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The Evolution of Sales and Marketing into a Growth Engine

November 10, 2020

By: Steve Tafaro, Advisor at BluWave

For small and early-stage companies, sales growth is essential: it is a leading indicator of future performance and represents the most important measure of value accretion. However, the marketing and sales practices employed by many organizations today result in a failure to meet growth objectives. And while CEOs continue to rank sales growth as a top priority, many are dissatisfied with the results. So why are the traditional practices no longer working?

Early-stage, small and mid-sized companies are trying to grow in a dynamic and hyper-competitive sales environment. The evolution in communication and access to information has dramatically altered how buying decisions are made. Websites are packed with information about a company’s products and services, while LinkedIn and other social networks allow consumers to tap into personal connections for references. While the Internet is often viewed as a selling medium, it has evolved into a buying medium – according to McKinsey, almost 70 percent of purchasing decisions are made at the “initial consideration” stage, which means many buyers aren’t even reaching the point where they interact with a salesperson.

When prospective buyers do engage, they expect salespeople to understand their unique concerns and offer viable options that address them. The ability to build interpersonal relationships with prospective buyers and help them make informed and confident buying decisions is essential, but it’s also where traditional sales methods fall short.

The role of marketing will continue to grow as new technologies emerge and buying behaviors evolve. This is why it’s more important than ever for your marketing strategies and sales processes to be tightly integrated and aligned with how your customers buy. With this in mind, here are some suggestions that you can implement to increase sales results:

#1—Focus marketing on creating demand 

Marketing should be less focused on presenting products and services and more focused on creating demand and solving problems. A company’s marketing messaging should arouse curiosity by showing prospects how others have benefited from its solutions and how those solutions can meet their unique needs. It’s not about the products or services themselves, it’s about the results and capabilities they offer.

For example, consider the difference between two marketing campaigns for a cloud-based productivity tool. The first emphasizes the product’s intuitive user interface, features and design elements, and so on. The second explains how the tool will increase communication and collaboration, which will reduce inefficiency and improve a company’s bottom line. Marketers should always emphasize the latter set of points: demonstrating how products and services can actually help customers instead of just how they function.

#2—Create a power index 

One of the most effective ways for companies to highlight the outcomes their products and services are capable of securing is the creation of a power index, which lists these outcomes in a logical order. After each outcome, prospective buyers are asked to assess whether they’re “underpowered” or “adequately powered” in that area by checking a box. This leads buyers through a process that provides them with a clear understanding of the results they can achieve with a particular product or service and helps them prioritize the results that are most meaningful to them. As buyers complete the power index, several interesting things happen:

They see the full array of results they can achieve, not just the ones they assumed. This demonstrates the value of the solution they’re considering.
If a manager has been asked to evaluate competitive solutions and hasn’t developed explicit criteria, the power index will become the basis for their assessments.
The sales team is able to see the “underpowered” areas to focus on.

When marketing and sales teams deploy power indexes, they create two-way communication with potential buyers by showcasing the value of their products and services while simultaneously learning about buyers’ unique characteristics and needs.

#3—Develop and implement a value-based sales process 

The most successful companies use value-based sales processes. These companies realize that a sale can only occur if a prospective buyer is either looking for a solution to a stated need or willing to discuss the fact that a problem exists. A value-based sales process relies on a system of steps to identify these problems and demonstrate how a product or service can help. Using the results of the power index, the salesperson’s objective is to help prospective buyers close the gap that exists between where their organization is today and where they need to be.

The value-based sales process is designed to help buyers: 1) diagnose the issues or gaps and identify causes for them, 2) explore how a product or service can resolve their issues, and 3) mutually define the value received by resolving the issue and closing the gap.

When companies implement a marketing and sales strategy built around creating demand, identifying customers’ needs, and explaining how their products and services can achieve concrete positive outcomes, they will turn this strategy into a powerful engine of growth.