How NOT to Sell to Marketers

November 11, 2015 Adam Brophy

How Not to Sell to Marketers

There’s no question that marketers are smart (and I’m not just saying that because the fate of this blog post lies in my marketing team's hands).

They're also difficult to reach. As a SaaS sales guy who spends a good chunk of time chatting with marketers, I can attest to the reality that there’s no single functional area within B2B organizations that purchases more technology solutions… not even IT. In fact, a CMO’s spend on technology is rapidly outpacing that of a CIO. The decision-making process is shifting as marketing teams are adopting new technology, tactics, and processes.

Yet, based on the junk that’s been filling up marketers’ inboxes, voicemails, and newsfeeds, it’s clear that a lot of us salespeople are still using outdated tactics on a group of buyers whose behavior has shifted greatly over the last five to ten years — it's no wonder that marketers can seem so evasive.

To sell to the modern marketer, salespeople need to think and act like a modern marketer. Below are some tips on what not to do, based on my own experience, that of my team’s, and some horror stories from the marketers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting at various marketing events.

Here’s my quick list of mistakes you might be making when trying to sell to modern marketers.

1. You're not doing your research

Endless sources of information on your prospects are available online, so there really is no excuse for not doing your research. You should always have a clear understanding of your prospect’s position within their marketing team, within the organization as a whole, as well as some other pieces of unique information to help break the ice.

One quick outbound prospecting tactic that I've found to be effective is the “3x3” approach: spend three minutes finding three distinct facts about your prospect before reaching out.

2. You're obviously using automation

There are some amazing sales tools out there to help automate and streamline the often monotonous and always time-consuming task of prospecting. But more than anyone, marketers can smell an automated email from a mile away. 

I’m not saying that you shouldn't take advantage of these tools — they can help up your productivity ten times over. When used improperly, however, some reps fall into the trap of using a “spray and pray” approach. The same message won’t work for different marketers. Err on the side of using automation to complement manual, personalized efforts.

3. You're lacking in the creativity department

Marketing is usually one of the most creative teams in an organization. I've found that many marketers appreciate a more creative sales approach, so you can get away with being a little less formal.

Some of the worst sales emails I’ve seen read like a robotic cover letter. Of course, a more casual tone might be inappropriate for some audiences, but marketers understand the value of showing off your human side.

Sales Creativity

Apply some humor, creativity, and personality to your sales messaging. Your prospects are getting the same old pitches 50 times a day from salespeople competing for your share of their marketing budget. If you find a way to shine amid the inbox clutter, you'll drive up the likelihood of a response.

4. You don't have a social media presence

If your LinkedIn profile is an absolute trainwreck, you’re not on Twitter, and it’s difficult for a marketer to take a quick peek at your online presence, you’re going to be in rough waters from the start.

Marketers understand the value of social media, and are usually extremely active on social — it's where they keep up with the latest marketing news and trends, and connect with other marketers.

Social Selling

Be where your buyers are. Add to the conversation, and provide value (not a pitch) wherever you can. Given the social selling movement, this might seem like an obvious tip, but too often I hear that a lack of social presence is a big turn-off for marketers.

5. You're disrespecting their timelines

Most marketers understand the difficulties faced by sales teams and can empathize with your need to qualify opportunities and push them down the funnel, but sometimes, the timing is just not right.

Don’t push for a call or pester a marketer who has honestly told you that they won’t be able to evaluate your product for a few months. This does more harm than good.

Try to understand why there is a delay, and if you can’t (respectfully) build enough urgency, then wait it out. Try to provide value with content as the time goes on, but do not push or try to rush someone into a timeline that fits your needs but not theirs.

6. You're pitching too early

One of the most common terms you’ll hear a marketer say is “nurture”. A common mistake sales reps make is not nurturing effectively, which causes them to jump the gun on their pitch. 

Marketers are experts at building quality engagement and sales-ready leads through their content and campaigns, so keep that in mind when selling to them. They expect to be nurtured, and expect you to try to build a relationship with them.

Like most people, they also like to talk about themselves, their efforts, their successes, where they’re struggling. Make sure to ask a lot of questions and focus on discovery before making your pitch.

7. You're sending rude "break up" emails

Most sales reps have a go-to “break up” email they'll send if they haven’t received a response from their prospect after some time, but these should only be sent tactfully and strategically. No one wants to hear Taylor Swift’s whiny voice in their inbox — that's what Top 40 radio is for.

I think a good break up email is mandatory for a salesperson, but you need to strike a balance between being accusatory and being tactful. Don’t whine about them not responding to your efforts. Even if it's an "it's not me, it's you" situation, assume you haven’t provided enough value to warrant a response, and approach your “break up” message with that in mind.

8. You're not using social proof and referrals to fuel pipeline

Who do marketers trust most? Other marketers!

Seize every opportunity within the sales cycle try to use social proof, common connections or the power of a referral. It will work much better than just shoving a pitch down your prospect’s throat.

One of the ways I leverage social proof is by asking members of our marketing team or customers with whom I've built a good relationship to join me on calls or answer a prospect's question. That way, they'll be getting the marketer's word over mine. Leveraging this kind of credibility will not only solidify your pitch — it can also add major value to your pipeline.

9. You're not telling stories

Marketers are professional storytellers. Whether they're telling a story through their content, through branding, or through creative programs and campaigns, it's their job to find a way to effectively communicate with their audience and differentiate their brand.

You don't have to be J.R.R. Tolkien to tell an engaging, inspiring story. As cheesy as it sounds, stories can be found everywhere — in your company's growth, in your customers' successes, or in your own day-to-day reality. Tell the story of how a certain product feature was realized, or how a customer accomplished a goal, or how you ran a marathon last weekend.

Use stories to frame your pitch and relate to your prospect on a one-to-one level. 

Give your prospects what they want

While most of these tactics speak specifically to marketers, salespeople can only be successful if they truly know who they're selling to. It's imperative to keep up with your target buyer's activity and behavior if you want to get through to them and make the sale.

Knowing what doesn't work is just as important as knowing what does work. Learn from both your triumphs and your mistakes, and use these learnings to fuel your sales strategy moving forward.

Forget coffee — content is for closers. Learn more in our free eBook  How to Leverage Content for Sales Enablement.

About the Author

Adam Brophy

Adam is the Sales Development Team Lead at Uberflip. Prior to joining Uberflip, Adam worked as a Marketing Manager at Toronto's Venture Accelerator Partners. He holds a HBBA Degree from Wilfrid Laurier University where he concentrated his studies in Entrepreneurship & Marketing. When Adam isn't working, you can likely find him around a baseball diamond, hockey rink, squash court or a pub with good beer and live music.

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