All of us who work in sales & marketing have seen the radical changes the field has undergone in the past few years. Many, however, are still living in the past and somehow do not believe the changes apply to their particular kind of industry. B2B companies especially are resistant to the new forms of promotion the Internet and the social media channels have brought about and insist on doing things the old way. Of course they are not succeeding as before, and more and more senior management are missing their sales targets and losing their jobs. If you are in sales and marketing, make sure you rethink your ideas if you still believe in the following myths:
1. Marketing is about hype. If you think that by promoting the features and benefits of your products as loud as you can, the customers will believe they need you, you will be in for a nasty surprise. Customers are a lot more skeptical today. They’ve been yelled at for far too long. They will just shut you off as soon as you start blabbering about your product, skip your ads, block your emails, and close your pop-up banners in a rage. Hype won’t bring you sales. Educate and inform your public, produce useful content (blog posts, video clips, white papers, infographics, e-books) and let them find out about you. Make yourself available on search engines and wait. The customers will indicate when they are ready to buy from you.
2. Salespeople need to talk the customers into buying. You still need to be very proactive in sales, but not as the typical pushy car salesman of yesteryear. Do not try to take advantage of your customers. You need to work more closely than ever to the marketing team in the process of passing as much information and useful content as possible to your prospects before you close. You need to be more of a consultant. The customer probably already knows a lot about the product when he is ready to buy, and he didn’t get the info necessarily from you. There are hundreds of sources of information available online, so make sure you are prepared to pass on very sophisticated and updated info to your customers when and if they finally get to you, as they will very likely already know the basics.
3. Marketing and Sales are very different departments. The former’s job is to pass on qualified leads to the latter. Not anymore! The basic difference now between the two departments in the number of people they address and communicate with. Marketing will still have to segment the market into very specific buying personas (a refined stereotype of the typical customer for a certain product), but they will be talking to a number of people in that segment at a time. Sales, on the other hand, will carry on the marketing process (which is mainly giving the customer as much useful content as possible) when he identifies a specific customer that needs a more personal approach, a one-to-one kind of conversation with a real human being to ask the final questions or understand the finer points of your offer. Many customers will totally skip salespeople and go straight to purchasing through the self-service websites. You need to be better than ever as a salesperson to be needed and relevant in today’s marketplace.
4. Promotion is the heart of success. Embellish the communication about your product and you can get away with anything. Wrong. The product itself is the most important part of marketing today. You should be offering purple cows (as the marketing guru Seth Godin calls them): products and services that are so exciting and awesome that can self-promote and inspire the buyers to purchase them. Think Apple and design. Think Amazon and its obsession with customer service. That’s the new marketing.
5. You sell to customers. Another common mistake companies make today. They still think they are selling their products to customers. It’s the other way around: customers buy products from you. The difference is less subtle than you may think. It means that the customers are in total control of the purchasing process. They will somehow identify their needs (through friends and contacts in social media, through blogs, through well-designed and content packed websites) and get as much info as possible about solutions before getting ready to buy. Your job is to be available on every step of the way (we tend to call the stages towards a purchase the sales funnel; we should be calling it the purchase funnel, though). Therefore, you need to provide content to match the stage the customer is at: from more general and comprehensive to more specific and product-based.
These are some of the most common sales & marketing myths still held by many professionals today. They need to change fast if they want to keep their jobs.