Leverage Digital to Drive Growth

Ben Wordell
December 1, 2020

Slow and declining revenue is the outcome of not knowing how to organize actions around today’s buyer.

What is the problem?

Revenue has been flat. Sales are down. One of the biggest accounts moved to a competitor. Profitability is moving in the wrong direction.

There seems to be plenty of leads, but fewer are converting to real opportunities — more and more are circling the sales funnel, but they’re not dropping in. If this is happening to you, you have likely been questioning your lead scoring, or your marketing and sales messaging, or the efforts of your sales force — or all three.

The pain of slowed revenue is compounded by a digital reality: the way we do business (B2B) has changed. Marshall Goldsmith said it best in New York Times best seller What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There “People who believe they can succeed see opportunities where others see threats.”

Your company has been successful, authentic, and diligent over the years. Whether you embrace digital as an opportunity and lean into it or see it as a risk, a company that does not understand digital will be left behind.

Punching above your weight. An epidemic.

90–95% of B2B buyers are starting their research through a search engine today, even at the executive level. Perhaps surprisingly, this is not only referring to small transactions. Even at the one hundred-thousand dollar price point and above consumers have shown to engage with digital before a sales representative. B2B buyers and younger and more connected as well, and are equipped to make purchases that would traditionally fall upon older executives at the top of an organization.

Regardless of industry, company size, or age, the competition suddenly includes heavyweights like Amazon, Apple, and Netflix. These B2C leaders have shaped the new buyer’s expectations and experiences. The buyer is now conditioned to seek a similar experience in the workplace: digital engagement, simplicity, convenience, and very little friction.

How did we get here?

Let’s briefly take a look at the old sales funnel. There was a divide between marketing and sales, the first being in charge of bringing in people and leads at the top, and the latter being tasked with chasing the leads down. There was a tension because sales was unhappy with the leads that were delivered in addition to the feeling that they were alone in pursuing revenue. Marketing was unhappy that sales couldn’t convert the leads they delivered and they had little impact once they handed a lead over.

It’s important to note that there are numerous aspects of this tried and tested model that are now extinct. Sales people no longer own the process and run the flow. There is no longer a barrier or clear handoff from marketing to sales. You are not always solving the prospect’s problems, they are solving their own. The new model is now focused less on making the maximum amount of calls or closing as many tickets as possible, and more on developing, maintaining, personalizing, and strengthening relationships with customers.

Bad things happen when you try to sell in a way that lives outside of current window of how people want to buy. People generally like to buy but few want to be sold to. The internet and all the communication and information it offers has made the old funnel obsolete. Buyer habits changed and the entire buyer journey shifted.

What is the solution?

Most sales organizations organize activity around a linear pipeline, seeking to move opportunities from one stage to the next in a logical, linear order. For customers, however, purchase progress is far better defined in terms of job completion rather than stage progression.

Today there are numerous models out there that depict what replaced the classic: Awareness, Interest, Decision, Action (AIDA formula). Terms like sales lifecycle, flywheel, and decision journey all describe the digital reality: you become aware of prospects at different stages and they are not locked into a single path towards the purchase.

It doesn’t matter what you call it, if you put the customer as the center it’s going to work. The new buyer journey stages are very similar to what you experience all the time making B2C purchases: Pre-awareness, Awareness, Education, Consideration, Evaluation, Rationalization, and ultimately Decision.

Now consider all of your marketing efforts, sales engagements, digital tools, and support, do these things line up with the buyer journey? There’s a simple metric to measure if they align, and it’s revenue. When your efforts fail to get the results they once did nothing will change until you string together consistent action around aligning your digital efforts with the customer.

It’s been said about business “Create a customer and everything else takes care of itself”. Well what creates a customer? You need to build a digital ecosystem. This system focuses your departments and tools around satisfying buyer journey steps and nurturing leads. It is a machine optimized to produce quality appointments.

Where do you go from here?

The first step is throwing away the map you have and drawing up a new one that addresses the new buyer and stages. Those willing to learn and able to make the changes will be the ones that see success.

Every map will be different but two things that are paramount: 1) A clear understanding of your customer and your Product Market Fit. Mapping their journey, and deeply understanding how the value you provide aligns with their needs, sets a foundation. 2) Building a digital ecosystem. This will do much of the heavily lifting, the work before engagement with sales reps, the lead nurturing, the awareness, and helping the customer solve their own problems.

Business is ever changing and not slowing down anytime soon. But that’s a good thing because the default state of your company can be just as actionable. It’s primed to embrace change and continually leverage digital to drive growth.

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