How the Internet Has Outdated Your BtoB Sales Process

by professional speaker, chief strategist, and best-selling author Mike Moran, in Biznology.com

I’m old. 30 years ago, I learned how IBM qualified leads for sales. At the time, I know now, it was unusual to even have a process for such a thing, but that is how IBM worked (and still does). Most B2B businesses did not have such a process and the ones who did probably did not follow them as religiously as IBM did, but even if you don’t know you have a process, you do. Whatever you do is your process. And unless you have seriously revisited it the last few years, the Internet has broken your B2B sales process.

Les étapes que vous devez définir pour l’enton...

Image by eric.delcroix

All this was brought to mind as I prepared for a session I am doing Monday in Copenhagen for the IAA on using social media for sales leads. (Please sign up if you are in town.) As I thought back to the old IBM process, I am not sure any of it works anymore.

IBM had its own names for it, but the process closely resembles one that many B2B marketers use called BANT, which stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline. Basically, what it says is that a well-qualified lead has all of those qualities–the budget to make the purchase, the authority to do so, a proven need for what your product or service does, and a timeline in which to take action.

As someone who still speaks to clients every day about the services they need to succeed in Internet marketing, I wonder how anyone qualifies a lead anymore. First off, I am never talking to the person who has the authority to make the purchase–often it takes three people (including one in purchasing) to sign off, so no one person has the authority. I am not sure if the Internet screwed that up, but it screwed up everything else.

Budget, Need, and Timeline can’t really be looked at as separate items anymore. In the digital age, no one knows in October of 2012 what they will need in November of 2013, but that is when the budget is set for it–if “set” is even the right word. Budgets whipsaw back and forth as results as reported, because everyone knows immediately how they are doing and make rapid course corrections, in part because the Internet has raised stick price speculations to a high art. Everyone is taking corrective action with budgets before anyone even knows there is a problem.

So budgets emerge only after people think there is a need. And, as with budgets, how can you know there is a need when things are changing so fast? You don’t have a need that you spend a year fulfilling–you discover something (from surfing on the Web, or searching, or hearing from a colleague) that would make your business better and then, voila! You get the budget and set the timeline.

Things move too fast for it to be any other way.

So, what is the real way to qualify leads? I am  not sure, but remember that the goal is not to qualify leads–it is to sell stuff. And I think I do know how to sell stuff. You must educate your customer–you must create the need. If you do, the authority, budget, and timeline will fall into place and you will have a sale.

And, although the Internet bollixed up the sales qualification process, it didn’t mess up selling stuff. Use the Internet to create the need with content marketing. Put together the deep, persuasive content that explains the problem and explains the options for solving it, including yours. Then share it everywhere and make it discoverable by searchers and wait for the leads to come in. I bet they will be qualified after they’ve read that much about you.

Then, get your sales teams to focus on social media to engage with potential clients. Use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook–whatever works–to help nudge the clients through the last few stages. It isn’t just phone calls and e-mails anymore.

It might not sound like fancy process, but I bet it will sound good when you ring the cash register.

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About the author:

mikemoran-photo

Author of Do It Wrong Quickly, on Internet marketing, and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc., Mike Moran led many initiatives on IBM’s site for eight years, including IBM’s original search marketing strategy. He holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing, is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, and regularly teaches at Rutgers, UC Irvine, and UCLA. In addition to his contributions to Biznology, Mike is a regular columnist for Search Engine Guide. He also frequently keynotes conferences worldwide on digital marketing for marketers, public relations specialists, market researchers, and technologists, and serves as Chief Strategist for Converseon, a leading digital media marketing agency. Prior to joining Converseon, Mike worked for IBM for 30 years, rising to the level of Distinguished Engineer.

Mike can be reached through his Web site (mikemoran.com). Follow him on Twitter at @MikeMoran.

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Posted by Regan Kelly

Greater IBMer Matt Preschern named ‘BtoB’s’ Top Digital Marketer of the Year

by Kate Maddox, BtoBonline.com

San Francisco—Matt Preschern, former VP-North America demand programs at IBM Corp., was named BtoB’s 2012 Top Digital Marketer of the Year at an awards ceremony Sept. 20.

Preschern was recognized for his work this year using digital platforms to promote IBM’s hardware, software and services, as part of its Smarter Planet initiative.

“We are making IBMers part of the brand,” Preschern said, pointing to a “social eminence” program that helps IBM employees engage with social media and build the IBM brand.

During a keynote presentation at the luncheon, Alison Engel, global marketing director at LinkedIn, revealed new LinkedIn research on how business professionals use social media.

The study was based on an online survey of more than 6,000 LinkedIn users worldwide.

“On personal networks, users “spend’ time—on professional networks, users “invest’ time,” Engel said. “Professional network users want content that can help them at some time in the future— insights that help them work smarter and updates from brands they are interested in.”

The top content area for professional social-network users is career information, followed by brand updates and current affairs, the research found.

“There is a deep well of emotion on professional social networks, similar to the type of high emotion that exists on b-to-c social networks,” Engel said.

She presented case studies from Cisco Systems, Citigroup and IBM to demonstrate how b2b marketers are using content, LinkedIn groups and brand updates to engage with their target audiences.

Also during the event, several of this year’s Top Digital Marketers discussed how they’re using social media, mobile and other online technologies.

“Business is social,” said Linda Boff, global executive director-digital, advertising and design at General Electric Co., last year’s Top Digital Marketer, who presented the award to Preschern.

Boff said GE has found success this year using Instagram to engage its target audiences, being named one of the top five brands on Instagram, with more than 100,000 followers.

“Mobile has been huge for events,” said Rishi Dave, executive director-digital marketing at Dell Inc. Dell creates mobile apps for its events and “gamifies” the content to let event attendees win prizes and network with other users.

Dave and other panelists pointed to some challenges with mobile marketing.

“The No. 1 problem is scaling mobile globally,” he said.

Pam Didner, global integrated marketing manager at Intel Corp., agreed.

“Intel is a global company, and it is very hard to develop a headquarters-driven approach to mobile,” she said. “Headquarters has to work with the regional offices to coordinate mobile programs.”

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Posted by Regan Kelly

As of Aug 2013, Matt is now CMO of Windstream – note by Julie Yamamoto, Program Manager, The Greater IBM Connection