While conducting Net Promoter Score (NPS) research for a technology client’s B2B prospecting project, we asked the president of an operating division of a large multinational the following, “You gave our client the highest NPS score. What is the greatest benefit you get from them?” The answer, “our salesman.”
For Better B2B Prospecting, Listen to This
Why? “Because he listens and is proactive in helping us solve our issues, whether it’s high level and strategic or tracking a delivery. He’s proven his loyalty to our company, and to yours, and he is an irreplaceable asset.”
Let’s take those first three words and roll them around for a bit. “Because he listens.” Where, in our marketing process, do we listen? Anyone?
Our Prospects Built the Wall, and We Paid for It
In general, marketing does a crappy job of listening. We’re great at talking. In fact, we have marketing automation which throws broadcast mode into overdrive, enabling the relentless efficiency of generating outbound communications. Our prospects (and prospecting is the bulk of any marketing budget) have responded by conducting an ever-increasing percentage of the consideration process without direct engagement. They built a wall around themselves to protect them from the predatory barrage of unfocused and irrelevant marketing messages.
Unless we break this B2B prospecting cycle, it’s constant escalation. Things aren’t working so we fire out more stuff and the wall gets higher. The only way to change the game is to stop, take a breath, and listen. Only then can you see the world through your prospects eyes.
Six Ways for Corporate Marketing to Open Its Ears
Experience says there are six ways that corporate marketing can increase the effectiveness of B2B prospecting by opening our ears to what prospects have to say. In our experience, these comprise a compelling competitive advantage:
- Manage your database as if it is the single most important lever to marketing success―because it is. If you do not have your prospects’ and customers’ correct contact information, well, you can’t contact them. Marketing Sherpas estimates that B2B data decays at about 2% per month, which jibes with our hands-on experience. That’s 24% per year and maintaining the accuracy of the database must become a corporate priority.
- When someone opts in to your blog or newsletter, they’re not acting out of idle curiosity. Treat this as if opportunity has just knocked on your door because it may have. Introduce yourself. Thank them for stopping by and opting in. Ask them a simple question to help you provide more value such as “are you interested more in the financial aspects or technical?” and then deliver on it. Send them off with something of value and remind them how to reach you with questions or comments. Most times when I opt-in I get nothing.
- Ask a question as part of every interaction with every prospect. The question may be as basic as “let me please verify your email address” or as complex as “how do you articulate the problem you are trying to solve.” It’s got to be appropriate to the prospect’s stage in the consideration process and to the level of trust that has been built. It’s got to be part of a consistent program of listening and learning more (Hint: you can’t establish trust in B2B prospecting without listening. Doesn’t happen.).
- Rep for a day. If your company has a call or response center, key marketing personnel should spend a day a month on the phone. Marketers are responsible for starting the conversation, but they rarely speak directly with prospects.
- In the same vein, key marketing personnel should spend a day a month riding along on sales calls with a list of questions and a report to write and not as a silent observer.
- Regularly conduct new and external prospect persona qualitative research. Engage prospects in directed conversation designed to help understand how you can provide competitively differentiating value. Don’t view the persona as an end product―it’s an archetype, a vessel so that the data you put into your marketing machine is substantially better. Figure that your marketplace is changing at least as fast as your B2B prospecting database is decaying.
No One Cares About You
Remember that not one of your B2B prospects cares one whit about your product or service, the colors it comes in, or how wondrful you think it is. They only care about one thing: themselves. Listen and learn or snooze and lose.