Sales expert and author Nicola Cook talks to Rhian Morgan about how you can maximise growth by combining sales and marketing, and the importance of social media
I talked to Nicola, sales expert and author of Brilliant Selling, about her new book, and how she can help you achieve your potential through her ‘s’marketing’ structure.
So who is in the driving seat: sales or marketing?
“I have debated this topic with many business leaders but the reality is that the line between sales and marketing is becoming increasingly blurred. Businesses need to wake up to this change, and perhaps start thinking about a structure I call ‘S’marketing’.”
Can you explain further?
“So, in my opinion, sales is no more a function of marketing than marketing is of sales. The answer lies in one combined function, which I’ve affectionately named S’marketing. It is no longer sufficient to just identify the gap in the market, create a brand, generate leads through front-end marketing and ask your sales team to convert the opportunities. Sales and marketing (or S’marketing) now need to work much more closely throughout the sales cycle. Marketing now needs to support sales in winning the mindshare of the customer, long before you even know them as a prospect.
“Managing content, across a range of sources including website, social media, blogs, articles, white papers and free downloads will help you to win mindshare prior to engagement.”
But what market are you aiming to attract?
“Currently the majority of senior managers making business decisions are from Generation X, born before 1980, or what I like to call BG – Before Google. However, people’s expectations of how they should be communicated to are changing, and by 2017, one third of the middle management will be made up of Millennials – the kind of digital natives who prefer 24/7 availability online and who think in terms of ‘social’ when it comes to communication. These are the next generation of business buyers. While many consumer brands have adjusted to communicate through this multi-channel approach, much of mainstream business has failed to grasp this.”
How do you go about this?
“Today we have more data available to us about our businesses than ever before, so you have to become obsessed with the numbers to give yourself a competitive advantage – not just understanding outcomes but also shaping strategy. So the first job of your S’marketing team is to use data and develop insights that answer these questions.
“With so much free information out there, it is no longer good enough to place content – we need to be clear on how people are engaging with it, and if they are not, why not? Today’s marketing team needs to be data savvy and understand what content target customers will be searching for at each stage of their buying cycle.”
So you’re looking to engage people on social media before you even market your product?
“Sales teams now have more ways to connect with prospects than ever before (and sales reps who actively engage in social selling are shown to outperform their peers by 74%*), but it is going to require a shift in mindset for many to make sense of the evidence that provides insight into your prospect’s behaviour. Internal marketing intelligence can feed ‘pre-prospects’ to sales teams so they can track their social or digital engagement before deciding on the best opportunity to reach out.
“Take time to consider not only if your sales teams have professional social media profiles and understand how to use them, but also if your marketing team has a multi-channel marketing plan including pre-prospect engagement.”
So can you give an example of an integrated approach?
“Sales people may be focused on telephone, text, email and face-to-face to bring the prospect forward in the pipeline but co-ordinating a combined S’marketing approach can accelerate this process. For example, discussions in a managed LinkedIn group or Facebook Page, automated emails, personalised print campaigns, and social media can all improve levels of engagement. In reality, a really effective integrated S’marketing team can only happen if you have both a team with the right kind of competencies, and complete integration of sales and marketing technology. Increasingly, I’ve seen vacancies for social media managers. The old-school opinion is that you’re employing someone just to go on Facebook all day. "
But is the future of business in social media?
“It has been very interesting to see how many business leaders at our Company Shortcuts events have asked about the role profile for a Social Media and Digital Marketing Manager, which is encouraging that businesses are waking up to the fact that this is the biggest hole in their sales engine and are taking the role away from digital marketing agencies to bring in-house for better clarity across their whole sales function.”
To sum up: what should companies be focusing on?
“Businesses should be focused on what they need to do now in order to future proof their sales teams, bringing together all of the elements required to create a scalable and profitable sales engine that understands how to interact with the new generation and the ways in which they want to communicate and enter into sales dialogue.”
You can learn more about how to create a S’marketing leadership team at the next Company Shortcuts Business Blast event focusing on ‘Adapting to changing buyer behaviour’ on June 18. Visit www.companyshortcuts.com/business-accelerator-programme/