It’s getting tougher to be in B2B sales.
Buyers are avoiding your calls, deleting your emails and crossing the street when they see you coming.
The reason? They just want to be left alone. Gartner has predicted that by 2020 customers will manage 85% of their interactions with companies without dealing with a human.
The truth is, they prefer to do research on their own. And instead of speaking with sales reps, they’re turning to their peers for advice. According to Demand Gen Report, 53% of B2B buyers rely on peer recommendations when they make a purchase.
So, how do you influence prospects that have no interest in interacting with you?
We asked several B2B influencers how sales and marketing teams can engage buyers in meaningful ways to accelerate pipeline.
The common thread in all of their suggestions: harness the voice of your customer advocates throughout the buying process.
Here’s a few useful strategies for mobilizing advocates throughout your sales funnel to drive revenue:
1. Put customers’ success—not your product features—at the centre of your sales and marketing
Many B2B brands put their product features at the centre of their sales decks and content marketing.
But, as Jill Rowley, a social selling expert, says “People don’t want to buy products. They don’t even want to buy solutions. They want outcomes.”
“The results we drive for our customers is the number one competitive differentiator that any of us have,” says John Barrows, CEO of J. Barrows LLC and Forbes Top 30 Social Salespeople.
However, assuring customers that they will achieve those outcomes is hard to do via a list of features or a hypothetical ROI calculator.
There’s a better method. “A company’s best salespeople aren’t on their payroll; they’re their customer advocates,” said Jill. Advocates are relatable to your buyers. Letting advocates explain your product’s value in their own words will give your messaging a level of authenticity and trust it would never have by itself.
“Use messaging from case studies to develop sales-ready content that gets prospects’ attention,” says John. Establish processes between sales, marketing and customer success that make uncovering customer stories easier. Their narratives will help ease prospect’s doubts and fears throughout the buying process.
2. Align with marketing on sales funnel management
Leveraging happy customers throughout your sales funnel requires sales to partner closely with marketing.
“In today’s sales environment it is critical to focus on what adds value to the customer and what helps the buyer. Marketing needs to be accessible—not in a separate silo down the hall from sales,” said Lori Richardson, CEO of Score More Sales.
Both departments should work together to increase the use of advocates throughout the sales funnel—from consistently generating referrals to uncovering more references. Then, they should leverage these advocate relationships at the right time to influence the buying process.
“Fragmented strategies and messages aren’t special and won’t help you stand out from your competitors,” said Trish Bertuzzi, President & Chief Strategist of The Bridge Group. “Being so aligned that your target account views you as a true partner is special. Being special takes work and it all starts with sales executives knowing how to work with their marketing partners.”
To encourage collaboration and boost your success rate, Lori recommends rewarding marketing for sales wins. “Even a small reward can get sales and marketing on the same team with the same goals,” she said.
3. Build the case for a formal advocate marketing strategy
Even if you don’t have a formal customer advocacy program, your advocates likely influence your sales more than you think.
Tawheed Kader, CEO of ToutApp recommends having your sales reps track how many of your opportunities come from advocate referrals, references and reviews. “Then, consolidate your reps’ data and draw out numbers that will help you make the case for a customer advocacy program,” said Tawheed. “The more you can show your CEO a strong return on investment, the more likely they will agree to a formal program.”
Increasing acts of customer advocacy won’t happen by chance. Your marketing team needs to incentivize advocates to help out again and again. That means delivering value before asking for favors.
“Advocacy is non-transactional,” says Kyle Porter, CEO of SalesLoft. “It’s about giving without expectation of anything in return—not because it will be rewarding, but because it’s right to serve your customers and put them at the center of your business focus.”
Set up systems for recognizing customers when they help your brand, and they’ll be more likely do it again and again.
By providing you with a steady stream of referrals and references, advocates will fill your pipeline with warm leads and speed up time-to-close—helping you reach your sales goals and stabilize your revenue. So build a case for a program, and invest in customer advocacy now.