Selling into strategic accounts has always required a high degree of planning, a rigorous opportunity assessment process and the best (and most expensive) sales reps who can articulate your company’s strategy, vision and distinctiveness whilst distinguishing your products and services in the mind of the customer.
In many ways strategic marketing support has taken a back seat to the process of identifying the influencers and decision-makers, anticipating each stage of the buying process, analysing the competition and tuning into the buyer’s political issues. If the sales processes and planning are not executed correctly then firms whose market consists of only a handful of high profile companies will fail to achieve their objectives, waste vital opportunities and burn a lot of cash. Marketing can sometimes be viewed as a bit-player, playing second fiddle to the sales machine.
Why is it important for marketing and sales to be aligned?
The trouble is that key stakeholders in target accounts don’t live in a bubble – they have access to a massive amount of information about potential solutions, your company and your competitors, so marketing in today’s buyer world is hugely important to achieving success in strategic accounts.
Where does Inbound Marketing come in?
To increase the close rate, you need to successfully connect with each buyer at an individual level, addressing their pain points and needs and controlling the agenda with customised and personalised content along the path of a clearly defined and measured buyer’s journey. This, in essence, is what smart inbound marketing with closed loop analytics is all about.
So how can you combine a highly customised marketing strategy with your sales process to increase your chances of success? Here are a few pointers:
1. Know and address your buyers’ needs and pain points
Any sales rep worth his salt should know the buyer inside and out so you need to plan out content that can nurture the buyer along your planned path. Remember your buyers don’t live in a bubble, so planning the right messages to go out into the ether through social media and blogging is equally important.
2. Is there anyone else you should be talking to in the account?
The inbound process attracts strangers and converts them into leads. In a multi-divisional strategic account the chances are there is someone you know who hasn’t been talked to yet or a ‘complete stranger’ to the account team, such as the ops guy sitting in the Singapore office who has a burning need and is sifting through your blogs in search of information.
Keeping an eye on what is happening and being able to respond quickly through the use of monitoring and automated emails will allow you to cover all the stakeholders in the sales process.
3. Customising and personalising the buyers journey
Creating a stream of highly personalised content can be planned and achieved in a variety of ways. Having banked content that can be adapted and sent via a personalised email as part of the nurturing process will save you having to create it from scratch every time. Using smart lists and workflows as part of the process will help to deliver personalised valued content at exactly the right time. Smart lists and smart forms will also give you the opportunity to utilise customised calls to action and landing pages, for each specific buyer if necessary.
4. Know what’s going on
Complex sales cycles in strategic accounts take time, and over the entire duration of the sales cycle you need to know exactly what is going on with content and email interactions as well as dealing with politics and competitive issues that arise. Using closed loop analytics, it is possible to see what is happening and react to it, more or less in real time. Automation plays a massive part in alerting the strategic account team to what is going on with regards to key stakeholders.
To sum up…
To be successful with strategic accounts, sales must not work in isolation. You will need to integrate a structured approach to developing and implementing customised and highly targeted programmes to individual enterprise accounts.
Crucially, it involves sales and marketing working together to plan out, customise and deliver content that meets the business needs of the customer and ultimately distinguishes your products, services and solutions in their mind.
Having the right processes, marketing technology and people in place at all times is crucial for effective sales and marketing alignment. Click below to learn how an inbound marketing strategy can reduce costs, engage leads and expand your business. We can also arrange for you to have a free Sales and Marketing consultation to see how aligned your teams are.
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