How to Optimize Marketing for Your Sales Cycles
Selling is cyclical. The process tends to follow the same set of steps, and it is repeated with each batch of prospects. And in the B2B space this cycle can last months, as business owners and finance stakeholders more carefully scrutinize spending decisions than the average private consumer.
Due to these conditions, B2B salespeople invest a lot of time and effort into courting prospects and closing deals. And if the deal doesn’t close, it represents more than a lost opportunity, but also lost resources.
Let’s breakdown the sales cycle and we’ll discuss how to make the process more effective through thoughtful marketing.
What is a sales cycle?
From identifying a prospect to closing the sale, a sales cycle includes each phase of the selling process. It should be utilized as an adaptable guide to close deals and a window into your target audience’s points of interest.
Here’s a typical sales cycle:
1. Prospecting or Lead Generation
This is the preliminary stage when your sales and marketing teams are working together to identify new leads within your target market.
2. Contacting Prospects
Once you’ve identified your prospects, it’s time to start connecting. The most common methods of contact are email, phone, and meetings (digital or in-person). Initial contact should be friendly and helpful – now is not the time to pitch.
3. Qualify or Identify Needs
You don’t want to waste time chasing prospects who aren’t likely to convert because your products or services don’t address their needs. Therefore, your team should be engaging with prospects to understand their pain points and determine if your business’ solutions are right for them – this process is called qualifying leads.
4. Offer Solutions
After the sales team qualifies the lead, it’s finally time to pitch your offer. This is a critical phase, and your pitch should account for their pain points as well as address how your offerings solve their relevant problem.
5. Rebut objections
Expect some pushback. During ongoing discussions with a prospect, they will likely present counterpoints and concerns; your salespeople should anticipate objections and prepare responses.
6. Close deal
Finally! The sale is complete, and the deal is closed. Closing tactics should mirror the prospect’s behavior. For example, if they’re eager, salespeople should swiftly execute the delivery of contracts, goods, or services.
7. Nurture and Generate Referrals
Once the deal is done the line of communication shouldn’t cease; nurture previous consumers for future purchases. Remind them of your brand, and how much they enjoy your business, by continuing to provide value in your outreach, such as sharing resources and tools.
Additionally, nurturing customers is a great way to generate referrals and keep the cycle churning.
For B2B and SaaS companies, the sales cycle can take on average 3 to 9 months – and that number can grow as the cost of investment grows for consumers. So, to close more sales, it is imperative to have an efficient sales cycle.
And there’s one important component in your business that can help do that: marketing.
How marketing supports sales
For small and mid-size businesses, marketing tactics can, and should, support your sales activities. Frequently, marketing and sales are siloed within an organization, despite having similar goals as revenue generators.
With the right marketing strategies, you can improve your sales conversions. Here are some examples:
#1. Qualify Prospects
In our breakdown of the sales cycle, we discuss qualifying sales leads and why it matters. But there is a way to begin qualifying leads before the sales team even begins outreach – with marketing.
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) are prospects, identified through marketing activities, that are deemed likely to convert. Depending on the marketing campaign, the parameters for MQLs can change. But a targeted user’s engagement history (clicks, downloads, or other interactions) is the central factor considered in pinpointing MQLs.
For instance, if a user filled out an interest form to download an eBook, that person would likely be considered an MQL.
Marketing teams can set up salespeople for success by sharing MQLs, or high-interest prospects, that yield higher sales conversion rates. Additionally, salespeople can spend less time qualifying leads themselves if they already have passed through the marketing filter.
#2. Provide marketing materials to the right people, at the right time.
Your marketing assets should be in sync with your sales cycle.
At different stages in the sales cycle, prospects have specific queries, and your marketing assets should address those specific top-of-mind considerations. You can do this by creating an archive of sales enablement resources that are responsive to common prospect needs per stage.
Consider this scenario: Your team has identified a new lead from a cold contact list. It’s not likely this lead is familiar with your brand nor what you do. To warm up this lead, you should introduce them to your business and share valuable resources with them relevant to your solution or offerings in the “Contacting Prospects” phase.
Well-timed delivery of your marketing assets will reinforce your value to prospects and demonstrate your understanding of their needs.
#3. Integrate marketing and sales
Marketing and sales teams should be aligned on goals, KPIs, and strategies. Together, they nurture leads and push people through the pipeline – and their work should reflect that convergence.
The integration should move beyond day-to-day work and include flow of information. Sales data allows marketing people to attribute revenue to marketing activities and determine ROI; while marketing data gives salespeople insights into what prospects truly care about.
At OneAffiniti, we support our partners through their sales cycles by creating content that can be customized to specific audiences, accessing information to identify new prospects through intent signals, and integrating sales and marketing data to calculate ROI of marketing activities. With the help of our marketing experts, you can upscale your sales process with minimal effort.