Your salespeople know your buyers so well that, when a salesperson gets in front of a buyer, he will ask questions that help discover that buyer’s needs, goals, desires, etc. He’ll then deliver a solution to that buyer, — usually as a product, solution, or service. The value of recognizing the customer’s need and filling it is immense.
But let’s face it. The world has become accustomed to instant gratification. Buyers prefer not to take the time to involve a salesperson during their problem/solution discovery process. Instead, they’d prefer the information be available so they can do the research themselves. They may still want to speak to a salesperson when they’re ready to buy, but in the meantime, they want to be left alone.
For distributors, this is a good thing because your salespeople have much better things to do than hunt for and chase cold leads. Why do that when you can work on closing hot leads instead?
Today, technology can do a tremendous amount of the heavy lifting when it comes to getting information about your company in front of your buyers, and it’s not very difficult. Information about your value as a business partner, about your solutions and services, and even about your products can be very readily discoverable and worded so that it resonates with prospects who are looking for answers. This would be the kind of content your customers want and are looking for.
Publishing valuable content on your website that provides answers and insight allows you to be more customer-focused than ever because you can tailor that content to specifically meet your customers’ needs. It’s simply a matter of knowing your buyers, giving them what they want, and doing so on their terms.
This is What Your Buyers Want
You’ve heard it again and again over the past couple of years. You must meet buyers on their terms. However, if distributors want to meet their buyers on their buyers’ terms, then distributors must deliver the experience their buyers prefer, which is access to comprehensive, valuable information that will contribute to their discovery process. Buyers still want the same (or more) information they were getting from your salespeople. Only, they want that information instantly, online, whenever they decide to look for it.
It would be in any distributor’s best interest to include as much decision-influencing information as possible on their website so that it’s available whenever and wherever a buyer is looking for it. After all, the buyer will find what he’s looking for, so why not ensure the information he’s looking for leads him back to you?
Sharing valuable and interesting information with your buyers opens the door for your salesperson to enter the transaction when the time is right. On the other hand, when you share no information or information that wastes a buyer’s time, you risk losing that buyer for good.
How the Story Ends: A Valuable Lead is Generated
I have a friend who is a great storyteller. He would often begin a story at the very, usually exciting, end; and when he was done sharing the end of his story, he’d circle back and take us to where it started while jumping around a bit throughout the timeline. He said he borrowed that style from Quentin Tarantino, and when he told a story this way, he’d say he was going to “Tarantino it” for us.
Borrowing from my friend, let me Tarantino the following story for you. Like most of Quentin Tarantino’s work, it’s a little long, it may be a little difficult to follow, but if you stick with it you’ll likely find it as exciting as its namesake.
At the end of our story, we have an electrical distributor who is adjusting their sales processes to meet their buyers on their buyers’ terms. They deploy a new email campaign via marketing automation that lands a very valuable (~$50K) lead in their salesperson’s inbox overnight.
Originally, the distributor enjoyed a significant profit through their sales of Industrial Safety Solutions. This particular product line primarily consists of MAP-priced, high-ticket items with a healthy margin. In fact, the product line is so profitable that, pre-COVID, the distributor put together a small inside sales team solely devoted to making roughly 50 calls a day each to buyers around the country. Unfortunately, even though every one of those buyers is always keen to learn more about industrial safety solutions (of course), most calls now go unanswered.
So, as mentioned above, to compensate for their dwindling opportunities from sales calls, the distributor adjusts their sales processes to meet their buyers on their buyers’ terms.
How the Story Begins: An Email is Sent
To better promote the distributor’s line of Industrial Safety Solutions, the marketing team is sending an email to a list of ~300 large electrical contractors entitled “How to Mitigate Risk on the Job.” The email contains a link that, when clicked, brings the reader to an article on the distributor’s website with the same title.
It takes the marketing director three or four hours to put the article together and publish it on their website. Once published, the marketing coordinator drafts the email, gets it approved, and sends it to their audience segment of large electrical contractors.
Once the email is sent, the recipients interested in ‘mitigating risk on the job,’ will click the link in the email. Upon clicking, they are taken to the distributor’s website and will hopefully read the article. (As an aside, the distributor sending that email can see a list of who has clicked that link. This is good information for the distributor to have for future reference.)
The article on the distributor’s website contains helpful, valuable information. Then, for those interested in learning more, there is a link at the end of the article to another webpage containing more-detailed information about Industrial Safety Solutions.
Then, a Buyer Finds Information Significant to His Needs
Joe Smith from Acme Electric clicks that link. The webpage that Joe is taken to contains more links, each strategically set up to take readers to even more specific information. After spending some time reading, Joe clicks one of the links and is brought to the Safety Motor Control webpage.
On the Safety Motor Control page, he sees an offer for an eBook entitled “Protect Personnel from an Arc Flash Event.” He wants the book and, to have the eBook sent to him, Joe enters his name and email address, and the book promptly arrives via email within minutes.
Back at the distributor’s office, all of Joe’s activities can be seen by the distributor. He certainly looks like a good lead, but at this point, does Joe want to hear from your salesperson? Maybe, but it’s hard to tell since he only just requested the eBook a few minutes ago. There’s no reason to take up a salesperson’s time on this yet, so everything Joe’s done so far gets captured in his CRM record for future reference.
The following day, Joe opens the email containing the link to the eBook and begins to read it. Like Joe’s other interactions with the distributor’s collateral, this information is sent back to the distributor’s CRM. That interaction by Joe triggers the CRM into ‘hot lead’ mode!
Within seconds, the salesperson who covers the Acme Electric account for our electrical distributor receives the following notification:
The distributor knows that a certain number of interactions is an indication of interest, and he’s set up his marketing automation system and CRM to track these interactions. He knows that, when a prospect hits a certain lead score, there is a high likelihood that Joe would welcome a call.
Of course, we don’t know this for sure, but it is safe to say the following about this lead (Joe):
- This lead spent a substantial amount of time exploring the distributor’s website. He’s shown significant interest.
- Joe’s journey through the electrical distributor’s sales funnel thus far has been self-directed, meaning they’ve met this buyer on his terms.
- The salesperson who makes the call will be well-prepared to have a conversation with Joe. He now knows what Joe is interested in, and he knows what Joe has already learned about the distributor and the distributor’s Industrial Safety Solutions thus far.
- He will have reviewed Joe’s record in the MSI (a CRM-type system) where he’ll find information about everything Joe’s been looking at on their website. This information gives the salesperson knowledge so he can get right to the point when he makes the call.
- Therefore, Joe will most likely be grateful to the salesperson for not wasting his time and welcome the call. Also, Joe will probably appreciate that the salesperson “knows” him and is sharing what he’d like to hear more about.
What About Your Distribution Company?
Some distributors are using email marketing programs to begin segmenting their audiences and sending email to their various lists of audience segments. It’s an excellent start. These distributors are on a path that can generate and focus on leads like Joe Smith. There are a handful of additional steps along that path that should also be followed.
Nevertheless, the story ending above is a target every distributor should keep in its sights. A warm or hot lead digitally generated by a well-aligned sales and marketing team should be your goal. It’s what you should aim for. And it must be a primary goal in your plan for your digital sales transformation process.
Are You Reaping the Full Benefits Of Your Digital Transformation?
Your digital transformation increases your company’s productivity, helps reduce your costs, and allows you to make smarter, more data-driven decisions. It should help you deliver a better customer experience, improve collaboration across departments, increase agility, and hopefully increase profits. In the long run, it should make life easier for your employees and your customers.
But you’ll need a robust lead management system that delivers ‘intel’ about your buyers if you’d like to free up your salespeople’s time for more fruitful activities. This is an important element to include if you’d like your digital sales transformation to reap its full benefits. An efficient lead management system like the one described above will be incredibly valuable in getting your salespeople physically in front of buyers who want to see them (aka warm leads).
This is Not eCommerce, and it Takes Time
Will a good lead management system make more sales on the internet via eCommerce? It may as a side benefit. Automated workflows like the one mentioned above are designed to generate valuable leads for your salespeople that are nurtured, qualified, and welcoming of your salesperson’s call.
Building workflows like the one outlined above is a process and involves putting some very basic marketing components in place before technology is even introduced. Putting these components in place can take anywhere from three to six months, sometimes even longer, depending on resources; Thankfully, they only must be created one time. Think of these components as your foundation.
First Things First
When it comes to technology, you cannot cut corners. The beauty of anything digital is that it’s formulaic. Anyone can make it work as long as the right steps are in place. As such, this foundation I’m speaking of must be in place before you build your first workflow if you expect to garner a benefit from the workflow. From there, your first workflow can be quickly and easily duplicated and applied across all audience segments and product lines.
The work we do here at Next Level iMedia, and what we’re sharing over at The Digital Distributor, will ensure that distributors are building the digital foundation they need first before they tackle powerful systems like the one in our story.
Because it’s difficult for salespeople to get in front of new buyers, I cannot stress enough how critical these foundational elements are to your ability to communicate your value, laser-target your audience segments, and capture, nurture, and qualify new buyers through more digital methods.
In getting your initial infrastructure built, your marketing team is aligned with your sales function and can deliver what the sales team needs to succeed – stronger connections to more buyers, your value proposition clear and discoverable, and eventually, more valuable, qualified leads to convert.
Susan Merlo is a Digital Sales and Marketing Consultant specializing in wholesale distribution. She has great passion for helping the distribution industry be more current and competitive with their online marketing efforts.
Susan is the founder of Next Level iMedia and The Digital Distributor™ Program. Her latest book, “The Digital Distributor: Six Steps to Accelerate Sales,” is a workbook-style guide that shows distributors how to build a strong digital foundation from which they can successfully communicate their value, manage, and convert more valuable leads, and serve their buyers on their buyers’ terms.
To learn more about Susan, check out her most recent project at https://www.TheDigitalDistributor.com.