The more B2B buying habits change, the more difficult sales pipeline management meetings get.
Prospects now do most of their research for themselves. By the time they contact a sales rep, they may already be 90% done with their buyer’s journey.
With prospects narrowing down vendors before they even enter your funnel, how can you stabilize your sales pipeline?
The answer is your brand advocates.
Advocates drive word of mouth, champion your product and refer peers to you within the public and private networks where your prospects are seeking information. Your advocate’s opinions carry more weight with buyers than any other marketing tactic in your arsenal.
The key to uncovering and leverage these advocates is asking your marketing team some important questions.
Here’s five you need to bring up at your next sales pipeline management meeting if you want to stop prospects from falling out of your sales funnel.
P.S. If you want to skip the blog, download our ebook where we explain how to bring sales and marketing together to fuel your pipeline with advocacy.
1) “How can we generate a steady stream of customer referrals?”
Marketing can consistently fill your pipeline with warm referral leads by creating a referral marketing strategy that encourages existing customers to send their peers your way. A research survey of 600+ B2B sales and marketing professionals found that companies that had referral programs managed by the marketing team were 3X more likely to hit their EOY revenue goals.
To create a repeatable system that helps your bottom line and gets customers invested in your success, marketing must formalize the referral experience and create internal alignment with sales. If they don’t, you risk a haphazard process that produces inconsistent results.
2) “How can we increase our pool of referenceable customers?”
Prospects often request to speak with references that match their industry, organization type, shoe size, etc. Finding these references—which is typically done by digging into your database or asking account reps for help—can often take days (or longer). Having a large, diverse pool of referenceable customers you can easily tap into will be invaluable for speeding up time-to-close and win rates.
To do this, marketing must make potential references feel successful and valuable. This means educating and priming customers so they want to be references. Marketing should also position the request as a networking opportunity instead of a sales call. Having a consistent way to engage customers, like through an advocate marketing program, will help uncover new references and build strong relationships.
3) How do we get more genuine customer reviews on third-party websites?
B2B customers trust reviews they read on third-party websites more than anything said on your website or product pages. The 2015 B2B Buyer’s Survey Report found that peer reviews were rated as ‘very’ to ‘somewhat’ important for 90% of B2B buyers when comparing and narrowing down vendors later in the buying process.
Your marketing team can take advantage of this by encouraging your customers to regularly post reviews. The key is having a strategy and system in place that asks them to write genuine reviews at the right time. Target customers who have recently achieved success, given you high NPS scores, or completed product training. If you ask them to share their knowledge and accomplishments with others, they’ll be happy to respond.
4) “How can we generate more customer case studies and testimonials in X vertical?”
Case studies and testimonials give prospects a preview into what it’s like to work with your company from people they’re likely to trust: your current customers. However, sourcing testimonials and producing relevant case studies can often take a lot of time and effort.
If marketing wants to quickly source specific advocate stories and testimonials, it’s critical to maintain a close relationship with your customer base. That means having on-going engagement with customers through an advocate marketing strategy. By getting to know your customers better and letting them volunteer to tell their stories, you’ll easily find enthusiastic advocates who want to tell the same stories you do.
5) “How should we recognize advocates for helping our sales efforts?”
One thing that rarely gets discussed in sales pipeline management is rewarding customers for their assistance in securing new business. However, recognizing customers for helping you win is what will drive them to do it again.
Have your marketing team brainstorm creative and fun ways to thank advocates for their help. It can be a sincere thank you, public shout-out, or a token of appreciation (here are a few ideas). Make them feel appreciated, and they’ll continue to talk positively about your brand and fill your pipeline with warm leads.