Marketers: Help Sales Win by Doing Less

How to Eliminate Bottlenecks in the Purchasing Process

March 18, 2018

Help Sales Win

This guest post was contributed by David Karel, Principal, OutLeap Marketing; a version of the post originally appeared on the OutLeap Marketing blog.

Today’s B2B marketers have no shortage of levers at their disposal to make an impact. The trick to moving the needle for the business in any given time period is figuring out which levers to pull, and perhaps even more challenging, which levers to resist. 

With the proliferation of online destinations where our target buyers might be spending time, there are now dozens (if not hundreds) of channels through which our teams can run programs to try to reach, influence and engage them. Advanced strategies around digital marketing, demand generation, customer advocacy, positioning and category design, account based marketing, influencer marketing, and so many more promise to give our marketing teams and the sales teams we support the edge.  

At the same time, traditional channels (e.g.,event marketing, public relations, direct marketing, analyst relations) can’t be dismissed. And, it seems everyone across the company has a strong opinion and wish-list around the next fifteen content assets and sales tools marketing should build, and field enablement initiatives we should execute.

That’s a lot of levers. Many marketing leaders and their teams fall into the trap of trying to execute marketing plans that include too many of them because... well, how can marketing not invest in paid search, right? What kind of marketing effort are we running if we don’t get at least a few good media hits every quarter? Our toughest competitor totally owned that big industry event last month, why weren’t we there? There’s a big opportunity to break into a new vertical, but the sales team has no slides — add that to the list!  

There’s pressure and enthusiasm from outside the team to do it all. But, in my experience, a good deal of the “biting off too much” problem is self-inflicted. As marketing leaders and practitioners who are all endeavoring to be on the leading edge, it’s hard to forego a key channel or tactic when building out our plans, or adding the latest/greatest solutions to our marketing tech stacks.

So, how do we bring some focus (and sanity!) to our marketing plans?  As I teed up in a previous post on the DNA of Great Marketing, if the ultimate aim of your marketing effort is to help the sales team close business, the best way to move the needle in any given time period is to focus on clearing bottlenecks. Bottlenecks are those factors creating friction as we attempt to drive target prospects from one stage of the buyer’s journey to the next. Or for those that prefer a marketing funnel metaphor, it’s those areas of the funnel where the biggest leaks (or clogs) are occurring.

Diagnosing the bottlenecks to scaling sales

You identify bottlenecks by getting really close to your sales team (sales leadership, reps in the field, your SDR team), their challenges, and the data that matters. By asking the right questions and getting close to your data, you are in position to diagnose what’s holding the collective sales and marketing effort back and then prioritizing the team’s energy to reduce that friction.   

One thing is for sure. You’ve got more than one bottleneck. At any given moment, you’ve got lots of them, and you always will. That’s what keeps marketing teams gainfully employed.  There’s always an opportunity to optimize that buyers journey, especially as we hit new challenges as we try to scale our businesses. The name of the bottleneck-diagnosing-game is to identify the most acute ones. Solve those, then move on to the next one.  

To help your team prioritize or revise its plan to ensure you’re aligned with the needs of the business, here’s a diagnostic exercise to consider.

“Lower funnel” bottleneck diagnostic

Here are just a few of the questions your team should be seeking to answer in collaboration with your sales partners to identify where to prioritize programs and enablement initiatives lower in the funnel:

  • Are your reps having a hard time driving prospect urgency to buy now?
  • Are your reps able to articulate a differentiated, compelling story?  
  • Are a lot of “qualified prospects” falling out of pipe, or eventually disqualified?  
  • Is there clear alignment between sales and marketing around the definition of a “qualified prospect”?  
  • Are there clear, trackable hand-offs between marketing, the SDR team, and sales?
  • Are responsibilities clear once a hand-off occurs with SLAs and feedback loops in place?
  • Are reps getting enough meetings?  How are meetings being sourced?
  • Are leads falling through the cracks or getting stuck (e.g., not being routed correctly or ignored in queues)?  

“Upper funnel” bottleneck diagnostic

Given the people you’re trying to sell begin their buyers journey long before they’re ready to engage your sales teams, getting a handle on answers to the following questions can put a bright spotlight on where to weight your team’s cycles and budget:

  • Are your SDRs and sales reps having to do all the heavy lifting to educate prospects around the problems your company solves and your solutions?
  • When your sales team calls into a target prospect, how often have they heard of your company (e.g., 1 of 10 prospects heard of you; 5 of 10)?
  • Are enough of the right audiences converting on your website?
  • Is your existing program mix driving enough of the right audiences to your website and landing pages?
  • Is your messaging and content resonating with your target audiences?  How do you know?
  • Do you know where to reach your target audiences?  How do you know you’re reaching them?  
  • Who are your target audience(s)? What do they care about? How do you know?

With a proper diagnosis in hand, you put your marketing team in position to bring real focus to a more narrow set of hard-hitting initiatives which can mean the difference between the company missing and hitting the number.   

But, what if you’ve got several large bottlenecks to address? You’ll be in great company because just about everyone does. I’d recommend you start by prioritizing your effort to clear away the clogs lowest in the funnel. It’s simple plumbing physics. If you don’t  fix the clogs down below, no amount of effort made higher up will make much of a difference.

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Photo: an.difal