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Are Salespeople Screwing Up B2B Marketing Performance?

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I sat pondering another in a burst of self-serving emails sent last week by salespeople who obviously lack any discipline in prospect research or the energy needed to attempt meaningful personalization. As one of the emails was from a company I'd thought "got it," it occurred to me that the salesperson just screwed up my perception of the company they work for.

This made me wonder how much salespeople may be screwing up marketing performance now that more marketers are being tasked with proving contribution to revenues and business objectives, not simply lead generation.

Before sales-oriented, progressive types take issue with me, let me explain.

First - why there's need for concern:

  • Buyers are self-serving content for a longer portion of the buying process. This means, if marketing is doing its job, marketing content and strategies are helping to attract and engage those buyers, building their perception of the company as helpful, credible and experts in their field.
  • Buying cycles are lengthening and the size of the buying committee is growing. This means that content must be produced to engage more people with differing perspectives and responsibilities. For example, a technology purchase is often driven today by business executives, not just IT executives. Marketing is tasked with engaging as many on the buying committee as they can in the most relevant way they can.
  • The amount of content buyers engage with during buying is also growing. Marketing is working hard to help increase the amount of content their prospects engage with. If they're reading yours, that's less time to read the competitor's - just saying.

Given those three reasons and assuming that a buyer has been nurtured and qualified before being handed off to sales (although research shows this doesn't happen for most companies who toss form completions to sales - but ignoring this) then it's up to the salesperson to capitalize on the work that's already been done. Or to screw it up.

I'm seeing more and more sales communications that are screwing it up.

In my work I do a ton of resarch which usually includes submitting a lot of forms to download white papers and reports that help me learn about an industry, market or solution. I get a lot of email as a result. Just this last week, I received a dozen or so examples.

I'll share a couple them to illustrate my point:

The first is a bucket approach. I hate this type of email. This is the lazy email that tries to make you feel bad by saying you're non-responsive and then asks for you to expend effort because the salesperson can't be bothered to do it themselves. Below is the email copy with only the brand name removed to protect the guilty party.

Hi,

Good Afternoon. I have tried contacting you in regards to [brand] software.

Would you be so kind as to provide me some guidance, as I do not want to be a bother and will gladly follow your direction. Which of the below describes where you are at:

A - You have made a decision regarding [brand] and want to chat now. Great End of Month Incentives.

B - You want to schedule a call at a future date

C - You are no longer interested in [brand]

I appreciate your feedback and hope all is going well.

Thanks.

This same email was sent three times in one day. It was also sent by a salesperson who works at a company that I've talked about as having a truly engaging marketing approach. I assume that I was subjected to this salesperson because I downloaded a bunch of content to see what they were doing. I will not be inclined to mention them again as their marketing processes don't seem to cross over to their sales processes. And, I'm irritated.

The first problem with this approach is that the salesperson couldn't even bother to include my name in the salutation. The second is that it puts the onus of effort on me. The salesperson is obviously cutting and pasting a template. A poorly written template at that. Or, God forbid, it's automated. And, until he sent the above three times in one day, I'd never heard from this salesperson before - so the first sentence is a lie. He hasn't been trying to contact me.

The second problem is that 5 seconds on Google would've told him that I'd never be his customer. As a consultant, I don't buy 5 figure BI systems. But because he did no research and sent a lazy email, not only did he waste his time, but he cost his company an advocate. Advocates don't come along every day.

But here's what's worse. Imagine if I was a buyer. I can tell you that their marketing content is very good. It's informative, well written and interesting. It's a considered purchase so what if I'd been a prospect for months, learning what I need to know, getting all my questions answered... and then I receive that email.

There's nothing helpful. It's like the anti-experience of the company in question. And I, as that primed buyer, decide to move on to my second choice, thinking that the quality of what I'd seen so far is a smoke screen. Could this be happening in your company?

Here's another example:

Hi Ardath,

I had a note you registered for the recent webcast, “Name of Webinar I Never Registered For”, about [XYZ] in the  enterprise. I’m not sure if you were able to attend, but I’d like to avail myself as a resource in case you were interested in learning more.

We've helped clients find great efficiencies for business users, reduce complexities for the IT organization, while mitigating risk for the organization as a whole when [doing XYZ]. 

If you're open to a brief conversation, I'd love to learn about your business objectives in these areas. Would it make sense to speak? If you’d like, test the system with your own [trial]

Thank you.

Best Regards,

First off, if he thinks I registered for the webinar then he should know whether or not I attended. That data is in every webinar attendee report. But, in reality, my one interaction with this company was to download a white paper, so his information is faulty. And, you can tell it's a template he lifted because of the double sign off. He pasted it in and didn't even take the time to notice.

Now, if this was a one-off, I'd just delete it and not pay attention. But, I received this email twice plus a voice mail. And I took a look at his company. Once again, five seconds on Google would have told him not to bother with me.

So this is when it really hit me. Because of the repeated irrelevance, I will automatically delete any email from this company. If I was a potential prospect, marketing wouldn't have a shot. No matter how good their content or communications. In fact, the next day, I received a marketing email and immediately unsubscribed.

If your salespeople can't even be accurate about the type of interaction had with your company, what will your prospects think? And why, after one white paper download, do salespeople pursue leads? And, if they're going to do so, they'd damn well better figure out something more relevant that the email above. Which actually could be from any company, it's so vague.

So I ask you: How much damage are your sales team's practices doing to your marketing performance?

And, I'm not putting this all on sales, either. Marketing shares responsibility, in my opinion. With sales enablement that teaches salespeople how to effectively engage prospects based on a continuation of the story marketing is telling, this can be avoided.

If we want our marketing performance to contribute to revenue, we need to help salespeople have a better shot at not screwing it up.

And to all the salespeople out there who do "get it" and do their research and work hard at relevance, bless you!

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More Stories By Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee, CEO & B2B Marketing Strategist of her firm Marketing Interactions, helps companies with complex sales increase and quantify marketing effectiveness by developing and executing interactive eMarketing strategies driven by compelling content.

Her book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, was published by McGraw-Hill.

Her articles and blog posts have been used for university ezines, published in CRM Today, Selling Power, Rain Today and Enterprise CRM News. Marketing Profs has incorporated her blog posts into a number of their "Get to The Point" newsletters.