If you look around any successful entrepreneurial business, one thing you will consistently find are processes. Well-defined and documented processes for operations, administration and finance are paramount to driving growth.
That said, if we look to sales and marketing, it is like a journey to the wild west. You will find some campaigns or sales blitzes here and there, but most businesses lack consistent, repeatable processes in sales and marketing. Why is that?
Sales and marketing are the least process-driven functions inside of most entrepreneurial organizations. There are a few possible reasons for this:
- Many entrepreneurs are very good at what they do, but sales and marketing is a bit out of their comfort zone.
- Arguably, process is not aligned with the human nature of a salesperson.
This gap in structure equates to a TREMENDOUS opportunity to drive revenue growth. The purpose of this blog is to look at:
- The benefits of implementing repeatable, aligned processes in sales and marketing, and
- Options for implementing sales and marketing processes in your business.
Benefits of a repeatable process
I have become more and more fond of processes as I have matured as a professional. I started as a sales rep and was very successful selling without having a highly structured process. Fast forward 20-something years and, as the integrator at Convergo, I oversee all of the different functions of the business and tie them together. Some of which I am more comfortable with than others.
When I get out of my comfort zone either personally or professionally, I seek to develop frameworks or processes to follow to achieve success.
One example of that is when my wife and I purchased an investment property in the mountains. I’ve owned investment properties before, but not a short term rental. So, I had two different options to manage the rental:
- Hiring a property management company: Property management companies absolutely provide value, but that value comes at a cost. They take 30% of the rental income in exchange for taking any headaches off my plate.
- Manage it myself: Obviously this takes more time and mindshare on my part than hiring a property management company.
Despite my normal preference for outsourcing, I decided to manage the property on my own.
So, how did I do this? I leveraged some subject matter expertise to create a repeatable, sustainable process that I could execute on my own. The result is way more revenue than I would have had hiring a manager (more on that later) and 100% of my reviews are 5-Star reviews on VRBO. Don’t believe me? Feel free to check it out here. If you are looking for a nice vacation in the Rockies, it is for rent as you can see!
To put the process together, I reached out to some others that have rental properties in the area and found 2 critical pieces of the equation. A reliable cleaner and a reliable handyman. As luck would have it, those that I found are a husband and wife team! We keep the place stocked with a surplus of everything that is needed in an owners closet in the garage that the cleaner has access to.
I also chose VRBO as a comprehensive platform that enables me to effectively price and market the home, manage the bookings, and make local tax payments.
After I boiled that all together, this is what my simple process looks like:
Once a quarter, I do some research on rental rates to set prices out for the next 6 months. I set the prices relatively high in the distant future because the place is a nice place and people book it given the 5 star reviews.
I take 15 minutes every other Monday to take care of a few ongoing items that allow me to maximize my revenue and keep my 5 star reviews:
- I adjust pricing in the shorter term to fill any unrented gaps. Two weeks ago, I significantly lowered the price for 2 upcoming mid-week gaps, which is rare for March. Shortly after, both weeks got rented.
- I send a text to the cleaning service with the updated rental schedule.
- I send a text and email to anyone that has recently booked to thank them, let them know what their specific door code is, and send them the rental instructions (which are also printed in the house).
I set a reminder for myself for any day a new renter arrives to send a text welcoming them, reminding them of the door code, and ensuring they know how to reach my wife and I if they need anything.
In the rare case that something goes wrong, I call the handyman and he does an AWESOME job taking care of things after I make the call. He is a bit expensive, but he takes the problem off my plate and is not nearly as expensive as a rental property manager.
So, it took a bit of effort to put the process together, but the results are great! Most of the benefits are financial:
- More revenue: I generate 19% more revenue that I would have had with a rental company because I strategically manage the pricing in a more active manner than the property management company would.
- Less cost: I save 30% of the revenue that would be paid to a management company.
- Future earnings: I have a tight, proven process that I can leverage should I want to acquire additional properties.
Obviously, I spend more time on this than I would if I hired someone to manage this ongoing, but the financial benefits far outweigh the cost. Regarding my time, quite honestly I enjoy the hospitality aspect to doing it myself as well, which you can see is reflected in the reviews.
Options for implementing sales and marketing processes in your business
There are 3 high-level options for implementing sales and marketing processes in your business:
- Hire a long-term strategic resource
- Use outside expertise to implement processes that you can manage on your own
The skills and knowledge required to implement a process as opposed to managing a process that is already implemented are vastly different. A resource to implement a process is a significantly higher investment than a resource to manage one. We will explore the pros and cons of each with that in mind.
Option 1: DIY
Lots of businesses struggle to make progress because of a do-it-yourself mentality. A false narrative with this strategy in a lot of cases is that it is less expensive. On the surface, that may seem to be the case, but here are a few questions to consider along those lines:
- Who has the expertise in your business to be able to implement these processes?
- What other roles or responsibilities does that person have in your business?
- If that person is already in your business, why isn’t the process already implemented?
The upside with the DIY approach comes into play if you do have internal resources that have both the experience and time to pull it off.
Option 2: Hire a long-term strategic resource
Making a strategic hire like a CMO or a VP of Sales is an option to consider. The advantages of something like this is that person typically brings with them the knowledge and experience to be able to implement processes.
A few challenges with this approach are:
- Strategic hires require a significant long-term investment. The idea with implementing these processes is that they are repeatable and consistent, but it doesn’t take years and years to implement them. Once the implementation is complete, the strategic, highly compensated resource may no longer be needed.
- What is the right skill set? Sales? Marketing? It is very rare for a strategic resource to have experience in both. In addition, some strategic resources lack the project management or human skills needed to implement processes.
- If the process is implemented by a strategic hire, what happens if that person leaves? Is the process owned by the individual, or the company?
As entrepreneurial businesses scale up, it is sometimes necessary to have those strategic resources in place. That said, it could be a mistake to bring in a strategic, expensive resource too soon.
Option 3: Use outside expertise to implement processes that you can manage on your own
Bringing in outside expertise to implement processes in your business has some significant advantages. This outside expertise can come in many different flavors:
- Some are individuals with sales experience, some marketing experience, some are teams of people that bring both sales and marketing perspectives.
- Some have their own prepackaged processes, and some implement custom processes inside your business.
One may argue that bringing in outside expertise is expensive. As compared to the options above, this expense is typically a short-term expense and should be weighed against the expense of a strategic resource or the opportunity cost for some one on your team to implement processes.
It depends on the approach that the outside consultant leverages to help, but it may also be argued that external consultants bring in their own processes that are not necessarily optimized for your specific business.
There are some significant advantages to consider with regard to hiring outside expertise to implement sales and marketing processes:
- You own the process: The process that a strategic hire (option 2 above) brings into your business might might be tied to that person and could be challenging to sustain if they leave.
- The external consultant is not a long-term hire: Typically, external consultants will facilitate the implementation of processes, and then turn it over to the business to manage and make future improvements. This is the opposite scenario of hiring a strategic resource that will be paid long-term.
- Cultural benefits: We are currently working on a project with a client that reflects their company culture and their hiring process. We are working with them to implement sustainable marketing processes. A lower level person on the marketing team is actively engaged in helping build the process. Once we implement the process, that internal resource may be elevated to run the process. Not only are there financial benefits to this, but promoting from within has many cultural benefits.
- Comprehensive expertise: If you pick the right company, they may have expertise in both sales and marketing and can look at the project from a comprehensive, revenue generating standpoint.
Regardless of how you do it, implementing sales and marketing processes in your business can be a significant driver of future revenue growth.
How did the sales and marketing processes in your business compared to processes in other parts of your business?
There’s a delicate balance between setting aggressive revenue goals and achievable revenue goals. Of course you want to grow your business, but it is helpful to have some reasoning behind raising the bar to accelerate year over year revenue growth.
The same concept applies to sports teams. Hockey is a good example. A hockey team plays 82 games per year. Let’s take a look at the win trajectory of a hockey team that has had the following performance the last 4 years with roughly the same personnel:
- 2016: 42 wins
- 2017: 43 wins
- 2018: 44 wins
- 2019: 44 wins
Let’s set aside the reality of 2020 and look at what a logical goal for wins in 2020 might have been. Given the win trajectory of 2016-2019, what do you think would be a logical goal?
Unless some changes have been made by the team or some of its close competitors, a logical goal would be 45, right?
What if the coach comes into the season with a goal of 55? Sounds like a big jump given the win trajectory of the last 4 years. But 55 does makes sense if there is a plan! Possibly a new coach with a different system or maybe a few new players that are better than the ones that they replace.
If there was a goal of 55 without some sort of change in strategy, then why wouldn’t the team have won 55 games in 2019 or 2018?
When we work with clients to help them grow revenue, We begin by looking at the historical revenue trajectory. It is helpful to visualize this using a graph. A revenue trajectory based on historical performance (like the last 4 years for the hockey team) is shown here:
Then, we look at the future revenue growth goals, which is where we see revenue goals more like the 55 wins goal rather than the 45 wins trajectory. The image below is pretty typical of what we see.
The abrupt line in FY-20 showing deviation from historical performance is a typical representation of future revenue goals.
Similar to the hockey team analogy, a goal without a plan is a dream. Setting goals is a great first step. Realistically, to get off the current trajectory path and merge onto the accelerated path, you likely will need some mix of changes throughout operations, sales and marketing. Examples might include:
- Bringing on new leadership
- Reorganizing your company
- Adding some sales reps
- Investing in marketing resources
- Adding new products or services that your current clients could benefit from
While all of these strategies might make sense, some of them involve more significant change or investment than others. You would be surprised how small changes can yield big results. A couple of examples:
- Ensuring sales, marketing, and operations are aligned in providing an exceptional client experience
- Implementing sustainable sales and marketing processes in the business instead of investing in high-level leadership changes
Changes like these minimize the significant long-term investments that some of the options require. It can also have a significant impact impact on the culture and morale of your current team.
Weighing all of the options before you determine the proper course of action is most definitely a worthwhile investment of time!
What is the delta between your revenue trajectory and your revenue goals?
When I say “client experience,” what comes to mind? Take 30 seconds to ponder that question before you read on.
Let’s get a bit more specific and go back in time 5+ years. What sort of experience do you recall having with a taxi cab?
Compare that to the experience that you get when you use Uber.
How are those two experiences different from your perspective? My guess is that taxi and Uber experience likely conjured up feelings on opposite ends of the spectrum. Both of them serve the same purpose of getting you from point A to B, but the vibe that Uber facilitates is significantly different from the taxi vibe.
From the client perspective, the “vibe” is the overall feeling that they have about their entire experience they have with a brand. So what can a brand do to ensure the vibe they are creating is a positive one?
Before we dive in any further, let’s get some clarity on a few things to ensure we are on the same page as to what a client experience is by looking at a few similar terms as noted in this Forbes article:
- Customer service is the advice or assistance a company gives its customers.
- Customer care means how well customers are taken care of while they interact with the brand.
- Customer experience is the total journey of a customer’s interactions with a brand.
Customer Experience became a hot buzzword a few years ago. Consulting businesses sprung up everywhere to ensure that brands provide a positive customer experience targeting the many touch points that very large businesses had with its “customers ”(Face-to face, phone, web, printed invoices, etc).
We help entrepreneurs of small and medium-sized businesses accelerate revenue growth. Our clients refer to their “customers,” as “clients.” So, we help them optimize their “Client Experience” to ensure a positive vibe is associated with the business or brand.
This process starts with mapping out the experience that a client has with your business into the stages that they go through. Let’s turn back to the taxi/Uber analogy and look at the steps involved to go out for a nice dinner.
||Should we just drive? I would like to have a couple of glasses of wine, but I am not sure we can make our reservation on time because the taxi is not reliable.
||Looks like an 8 minute wait for an Uber and a 14 minute drive to the restaurant. Perfect, we can relax at home a bit more and request the Uber so we arrive just in time.
||Call the taxi dispatch and request a ride from the person that actually may indeed be the most miserable person on earth.
||Push 2 or 3 buttons on my phone to select what kind of car I want (large, small, luxury).
||Will the taxi ever get here? We are not going to make our reservation.
||See when the Uber will pull up at the house and go outside to get in the car.
||If it comes, you get in the car, the cabbie rivals the dispatch person from a misery standpoint, it is dirty, smells bad, and there is some really weird propaganda on radio.
||Car is clean, I put my music on the radio, charge my phone, have a bottled water, and chit chat with the driver if I am so inclined (which I often am).
||Pay, get change and try to figure out the tip OR, give a credit card, listen to the cabbie groan about having to take a credit card, sign, and leave.
||Get out of the car and I can tip the next day if I want. I can also split the charge easily with other riders.
||Miss your reservation or need to apologize for being late.
||Walk in, sit down, and enjoy a great dinner.
We are client experience geeks here at Convergo and we feel as though the starting point for creating the Client Experience is to map it out in a similar way that you see above (Decision, Ride Request, The Wait, etc).
There are 2 high-level reasons why you would want to do this:
- It provides a framework for differentiation and improvement.
- It helps to align your team.
Framework for Differentiation and Improvement
It is harder and harder to differentiate the products and services that you sell to your clients BUT it is very difficult to copy a client experience.
Mapping out the Client Experience provides a framework for differentiation and improvement. Breaking down the stages and making improvements to all of the stages provides a better result than trying to differentiate from a macro standpoint. It gives you specific moments in time to zero in on to begin optimizing.
Align Your Team
Let’s turn back to what I would assume to be the structure of a taxi business. I can only assume that an owner of a taxi business thinks of the different departments needed to run the cab company:
- Vehicle maintenance
- Back office
Given the touch points noted above, it is hard for me to believe that there is any consideration given to how the client feels in any of these functions.
Sales, Marketing, and Operations traditionally exist in silos in many organizations in a similar way that these departments run a taxi business.
The big shift to Client Experience actually through the lens of the client allows you to think about:
- What the client needs to have a pleasant experience in each stage
- THEN, what is the role of Operations, Sales, and Marketing to facilitate that pleasant experience.
The taxi vs Uber discussion is a great example of how this all comes together. In closing, a couple of questions:
Content is at the heart of sales and marketing communication. As Darrell Amy says in his book Revenue Growth Engine, content is the fuel that feeds the sales and marketing processes that drive revenue growth. Implementing a content strategy ensures that your Revenue Growth Engine stays perpetually in motion.
Developing content to enable sales and marketing to ultimately drive revenue growth is not an exception to the old adage: Failing to plan is planning to fail. Having a content strategy ensures that your message will resonate with your audience.
If you don’t already have a content strategy in place, you may be asking: Why do I need a content strategy? The big idea with this blog is to answer that question.
Before we start, answer this question. How do you feel when you are contemplating buying something, or when you’re looking for support when you go onto a website and can’t find the answers you need?
Frustrated? Lack of trust? Want to go somewhere else to find the answers, or choose a different provider?
Here are just a few symptoms of not having an effective content strategy in place:
- The messaging on your website doesn’t clearly communicate outcomes to prospects that are ideal fits for your business
- The messages that your sales team communicates to prospects and clients is inconsistent from rep to rep
- All of your sales team spends time independently formulating messages in long emails instead of using content written for them to use by designated writers
- You struggle to know what to post on social media
- Prospects lack clarity as they navigate their experience with your business because they cannot find answers to common questions on your website (This may be going on and you don’t know it!)
- Your client-facing team members spend lots of time communicating with your clients about the same thing over and over.
Let’s take a step away from sales and marketing to look at operations. How does an operational team deliver quality customer service? More than likely, there are documented processes in place that are followed by operational team members. It would be pretty hard to deliver consistent, quality customer service without it, right?
Not having a content strategy for your sales and marketing processes is like not having procedures in place for your operations team. When you boil it down, there are two high-level benefits for implementing a content strategy:
- Effectiveness: Executing on a strategic content strategy ensures that the content initially connects and engages with prospects seeking your help and also streamlines their entire experience with your business.
- Efficiency: Simply stated, centrally creating content for your sales and marketing organizations to share is way more efficient than asking everyone to write their own content.
An effective content strategy has two different components:
- Overarching Company Message: Content that connects with prospects that are ideal fits for your business when they are determining whether or not they want to engage with your business
- Ideal Client Experience Content: Content that supports your prospects and clients throughout their entire experience with your business.
Overarching Company Message
It is very important to have a consistent message that engages with the prospects that are ideal fits for your business. We have written about it a lot! People don’t buy products or services, they buy outcomes.
At the heart of this high-level message is a story with your ideal client as the protagonist that:
- Has a challenge that is impacting their business
- Engages you to help them
- And ends with them achieving the outcomes that they need to move their business forward.
Your content strategy goes beyond merely creating this message. It also ensures that this story is known by all members of your organization and it permeates throughout your website and all collateral. This company message should be familiar to all team members and should be the rapid-fire answer to the question “what does your company do?”
While important, implementing the overarching company message is just the beginning.
Ideal Client Experience Content
The other component of your content strategy is a framework for the ongoing creation of impactful content that feeds your sales and marketing processes.
In the B2B space, the journey that prospects go through to achieve all the outcomes that you can deliver for them is likely longer than a trip to the grocery store.
During that journey, your prospects encounter friction. At Convergo, we use “friction” to describe the various questions, concerns, or lack of clarity that they might have along the way. Content is a great way to provide this needed clarity.
Mapping out this journey is a great place to start. Once the stages of the journey are mapped out, you have some context to think through potential friction. Then, you can write or produce content that provides clarity and alleviate concerns in order to minimize friction.
Let’s fast forward a bit and look at what it looks like if you have been executing a content strategy for a year or so within the context of a relatively basic client experience.
Content Strategy Based on the Client Experience
So there you have it! Your content strategy is in motion! Now:
- Your team members (and website) have a consistent story to tell prospects about the challenges that they have and outcomes that your can help them deliver
- Your sales team has a library of quality content to minimize friction without having to create (sometimes sub-par or on-the-fly) messaging of their own
- Prospects have increased clarity as they navigate their experience with your business, thus shortening sales cycles and improving client satisfaction
- You have content to post on social media that will resonate with your audience
- Your operations team has content that they can use to help clients instead of explaining things over and over again.
Is this what it looks like in your business? If not, what’s stopping you from implementing something like this?
B2B companies often outsource marketing to an agency and have their sales team in-house. Of course there are advantages to outsourcing, but do you really think your sales and marketing departments should work for different companies?
Many entrepreneurial businesses have very tight processes when it comes to the operational side of the business. From a process standpoint when it comes to sales and marketing, it is The Wild West. Things like marketing “campaigns” and sales “blitzes” are short-term, flavor-of-the-month tactics, not sustainable processes.
At Convergo, we help our clients create and implement sustainable sales and marketing processes around the Ideal Client Experience to meet revenue growth goals. This is a significantly different approach from hiring an outside marketing agency to get “leads” for your in-house sales team.
A common link between Convergo and a marketing agency is content. Content is the fuel that drives all sales and marketing processes. Our Focused Message Framework provides a guideline for businesses to ensure that their content supports their ideal prospect from the time they realize they have a problem, to the time that they are a client enjoying everything that they can offer.
In closing, as you contemplate your direction with marketing services, what is it that you really want? Marketing or revenue growth?
If the answer is revenue growth, we’d like to talk!