Capturing Your Buyers’ Most Meaningful Online Behavior

Seventy-six percent (76%) of buyers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations before ever getting on the phone. But that’s rarely what happens.

There is a massive divide between what buyers want to discuss with sales vs. what sales wants to discuss with buyers. The data shows a clear pattern: sales is struggling to maintain an otherwise personalized buying journey. They’re risking the user experience by asking prospects for information that has already been given, and prospects feel the friction. In other words: sales doesn’t know how to translate online behavior into meaningful conversations.

This is one of the biggest threats to growth today. The ability (or inability) to quickly translate a prospect’s needs into a solution can make or break an opportunity and with the patience for bad customer experiences running thin, there is no room for error. But how does one translate online behavior into meaningful conversations? We break it into two parts. Part one is about capturing the most important information and making it easily accessible. But that’s only half the battle. Part two is learning how your sales team can take data and turn it into real, actionable insight that can inform your conversations.

Check out the related podcast episode: How to Manage Change. Click the player below to listen.

Capturing the Most Meaningful Online Behavior

Salespeople today spend, on average, one full workday per week researching their prospects. Yet still 42% of sales reps still feel they do not the information they need before making a sales call according to Salesforce.

Sales is wasting time looking for demographic data that will “pre-qualify” leads while ignoring the personalized information that the marketing team is already collecting (or has the potential to collect).

A mature marketing organization is tracking its users’ online behavior. As prospects engage with marketing materials, their interactions are collected and stored. That’s the information your sales team should leverage to drive real conversation with prospects. So how do you use this information to inform productive conversations? There are two steps.

Step 1: Agree on the Information You’re Collecting

The most mature marketing teams are using progressive profiling strategies to incrementally capture information from your buyer throughout their journey via online forms. Progressive profiling forms convert 86% higher than traditional forms and up to 40% of marketers are using them. You can read more about progressive profiling in this article. However, not all progressive profiling strategies are created equally.

When building a progressive profiling strategy, marketing tends to make a lot of assumptions about what they think is going to create a meaningful conversation without ever asking sales’ opinion. However, when asked their opinion, sales is often willing to sacrifice the user experience in order to get as much information about a buyer as possible. Neither approach works.

Consider progressive profiling as the mechanism through which you can orchestrate a two-way conversation with your prospects. Marketing has a responsibility to start the conversation by offer personalized content recommendations. Then, the prospect will respond by progressively answering qualifying questions as appropriate throughout the buying journey. Once the lead has qualified, sales has a responsibility to continue the conversation right where marketing left off. Success relies on joint stewardship. Both marketing and sales have a responsibility to listen to the prospect as they share information and to use that information to build a meaningful conversation.

Step 2: Make the Captured Information Easily Accessible

Once both sales and marketing agree upon what information must be collected and agree to be joint stewards of the buying journey, the next step is making sure that a buyer’s behavior can be seen by both teams easily and efficiently. That usually means making changes to your CRM.

Most sales reps loathe their CRM because it’s seen as a chore. But when set-up correctly, your CRM can become a meaningful resource for people trying to sell better. All it takes is collaboration and mutual understanding of what information is valuable, and what isn’t. And a good marketing/sales operations team to make some changes.

There are two areas that need to be addressed in your CRM. The first is the aggregate view that you find in list views, reports, and dashboards. This data shows patterns and helps sales reps prioritize where to spend their time.

But there’s also the individual person or account that you’re actioning.

Both places need to show the most valuable information first. That may mean cleaning up the fields shown on a lead record, removing filters in a report, decreasing the number of widgets in a dashboard, hiding information that isn’t relevant to the user, or putting the most important information above the fold. By doing this, you’re making the CRM useful for everyone on the team, not just managers trying to report on pipeline.

To get to this level, start by focusing on the sales experience the same way you would focus on the user experience. Host focus groups, brainstorms, whiteboarding sessions, or whatever else is necessary to really understand what information is making an impact on conversations with prospects, and what information is just adding noise.

The CRM is where marketing and sales meet. Up until now the buyer has had a great experience and it’s sales’ responsibility to pick up where marketing left off, continuing to provide that great experience. But that’s impossible if sales can’t access the right information.

Who Owns What?

The process of finding the most meaningful behavior is collaborative, but at the end of the day it should be owned by marketing. Your marketing team has insight into the buyers’ journey, content consumption, engagement channels, data structures, and system limitations, so they should be responsible for making changes. But only sales knows what information actually influences a real-life conversation, so leaving them out of the process is a recipe for failure.

We strongly suggest that marketing should make the first effort. Begin with both first-person research and data that details what information is useful, and what isn’t, and be prepared to explain that logic to sales. Then, bring those recommendations to the table and ask for sales’ opinion and suggestions and actually listen to the answers. Research is a great starting point, but it’s not the only input that needs to be considered.

Once marketing and sales have agreed upon what information is important to collect, how they’re going to collect it, where it will be stored, and how the data will be presented, you’re ready to tackle Translating Online Behavior into Meaningful Conversation.

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