Recently, I was introduced to Sharon Drew Morgen, an Austin-based, marketing veteran and NY Times best-selling author who created a buyer-centric sales and marketing model long before those of us in the demand generation discipline started teaching the process.
Sharon Drew is whip smart, opinionated and (in typical Texas fashion) not shy about calling it as she sees it. Here’s an excerpt of our interchange:
Sharon Drew, you coined the term "buyer's journey" decades ago. How has the buyer's journey changed in recent years?
Not as much as you think. To begin with, we haven't spent much time considering the buying decision path. Sales focuses on needs assessment and solution placement, and ignores the behind-the-scenes change management issues that buyers must address before they can buy. So the trip between the non-solution based decision issues necessary for internal agreement/buy-in and purchase, still has the same steps it always has (Even more, given the economy and global workforce.)
Note that until a Buying Decision Team is fully formed, and their voices added to the solution choice, no solution will be purchased.
The computer and net has made it both easier and more complex for the buyer to decide. But the journey is still a human one: without buy-in and change management addressed, our brilliant solutions and technology are meaningless. The addition of marketing automation is offering prospects more data, but that doesn't change the buyer's off-line journey.
Billions of dollars in time and purchasing is wasted every year in pursuit of the "lead." What is everyone doing wrong?
The baseline assumption is that because it there is a 'need', there should be a sale. But a 'lead' is merely a name until the entire Buying Decision Team determines all of the folks who will touch the solution. With our Marketing Automation System, we have no idea at what stage of the buying decision path this 'lead' is at. The time it takes for buyers to come up with their own change management answers is the length of the sales cycle, regardless of the data we send them.
And our leads are most likely not leads, as evidenced by the very low closing rate we have. Sales closes 7%; marketing automation closes less than 1%. We spend so much time trying to figure out the behavior of what a 'lead' looks like, but we are merely looking through the solution placement prism. It's an entirely different picture when you realize the off-line, private, buy-in journey they must take prior to a purchase. And we aren't facilitating them, which we could be.
Why are companies getting it all wrong, Sharon Drew?
I see companies throwing a lot of money at sales and marketing automation, and still maintaining the focus on lead generation and appointment setting - all with the belief that getting in front of the right people (impossible until the entire Buying Decision Team has been put together) will allow them to present their data. But they end up getting small numbers of people into a meeting - often only a fraction of the Buying Decision Team - and offering good data far too early for them to know what to do with.
I also see a lot of time/resource waste, chasing prospects rather than helping them navigate the decision path and change management issues. At the moment, I'm not seeing a lot 'right' in the field, although some marketing automation folks are working with me to design software that will enter the buyer's decision path at the point of the first idea.
Is the problem with marketing automation the technology, the process people use to take advantage of the technology, or the people themselves?
Marketing automation technology follows the inefficient sales model of needs assessment and solution placement. We should use technology at the beginning of the buyer's decision path. I have coded the 13 steps that happen behind-the-scenes, and prospects get on line for three of these steps. We can not only "follow" them but also influence them early on in their path.
We need to start thinking differently about what we want to do: do we want to sell? or have buyers buy? There is a different technology need for each.
If you were giving one piece of advice to a newly minted demand generation professional, what would that be?
Begin as a change agent. Develop your site and marketing automation capability to help buyers align the entire Buying Decision Team and figure out how to get the buy-in with everyone who touches the solution. Put on a leader hat, rather than a marketer/sales hat first. Until or unless they do this portion - it's about 90% of the buyer's decision path - they can't buy anyway. Instead of pushing on those few who we believe to be 'leads' and picking off the low hanging fruit , we can help so many more buyers to buy. There is no reason we can't have a 40% close rate - from first call.
Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? Two different activities.
Sharon Drew Morgen is a self-professed marketing automation curmudgeon. She's based out of Austin, Texas. You can contact her at http://sharondrewmorgen.com