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How to Use LinkedIn to Generate Sales Conversations

How to Use LinkedIn to Generate Sales Conversations written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

 

The video above is a replay of a recent live webinar I hosted with guest Viveka von Rosen. Combined with the text below you should have a pretty good feel for how to use LinkedIn to generate sales conversations.

LinkedIn is the oldest social network. Everyone seems to be on it, but no one seems to know quite how to use it to generate sales conversations.

To help us take advantage of this massive opportunity, today I brought in Viveka von Rosen. She is the co-founder of Vengreso, a leading digital sales transformation company. She is also the author of two books on this very topic, LinkedIn Marketing: An Hour a Day and LinkedIn: 101 Ways to Rock Your Personal Brand.

She talks with us about how to use LinkedIn to generate real sales conversations by sharing meaningful, engaging content. While she speaks specifically to LinkedIn today, the principles behind her advice can be applied across all other social networks.

Why is LinkedIn Important?

Ninety-four percent of B2B buyers view multiple pieces of content from the vendor they ultimately select. This means that if you’re not sharing content on LinkedIn but your competition is, your prospects will likely pass you by. Additionally, 75 percent of B2B buyers conduct research in social channels for products and services.

Meanwhile, the percentage of salespeople actually meeting their quota has dropped over a five-year period—it’s down to 53 percent. However, those salespeople who are using social selling have a 50 percent higher chance of reaching quota.

Building Your Personal Profile

On LinkedIn, you can’t just rely on a company page; you need to have a personal page in order to really connect with others. It’s between personal profiles where the conversations that lead to sales really occur.

This means that you need to create a strong personal page that showcases your brand. If your personal page is unappealing, sloppy, or lacks the appropriate information, you could lose a prospect.

  • Does your profile build credibility? People want to do business with those they know, like, and trust.
  • Does your profile show how you solve problems? LinkedIn is not the same as a resume—people viewing your profile want to know how you can help them. Think about including real-world examples of how you’ve helped past clients address their pain points.
  • Does your profile create conversation? Your profile should have rich content that attracts viewers. Once they’re there, make sure there’s a way for them to reach you. It seems basic, but make sure your phone number or email are on your profile so that people can actually get in touch!

The Importance of Sharing Content

If you go into LinkedIn with tunnel vision towards sales, you’re missing the entire point. Think about LinkedIn as a networking event—would you go up to someone at a conference and immediately ask them to buy your product or service? Of course not! The same principles of offline networking apply on LinkedIn.

The best way to get to know people on LinkedIn is to educate your audience. This positions you immediately as helpful and useful, which in turn builds positive sentiment. Suddenly, you’ve transformed from pushy salesperson to an advocate and thought leader in your industry.

What Does Content for Sales Engagement Look Like?

When thinking about content, it’s important to consider both the content you create yourself and the content you share that comes from other sources. Each type of content has its own set of rules to create the greatest levels of engagement and generate real interest and real conversations.

Whatever type of content you’re sharing, you want to be sure you’re doing it consistently. You should be sharing content at least once a day. One way to help you reach this goal is to establish a sharing community. Contact friends and influencers in your network, asking them to make a pact to share each others’ content. This will give you a steady stream of curated content to share with your network and will help to ensure that the content you’ve created is getting a wider reach.

Status Updates

Status updates on LinkedIn are very similar to updates on other social networks. There are a number of best practices for creating status updates that will get greater reach. Following these tips can help your posts get ten times greater visibility.

  • Include hashtags. Hashtag communities is a newer feature on LinkedIn that allows business owners to follow the topics they find most relevant. If you create content with a particular hashtag attached, it will likely be shared with the individuals who are members of that hashtag community. This gives your content a wider audience beyond your personal connections. The trick here is to not over-hashtag. Aim for three or four hashtag community hashtags and one additional hashtag that is unique to your brand.
  • Make mentions. When you’re talking about someone specific in your post, mention them so that they’re notified. You can mention others who are not directly a part of the update, but who might find it useful. Again, moderation is key; keep mentions to a handful of people who are influential and will find the material relevant.
  • Use all the characters. You’re allowed up to 1,300 characters per post. Be sure to use them! More characters means more keywords, which in turn means greater visibility. Research has also shown that longer posts are more likely to be read.
  • Use emojis. Emojis can be a great way to add some visual interest to your post and set you apart from the sea of text-only updates. Keep your audience in mind, and select emojis that are appropriate for your business and clientele.
  • Add native video, images, and links. Doing so will limit you to 1,200 characters, but the added visual interest can also help you to stand out from the crowd.

Native Video

Native video is uploaded directly from your browser or your phone and imbedded in LinkedIn. It is not the same as sharing a link that sends users to an outside video site, which LinkedIn discourages as it drives traffic away from their platform. Sharing native videos gets you more views and attention on the site.

Because video content can take a bit longer to create, it’s not necessary to share video each and every day. But know that native video garners incredible results, so the more regularly you can create and post video content, the better.

From tips and tricks videos that can help your audience solve relevant problems, to interviews with thought leaders, to the relatively new “about us” videos that you can put on your company page, there are a lot of great ways to create native video.

LinkedIn Native Video Tips

LinkedIn Articles

LinkedIn Articles used to have far greater reach. In recent years, LinkedIn has shifted focus to other forms of content, and so posting articles does not have the same kind of power to create visibility as it once did.

However, if you’re already writing a blog post for another forum and want to put it into LinkedIn as an article, it can help to amplify your reach beyond your company’s website. The posts are searchable, can possibly be distributed on a pulse channel, and the content becomes a permanent extension of your personal brand.

Amplify Your Content With Ads

LinkedIn advertising can help you to raise awareness and get the word out about your brand to a new audience. LinkedIn now allows you to sponsor content on your company page, which can help to build followers and reach for your content.

LinkedIn Ads

There are a number of different types of ads available to companies on LinkedIn.

  • Sponsored content. When you share an article, video, or images on your company page and you want the content to get greater visibility, you use this type of ad.
  • Dynamic ads. This option allow you to personalize your messaging to prospects, with ads that appear on the side bars of users’ LinkedIn pages.
  • Text Ads. Similar to the dynamic ads, but smaller and not personalized. Split testing on text ads is very simple. These are best utilized for top of funnel content.
  • Sponsored InMail. This allows you to send targeted messages to those who are most likely to have an interest in your business.

Dynamic ads, text ads, and sponsored InMail are significantly more expensive, so for small business owners, sponsored content is generally the most viable option. There are several types of sponsored content you can create: you can drive traffic to your website or content, build lead generation forms to collect contact information, or increase video views.

LinkedIn Sponsored Content

From there, LinkedIn will prompt you to select the specific post or video you’d like to promote. Next, you can indicate to LinkedIn who your desired audience is and establish your budget for the campaign.

It’s better for you to be specific in identifying your target audience. Establishing five campaigns to 1,000 people each is more effective than creating one campaign for 5,000 people. Creating audience groups allows you to segment your audience, personalizing the description on the same content you shared with other audience groups. This personalization can attract greater attention from each subset of your audience.

The other LinkedIn ads trick is that if you want more views, you should select pay-per-click, and if you want more clicks, select pay-per-view. This is a way to get the most out of your marketing dollars.

LinkedIn Ads Best Practices

Mine Your Engaged Network

It’s not enough to just create and curate great content; once people begin reacting to what you’re sharing, you need to follow through! Keep an eye on who’s liking and sharing your sponsored content. Hover over their names to learn more about them: Do they seem like they might be a good prospect for you? If so, reach out with a request to connect, thanking them for engaging with your content and opening the door for further discussion.

 

Transcript of Why Sales and Marketing Need Each Other

Transcript of Why Sales and Marketing Need Each Other written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

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Transcript

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John Jantsch: Marketing has never needed sales more and frankly, sales people have never needed marketing more than they do today. In this connected world, where people can find out whatever they need to find out, do they really need sales people? In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast, we talk with Pam Didner. We’re going to talk about effective sales enablement, collaboration, getting marketing and sales together. Check it out.

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Pam Didner. She is a content marketer, author, speaker, and has a new book called Effective Sales Enablement: Achieve Sales Growth Through Collaborative Sales and Marketing. So Pam, thanks for joining me.

Pam Didner: My pleasure. And you are based in Kansas city?

John Jantsch: I am in Kansas City, Missouri.

Pam Didner: How is the weather today?

John Jantsch: It’s beautiful today. Well, I don’t know, it’s actually, summer’s hanging on a little longer than I’d like to do. It’s about 90 and humid.

Pam Didner: Oh my gosh.

John Jantsch:  So, we’re waiting for that first fall cool weather to break.

Pam Didner:  It’s coming. It is coming.

John Jantsch: All right, so let’s define the term sales enablement. That’s one of those terms that I bet you could get a whole bunch of people that define it in different ways. So what’s your definition of sales enablement?

Pam Didner: Yeah. In general, if you talk to anybody in sales anywhere in the world, they tend to define that it’s related to sales development and sales training. But for folks who are listening, if you actually look for a sales enablement definition, it’s usually related to development and the training of a sales team.

And my book was written from a marketer’s perspective. Interestingly enough, I was never a sales person, but I have done multiple different jobs supporting indirect sales, and also the sales team. And I feel that there are things that marketing can do to actually support sales.

So the way I defined sales enablement for my book is to deliver a positive customer experience by equipping sales with knowledge, skills, processes, and tools, through cross functional collaborations, obviously that’s between sales and marketing, in order to increase sales velocity, sales retention, and also productivity.

It’s a little bit long, but if you’re thinking about the purchasing cycle in the continuum, obviously via time we’ll pass the baton from the marketing to a sales team. At the end of the day, we want to make sure we deliver that seamless customer experience.

John Jantsch: That’s interesting. I have a little history with this. I actually wrote a book called Duct Tape Selling. The sub title is Think Like A Marketer, Sell Like a Superstar. I was actually writing to sales people saying, “Hey, you need to start acting more like marketers.” So maybe a little bit similar.

Here’s what I kept hearing from people when I’d go out and speak about this. That’s great, but sales and marketing have different goals, different priorities, different support systems, they’re even compensated differently. That was the pushback of hey, how do we get these guys together? So what have you found, how have you found, because I’m sure you’ve heard that same thing?

Pam Didner: Yeah. You are totally right. It’s interesting enough that sales and marketing work in the same company. They even have the same business goal. Drive revenue. But they always have some sort of a misalignment, and I think a lot of the misalignment has to do with two things. First one is long term versus short term, right? If you talk about sales people, they have to meet quota every single quarter. Then if you talk to the marketers, they are building a brand awareness. Obviously it’s a much longer term beyond just one quarter.

Another thing is the top of the funnel versus the bottom of the funnel, because the marketers tend to focus on the demand end, especially in the very beginning of the purchase funnel, and also building the brand awareness. Again, that’s on the top of the funnel as well. But if you talk to sales people, they tend to focus on the bottom of the funnel, right? They want to drive conversion, they want to drive the sales closure.

That also cause a little bit of the misalignment between the sales and marketing. With these short term versus long term, top of the funnel versus bottom of the funnel priorities, that obviously have a huge impact on the resource and the budget allocation when you move down to a technical level.

The way that I see that both sales and marketing work together, is you need to find some sort of commonalities within the misalignment. One of the great way to actually drive that is account based marketing. Obviously, especially for the technology and the complex sales, that they are specific accounts the sales people go after. And account based selling is nothing new, but what about working also with the marketing people to tailor and customize some of the marketing campaigns and outreach for a specific account. That’s just one example, if you will. It’s looking for commonality within misalignment. I think that will be the first step to do.

John Jantsch: Okay, here’s the really tough question to get us both in trouble. In that description, and in the traditional sense, do we even need the sales function anymore, then?

Pam Didner: That’s actually a very good question. I still think sales function is absolutely necessary, and I am a marketer. I never can qualify myself as a sales person. And I think marketers need to think that the sales is just another marketing channel, and sales people need to think that marketing is another hidden sales force. Does that make sense? They complement each other in a way, and I loved supporting my sales people when I was in the corporate world. But I don’t think I can do their job. I still think that sales people provide a huge amount of value, and to bring the revenue actually to the company. I don’t think marketing can actually take that 100%.

John Jantsch: [inaudible] always described the difference between sales and marketing is that marketing controlled the message and sales typically controlled the client relationship, and was much closer to the client. How do we get marketing closer to the client?

Pam Didner: I think there are multiple ways to do that, but before I talk about that, John, you brought a very good point. Traditionally, marketing tend to focus on messaging and sales focus on client relationship. With the rise of digital, especially in social media, don’t you think that marketing is actually doing some of the customer services? And also managing the client relationship, right? Because you have to talk to the customers and it’s no longer just one way communication, it’s actually a two way communication. So I actually see the modern marketers are taking on some of the client relationship on its own, naturally, just because of digital technology. That’s one way I’m looking at it.

John Jantsch: Not to mention the data that we now have. I think that the segmenting is better, personalization of content is better, and so I think all of those elements have … I think a lot of people are missing the boat by not using those elements to get closer as well.

Pam Didner: Yes. You are totally right. Leveraging data is actually a great competitive advantage, if you will. Unfortunately, to be honest with you, my generation, probably along with yours, we kind of grew up with traditional marketing. So data, looking at data day in and day out is not necessarily what traditional marketers do. I have to intentionally learn, and make an effort to do that. I agree with you that something, especially probably for the millennials that come into the workforce, that will come naturally to them. But at least for the existing workforce that’s currently in the marketing field, this is something that we still have to learn. Does that make sense? But I do agree with you 100%.

John Jantsch: What does today’s, I mean I made my comment earlier about do we even need a sales function, and I agree with you. I was actually just opening that up for, so a lot of sales people listening can say, “How dare you?”

Pam Didner: Yeah, John. How dare you?

John Jantsch: What does today’s sales person need from marketing, though, so that they are relevant?

Pam Didner: I think there are multiple things that the sales team needs. In the past, I think sales people can be a super hero. They can do a lot of client relationship, accelerating the purchase funnel on their own. But in the current modern world, you need a team to support you. You cannot do anything on your own anymore, if you think about it. I think the marketing team can be the back end to actually support a sales team, and there’s multiple ways that the marketing team can do, right?

In addition to give the sales people MQL, which is marketing qualified leads, marketing people have done email marketing inside out. They probably know how to optimize that, and I know a lot of sales people do many email marketing campaigns on their own for their prospects. So getting the tips and tricks from the marketers doesn’t hurt.

And social media, obviously, marketing people are pretty much on the front of that. Again, tips and tricks and teaching sales people how to do that better doesn’t hurt.

Social selling is related in terms of how to do research of your prospect on LinkedIn, on social media, and using the hash tag, and what of and keyword search. How do you use keyword search, how do you use hashtag properly? Again, marketers can provide some help. On top of that, there’s a lot of messaging, even content, that marketers create.

If you think about it and try to map the customer journey along with the sales processes and also methodology, there may be some content on the marketing side that can also be used on the sales side. If it cannot be used, obviously it can be modified and customized in certain way. So the content sharing between sales and marketing is another way that marketing can contribute.

And the last one, if you will John, a lot of the stuff that marketing people are doing can easily be part of a sales on boarding, and so is training. How to do social selling better, how to actually do research better online. All this can be part of the on boarding training and continuous training of the sales people. So there are multiple ways that marketers can contribute. I’m just sharing with you several examples.

John Jantsch: Now, one of the things that I’ve encountered in talking to a lot of sales people over particularly the last five to seven years, is that some of them got tired of waiting for the company, for the company culture, to shift and bring sales and marketing together. A lot of very successful sales people have said I’m just going to go out and build my own reputation. I’m going to blog, I’m going to participate in social media, I’m going to get speaking at maybe regional conferences where my customers might be there. In your opinion, should companies go as far as elevating their sales people in those veins?

Pam Didner: I think it’s actually good, but there’s a couple of things I want to address. If you are actually in a small business or, I would say, a mid size company, and having sales people speak and talk about the brand, is probably not their thing. You want everybody to talk about your brand and also your product, and you become a brand ambassador or your company’s ambassador to promote your products and services.

However, in the bigger enterprises that be hundreds or thousands of a sales force, they usually have a policy and also processing place to do that, and you need to understand your corporate policy and make sure there’s no code of conduct violations, or whatnot. Right? And if you actually go out and talk about your products, sometimes you have to use examples. And say if you talk about specific accounts, will the other accounts be mad that you didn’t mention them?

So there is always a fine line in terms of should you do that or not? My recommendation is always look at your corporate policy and check with your senior management, especially VP of sales. Some of them welcome that, some of them feel, you know what, you should not do that and you should use your time more effectively making calls. So that’s when-

John Jantsch: “Those idiots in marketing aren’t sending me any good leads!” I can hear people screaming that.

Pam Didner: Yeah. This is something that, you’ve got a good point, John. From my perspective, if that’s the case there should be a very honest conversation between sales and marketing. At the end of the day, you’ve got to have a come to Jesus meeting. You know what I’m saying? And the sales people need to be very frank and say I’m doing all this because you are not giving me stuff. And now, what can we do or what can you do, to actually help us out?

So I think at the end of the day, it’s the service level agreement that needs to be finalized and also communicated, so sales can do their jobs. But if they feel that being a brand ambassador or company’s ambassador that can get them leads, I don’t know. It may not be a bad thing. What do you think, John?

John Jantsch: I’m a big fan of it, but I do know that it’s like everything, it’s fraught with land mines as well, potentially, when you’ve got shareholders and things to consider. But in the small business, which quite frankly, I have a lot of small business owners as listeners, and I think that they should find ways to … If I was considering making a purchase and the sales person from one company was speaking at a conference I was attending, and the other people were just sending me brochures, to me that would be a great competitive advantage. But again, it’s probably individual considerations.

Pam Didner: I do agree. And individual company considerations, yes, absolutely.

John Jantsch: Absolutely. I’ve always said that one of the best sources of lead generation is happy customers, and a lot of companies are investing pretty significantly in customer experience and service. So how could a comamonas use that investment as a way to help sales?

Pam Didner: You’re talking about customer services, right? You’re talking about wholesales, specifically? I just want to be-

John Jantsch: The kind of stuff that would generate raving fans and referrals, and things like that.

Pam Didner: Yeah, I totally agree that customer service or the post sales experience is incredibly critical, and this is so true, so true for technology companies or SaaS based products, because when you offer any kind of SaaS based products, there’s always a learning curve, right, that the user has to go through to get familiar or get competent and efficient with your tools.

The post sales is very critical in terms of getting cross sales and also up sales in the future. And fortunately, the customer service department is not a necessary part of the sales team or part of the marketing team. They tend to be a team of its own. What I have come to realize, especially working in the marketing side of things, at the end of my job in the corporate world, I got a chance to actually work with the customer service team, because understanding what kind of questions they ask actually helped me to determine what kind of content I should create. Does that make sense?

We also feed that kind of information back to the product team. So when they created next version or next generation of their product, some of the features can be incorporated. On top of that, some of the key learnings or the questions that were asked as part of the customer service team, we tried to feed into a sales team so they can get kind of like first hand information and just give them a heads up that when they implement certain tools, there’s a couple glitches they may encounter, and the sales people can prep their contacts.

It’s interesting how customer service in the past tends to be a division of its own. Now a lot of the data they collected, and John you mentioned how important data is, that is feeding back to the marketing for the content creation, and feeding back to the sales team to improve their client relationship, and even the product development. So I think it’s very critical to actually have that relationship with the customer service team as a marketer.

John Jantsch: So if we are going to have effective sales enablement, what does the new sales-marketing-service team look like? Does it have to fundamentally be changed in how we structure that in organizations?

Pam Didner: That’s actually a good question. In an enterprise, it’s almost impossible, right, to change the organizational structure and the sales team and the marketing team will continue to actually have their differences. I don’t think we can overcome that overnight, per se. And the way that I recommend it in my book is, you need to take some baby steps. If there’s a huge or there’s a big gap between the sales and marketing, is it possible you could find some sort of commonality and start it with small initiatives, for example.

The second thing is, if there’s already some sort of misalignment but can you make that alignment even closer and drive multiple different joint initiatives together? I don’t think the two circles will completely overlap, and my recommendation is make an effort to align as much as possible, but be aware that the sales and the marketing team always have different goals.

John Jantsch: But you know what? Get somebody from marketing and go get them in the car, and go call on some accounts with them.

Pam Didner: Actually, I do agree with you, and that’s one of my recommendations in terms of trying to understand sales processes and sales methodologies is to shadow the sales person for a day or for a week. If nothing else, they can get a sense of the pain of the sales people for the continuous rejections. But yes, it is very important to actually try to understand sales issues and concerns in order to better support them.

John Jantsch: Speaking with Pam Didner, author of Effective Sales Enablement. Pam, where can people find out more about you and your work and your book?

Pam Didner: Excellent questions. You can always google Pam Didner, D-I-D-N-E-R. And I also have my own website, pamdidner.com. Just go there, check it out, I blog and I also have a podcast, Seven Minute Marketing With Pam, and the book Effective Sales Enablement will be launched on October 3 in the UK, and on October 23 in the US. And you can obviously pre order on Amazon. The things I really want to share with your audience is that if you purchase my book, and you read the book, and you discover absolutely nothing, nothing usable in the book, schedule a call with me. More than happy to actually help you out. Tell me your challenges, I will see what I can do.

John Jantsch: Awesome. That’s about as good a guarantee as you’re going to get from an author, so Pam, thanks for making that offer and we will obviously have links to everything in the show notes when you check this out, so Pam, thanks for joining us. Maybe we’ll catch up with you out there on the road sometime soon.

Pam Didner: My pleasure. Thank you so much.

Why Sales and Marketing Need Each Other

Why Sales and Marketing Need Each Other written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Pam Didner
Podcast Transcript

Pam DidnerThis week on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I chat with Pam Didner. After almost 20 years in corporate America, where Didner held a variety of senior leadership positions in departments as varied as finance and accounting, supply-chain management, and global marketing strategy, she decided to strike out on her own.

Didner is now a public speaker, facilitator and coach, consultant, and author with a focus on global content marketing. She is the author of two books, including the forthcoming Effective Sales Enablement: Achieve sales growth through collaborative sales and marketing.

On today’s episode, Didner discusses her new book, and what small and mid-sized business owners can do to build a bridge between the sales and marketing teams that encourages mutual understanding, fosters a greater internal support network, and helps serve the larger goals of the business.

Questions I ask Pam Didner:

  • How do you define sales enablement?
  • How do you bring sales and marketing together when they have such different goals, priorities, and support systems?
  • Is the sales function obsolete?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • How technology and data has brought the sales and marketing functions closer together.
  • Why small businesses can benefit from turning their salespeople into brand ambassadors.
  • How to use the information from your customer service team to shape your marketing and sales approaches.

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Pam Didner:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

Sales Training Options to Help Your Small Business Succeed

Sales Training Options to Help Your Small Business Succeed written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Having an effective and engaged sales team is one of the keys to guaranteeing your business’s success. Some people are natural sales men or women—they have the gift of gab, the ability to easily connect with others and win their trust, and are adept at juggling leads and following up with prospects and existing customers alike.

For most of us, though, sales skills need to be developed. Things like cold calling, making an effective pitch, and understanding prospecting strategy are not always intuitive, and so it’s critical that you offer your team training in various areas so that they can become the confident, well-rounded, skilled salespeople that will perform best for your business.

Cater to Your Team’s Strengths and Weaknesses

The first step here, of course, is to understand your sales team’s strengths and weaknesses. Now, these may be different for each person on your team. Maybe you have one person who doesn’t have any trouble picking up the phone and chatting with strangers multiple times a day, but who lets follow-up requests sit in his inbox. Meanwhile, you have another team member who’s skilled at managing relationships with existing customers and making up-sells, but who struggles with her demo presentations to prospects.

A good jumping off point is finding a sales training program that can cater each team member’s individual needs. Hubspot has a great list of sales training courses that cover a wide range of topics and are accessible at a variety of price points.

Providing your team with access to a generic course that can help them brush up on the skill or skills that need the most work is a great way to start getting everyone on equal footing.

Create Your Own Course

While having a general understanding of sales techniques is important, you’ll also want to create a course specifically for your business’s sales team. Each business has its own approach, and you’ll want to share tips and tricks, plus help them avoid pitfalls, that are unique to your business.

The first step here is to ensure that your team understands your value proposition. This is the driving force behind why you started your business, and it’s the reason that your salespeople are selling the good or service you offer. Trumpeting your value proposition empowers your team to motivate every action they take with that “big picture” idea always in mind.

From there, you want to make sure your salespeople understand your process and approach to sales. Is there a specific CRM tool you use and a way that you want information recorded? Do you have a script for cold calling or emailing? Do you have a set list of answers to questions frequently raised by prospects? Is there a system in place for alerting managers to potential issues that crop up with unhappy leads or customers? And how does your set approach incorporate the marketing team in the sales process?

When you have a clear and established set of systems and processes in place for your team, you provide them with a context in which to work, which then frees them up to focus on the art of selling and closing the deal.

Act It Out

One of the most daunting things about interacting with prospects or customers is that a salesperson can never predict how exactly the conversation will go. Experienced salespeople have seen and heard it all, but if your sales team is newer to the game (or just unfamiliar with sales at your particular company) they may feel intimidated by the unknown.

Much like a new airplane pilot starts out in a flight simulator before getting behind the wheel of an actual plane, you can start the greener members of your sales team out with role playing. Put together a list of the types of tricky prospects your salespeople might encounter: The one with lots of questions, the one who doesn’t want to pay full price, the one who declares they hate the product. Create a rough outline of a script for each scenario that details the points you want the “prospective customer” to hit. Then, get the whole team together and pair up members of the team, having more senior salespeople playing the customer and the newer team members acting as the salesperson.

When the role play wraps up, ask colleagues to weigh in on what the salesperson handled well and what they could have done better. Then have the pair reverse roles and replay the scenario, so that everyone can see firsthand how the salesperson incorporates the suggestions from their colleagues and artfully dodges those common pitfalls.

Start a Book Club

There is a lot of value in a great business book. Sometimes courses get monotonous, but a well-written book with compelling arguments and case studies can help a concept jump right off the page, and it can inspire the reader to try a new approach or tackle a new challenge.

Consider putting together a reading list for your team that includes titles by some sales experts you really admire. If someone on your team is excited about a particular book, hop on Amazon and order it for them. Make it as easy as possible for them to encounter fresh, new ideas that can revitalize their sales approach.

You might even take things a step further and set up an actual in-office book club. Select a title for everyone to read, and then gather the group together a month later to discuss. Come with your own questions and topics to help guide the discussion, and allow your employees to share their impressions, what they learned, and how they think they can implement some of the tactics or approaches covered in the book in their day-to-day work life.

If you’re looking for a good read to get your started, I’d recommend the following:

Make Mentors

One of the best ways to learn sales techniques is to watch someone else do it skillfully. If you have a team with some more seasoned salespeople and some other who are less experienced, creating a mentorship program can be a great approach.

Pair each novice up with a mentor. Allow them to listen in on their mentor’s sales calls and to tag along for in-person meetings and pitches. Learning from a pro in the field is one of the fastest ways to help develop a rookie’s technique. Also ask your mentor to provide feedback to their mentee; have them establish a monthly sit-down over coffee that encourages an open dialogue between the veteran and the beginner.

Studies have shown that mentorship programs have benefits for both the mentors and the mentees. Your novice gets to learn new skills, and your veteran gets to develop leadership skills that prepare them for even greater career growth.

You have plenty of options when it comes to sales training. From the preexisting courses on particular topics to more customized, in-house training programs, you should be able to strike the right balance and create an environment that empowers your team to succeed.

How to Add Sales to Each Stage of the Customer Journey

How to Add Sales to Each Stage of the Customer Journey written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

When you think of your business’s sales strategy, you may be tempted to think of it as only relating to the actual transaction where a customer pays for the good or service you offer.

However, businesses today can’t think of their relationship with their customers as a linear one. Instead, people have the opportunity to interact with your brand in a wide variety of ways: on your website, in-person, over the phone, via email, in Google search, or on social media. And they go through different phases, from just coming to know of your product to (hopefully, eventually) being a return customer who refers others to your business. The sum of all these interactions with your brand is what we call the customer journey.

Because this journey is not a straight road, your sales team can play a role in each phase of the journey. As you think about building an hourglass that addresses marketing needs for prospects and customers at each phase, you should also consider how your sales team fits into the hourglass model. Whether someone is hearing about your brand for the first time or is making their 50th purchase, your sales team has something to offer them.

We’ll take a look at the stages a customer goes through on their journey of interacting with a brand, and how sales can play a role in each phase.

Getting to Know You

When someone is just encountering a brand for the first time, you have a tremendous opportunity but also a great responsibility. They know nothing about your business, so it’s up to you to create a cohesive image that quickly, easily, and clearly communicates who you are, what you do, and why you do it better than anyone else in the game.

These early stages of brand discovery—the know and like phases of the hourglass—are often thought of as the territory of the marketing team. Creating advertising campaigns, compelling calls to action, and social media profiles fall under their purview, but sales has a role to play even this early on in the customer journey.

Outbound marketing efforts may well include your sales team. If you undertake telemarketing or cold calling, have a booth at a trade show, or have a giveaway of branded items at a community event, these are opportunities for your sales team to be the first point of contact with prospects.

While outbound marketing techniques have become less popular in recent years, if it’s done correctly, it can help you to create positive associations with your brand in the minds of prospects. The key here is in making sure that you have a sales team that’s comfortable with having a conversation that touches on the important differentiators for your brand, but at the same time doesn’t feel scripted. With the right sales team in place, it’s possible to create positive personal connections with prospects immediately, and that really allows you to stand out from your competition that’s relying solely on inbound techniques.

Coming to Trust You

A recent survey from Wantedness.com found that, in the U.S., 79 percent of consumers said they would only do business with brands that show they understand and care about “me.”

The trust and try areas of the hourglass are where there’s the greatest crossover between your marketing and sales teams, and so they should be working in tandem to create that highly personalized approach. In order to be most effective, they need to have access to each other’s information: sales needs to share their CRM data, while marketing should provide a window into their analytics.

While some prospects will react well to personalized email campaigns and targeted paid advertising on Facebook, all managed by the marketing team, others will need a bit more hand-holding from someone in sales.

Having a call to action button on your website that makes it easy for prospects to request a demo and get in touch with a member of your sales team can help funnel those prospects that need a little extra attention to the appropriate salesperson. Additionally, creating a shared inbox for your marketing and sales teams will allow your marketing folks to easily hand off prospects that would like more, detailed information to the sales team.

The Moment of Truth: The Purchase

This is what the sales team has been waiting for. After playing a role in introducing prospects to the brand and being responsive to their questions in the trust and try phases, the prospect is finally ready to convert.

Of course, the buying phase of the customer journey where the sales team plays the most obvious role. It’s also a point that some business owners take for granted. Just because someone has become a customer does not mean they can now be forgotten.

As Joey Coleman and I discussed in a podcast episode, creating a standout customer experience is an important part of taking people from one-time customer to repeat client. The sales team needs to make sure that the first time someone buys from you, they have an optimized experience. That means automated updates on their purchase, an easy way to get in touch if there’s an issue, and a proactive approach from you.

If your sales team is able to provide a stellar experience for a customer’s first time buying from your company, they’re a lot more likely to come back again. The trick here, of course, is that the stellar experience needs to be repeated on each subsequent interaction. Your sales team can never take a customer for granted, because if they do, that customer will eventually drift away to a competitor.

Part of the trick here is to establish crystal clear processes for your sales team’s interactions with customers. Make sure you have a customer service platform in place to ensure that any issues are being addressed in a timely manner and that efforts are not being duplicated (which wastes your team’s time and frustrates and confuses your customer). Consider a platform like ZenDesk, which allows you to track customer support requests across channels.

Building a Referral Engine

The final stage of the hourglass gives your customers the opportunity to generate new leads for you. When you empower your sales team to effectively generate referrals, you can build an engine that fuels your business growth for years to come.

Encourage your sales team to be proactive about gathering referrals. If they have a positive interaction with a customer, have a formalized process in place for getting a written review from that person.

Customers will also be more likely to refer you if you remain top of mind. Your sales team should be using a customer data platform to track interactions with customers. If you haven’t spoken to one in a while, have your sales team reach out. A personalized email or phone call might not only bring them back to make another purchase themselves, it will also position you to be the business they recommend later in the week when their friend happens to ask if they know a company that does exactly what you do.

If you think of your sales team as a group that only springs into action the moment someone wants to make a purchase, you’re missing out on the enormous potential that they have to support your business throughout the customer journey. When deployed correctly, your sales team can be by your customers’ sides each step of the way, which only serves to strengthen their relationship with your brand and makes them more likely to establish long-term connections with your business.

How to Integrate Sales and Marketing to Grow Your Business

How to Integrate Sales and Marketing to Grow Your Business written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

It’s an age-old notion that marketing and sales teams don’t get along. Like rival football teams in a teen movie, the marketing team sees themselves as the heroes—creating forward-thinking ideas and campaigns that will open up a whole new world of potential clients and drive tremendous growth—while the sales team thinks what they’re doing is the real work—coaxing customers along, catering to their needs, closing the deal and actually bringing in revenue.

But just like in a great teen movie, the moral of the story here is that when the two teams can put aside their differences and work together, they can accomplish really amazing things for your business.

Creating harmony between sales and marketing might be easier said than done, but it is definitely possible. Here we take a look at some tips for integrating sales and marketing in a way that will lead to healthier revenue and happier teams.

Foster Friendship

It may seem obvious, but people will work better together if they know and like each other. Because there is typically a rivalry between sales and marketing teams, there’s a lot of value in bringing these two groups together. You can do it however you’d like: an informal lunch gathering in the office, an after-work excursion to a bowling alley, or an overnight offsite to a nearby hotel with hiking or fun outdoor activities.

No matter what your budget is, there are real, tangible benefits in bringing these teams together and creating a convivial environment. Happiness can lead to success in various aspects of life, and work is no exception. Happy employees are more engaged, productive, and do better work.

Not only does this productivity and engagement help your bottom line, it also makes being at work a more pleasant experience for all, and isn’t that a win-win?

Create an Inclusive Strategy

Once you’ve built a bridge between these two teams, you’ll want to share your comprehensive business strategy. This should be the grand, guiding vision for all employees in your company, including those on the sales and marketing teams.

Present this strategy to both teams together, and then open things up for discussion. How does their day to day work feed into the larger strategy? How can the sales and marketing teams collaborate to work towards achieving the business’s overarching goals? What are the strategies of the two teams, and then what are the tactics they’ll use to achieve results?

Getting these teams talking about how they fit into the larger picture can encourage them to think about collaboration not just as a nice to have, but as a must have in order to serve the business as a whole.

Encourage Communication

Now that you’ve got the teams talking, keep those lines of communication open, and create a clear system for the sales and marketing teams to transfer leads. Where in the marketing hourglass does it make the most sense to get the sales team involved?

Will all of the channels through which marketers can reach prospects nowadays, your marketing team has the know and like portion of the funnel covered. But things tend to get a little murky by trust and try.

Some people will be willing to take online reviews, social media posts, and offers like white papers or webinars as enough to convince them to become a customer. Others will need a bit more hand holding in the form of sales presentations, demos, or just someone to talk to before they commit.

You want to make sure that these prospects who are on the fence actually end up getting in touch with a sales person. They’re so close to converting, and if your sales team is responsive and provides them with just a little bit more personalized information, their business is yours.

This means you need to create clear internal processes for identifying these people and getting them in touch with the sales team quickly and efficiently. Consider establishing a channel on Slack or a similar messaging system so that the sales and marketing team can easily communicate. A shared inbox tool like FrontApp can also empower your team to see the interactions a prospect has already had with your company, and allow others in your organization to quickly and easily pick up where their colleagues left off.

A seamless transition between marketing and sales efforts will help to build trust on the prospect’s end, and is one of the factors that can help you close the deal.

Share The Data

Marketers are constantly collecting new data on how customers are interacting with the company and on how effective their marketing efforts are. Salespeople are in constant communication with customers, and have lots of real-world data they’re picking up from these interactions.

This means that sales and marketing teams should be sharing data to identify trends that can help both of them improve their respective approaches.

For example, if marketers are seeing that a particular call to action on the website is getting a lot of traction, they should share that data with the sales team. It means that something about that messaging is resonating with customers, and salespeople can tailor their approach to include that same messaging when speaking with clients or prospects.

Similarly, if the sales team is hearing the same feedback, good or bad, from a lot of clients, they should be sharing that with the marketing team. If customers are saying they’re unhappy with a specific product because it doesn’t do what they were expecting it to based on what they read on your website, that’s an issue with the marketing language.

Marketing teams are likely using Google Analytics or a similar tool to collect their data, while the sales team is probably using a CRM platform. Providing the each team with access to the other team’s data can allow them to understand the customer from a new perspective and (hopefully) improve their approach to their own work.

Reward Good Work

Sales teams have historically been rewarded for their work with incentives. This is part of what can feed into that classic marketing/sales rivalry. While the marketing team is attracting new prospects with their work, it’s the sales team that closes the deal and gets the glory (and the financial reward).

I’m not saying take away incentives from your sales team. There is an art to motivating salespeople, and it involves a different approach for your different tiers of workers; some are stars, while some are laggards, and they need to be handled differently.

What I am saying is that it’s helpful to incentivize your marketing team, too. But the approach here has to be different. It can’t be commissions based on sales; instead you should identify key performance indicators (KPIs) and create a bonus structure around them.

Something easily measurable, like traffic or visibility, is a good place to start. Create a bonus structure around site traffic that’s driven by marketing content, or provide a monetary reward when you hit a certain number of followers on a social media platform. From there, you can broaden out and consider other KPIs.

It is possible for the sales and marketing teams to put aside their differences, integrate their approaches, and live in harmony. And it’s imperative that small business owners and leadership do what they can to encourage open communication and collaboration across team lines. Not only will this make for happier teams, but it will also make for a healthier business.