addition to positioning their corporate websites as portals of relevant content, smart marketers are also transforming their sales and marketing processes to take advantage of the behavioural information that the Web provides.
This online behaviour – website visits, white paper downloads, email responses and more – can help businesses quickly identify buyers that are raising their hands to show interest in their solution. It is a new “Digital Body Language” that must be captured, interpreted and responded to.
The traditional B2B transaction has been almost entirely a sales function rooted in face-to-face interactions at business luncheons, board room presentations and product demos.
Once the lead had been passed to the sales team, marketing contributed little to the process. The best sales professionals were highly adept at reading body language and buying signals revealed during in-person meetings in a conference room or over lunch.
Subtle gestures such as facial expressions, eye contact, raised eyebrows, head nods or crossed arms could tell savvy sales professionals much about a prospect’s buying disposition. However, as the buying process moves online, salespeople are getting less face time with clients.
The accessibility and speed of the web greatly eases the discovery and consideration process that buyers go through. Especially for ‘considered-purchase’ products and services that may involve a buying committee or a defined decision-making process, the Web plays an increasingly important role for research and evaluation.
The old protocol of sending detailed Request For Proposals (RFPs) to prospective vendors has in many cases been replaced by downloading information from their websites so that in many cases, vendors and their sales organisations are unaware that they are being evaluated by a buyer.
This increased role of the Web in the buying process is taking place across all industries, but is especially pronounced in the technology sector, where recent data shows that online search and downloadable content are becoming the primary sources for buyers.
To succeed in this new business climate, smart businesses are realising that the next frontier is to read and respond to the “Digital Body Language” of their prospects. This new body language is invisible to the sales team, yet is a better indicator of real buying interest than anything else in the salesperson’s toolkit. It is revealed through online activities such as website visits, white paper downloads, and email responses.
Tracking this behaviour can help companies quickly identify the buyers that are “raising their hands” to show interest in a solution, and businesses that adapt to this new buying process consistently increase lead conversion rates, shorten sales cycles and improve win rates. Conversely, those businesses that cannot track and analyse the behaviour of their prospects will be at a competitive disadvantage going forward.
To benefit from Digital Body Language, businesses must make investments in people, process and technology. Simply switching on a business intelligence tool is not enough.
The Digital Body Language phenomenon is transforming the relationship between sales and marketing for many companies, with alignment between the two departments critical to overall success.
Therefore sometimes significant process changes are required on the part of both marketing and sales organisations, but that should not be a deterrent.
Industry experts recommend taking a phased approach by focusing on the following six best practices:
• Accumulate: Digital Body Language by integrating marketing channels on a single marketing platform to build comprehensive prospect profiles
• Communicate: Digital Body Language to the sales organisation and other business stakeholders by integrating the marketing system of record with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Sales Force Automation (SFA) systems
• Evaluate: Digital Body Language using advanced sales lead scoring systems that compare prospects’ explicit information against implicit indicators of buying intent
• Accelerate: the sales process with real time sales alerts and notifications of prospect Web activity and marketing responses
• Cultivate: the Digital Body Language of prospects with personalised lead-nurturing campaigns that drive them back to the website
• Validate: marketing spend with closed-loop marketing systems to measure marketing’s impact on revenue and pipeline
Companies that adopt these marketing best practices become highly attuned to the Digital Body Language of their prospects. They align their marketing and sales teams around information and intelligence – two of the most important tools for a sales team to succeed.
Recognising that sales instincts and personal relationships are no longer enough to excel in an Internet world, high performance organisations see that marketing holds the keys to identifying the right influencers and key issues within a buyer’s organisation.
The rewards for firms that track their customers’ Digital Body Language include increased sales, faster growth rates and shorter sales cycles. By being the first responder when prospects begin to research a purchase, companies gain competitive advantage and improve sales effectiveness.
By aligning their marketing department more closely with sales and measuring the results of campaigns, these organisations increase the effectiveness of promotional spend.
Conversely, businesses that cannot track and analyse the behaviour of their top prospects are likely to find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.
Given the rapidly changing environment in the B2B world, the question is not whether a business can afford to invest in digital transformation but whether it can afford not to make the change.
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