At Sales IQ, we’re on a mission to help every sales professional be the best they can be. Every week, we interview thought leaders from around the globe and discuss all things sales; where it was, where it is now, and where it’s going.
In this article, we’re going to talk about the major shift that’s going on right now in the sales industry and that is the marketing concept of ‘Demand Generation’.
You may be reading this wondering what on earth demand generation and other marketing concepts has to do with you as a sales person, right? Well, this is where the shift is happening. Regular listeners of the Sales IQ Podcast or readers of our blog will understand that it’s our belief that the role of sales hasn’t changed, nor have the fundamentals of sales changed, but the way in which sales professionals engage with buyers has definitely changed.
Ultimately, to be an effective seller today, you also need to be an effective marketer. This means creating a brand, creating content, and putting out information that enables buyers to connect with us earlier in the sales process.
What we’re doing when we create this content is beginning to build new opportunities to engage with your ideal customer profiles (ICPs).
If you’re not currently doing this, or you don’t have a defined strategy in place for the content you’re creating, our conversation with Chris Walker (CEO of Refine Labs and demand generation master) is really going to help you identify what you need to be doing and to take your content to the next level.
Before we get any further, let’s define what ‘Demand Generation’ actually is and how it is different to ‘Lead Generation’.
Firstly, both concepts are vital to B2B marketing. There is a symbiotic relationship with the two; demand generation comes earlier in the funnel than lead generation.
Demand generation is defined as being the process that gets prospects interested in what you’re offering and therefore creating the demand. Demand generation lays the foundation of awareness that you have the answer their specific problems and build trust and confidence.
Lead generation is the process of capturing the details (names, emails, phone numbers) of the people that are interested in what you’re offering.
We’re were incredibly fortunate to have Chris Walker on the Sales IQ Podcast this week.
Chris helps businesses scale up through demand generation tactics and campaigns and offers us some advice and techniques that we (as sales professionals) can implement to drive more opportunities into our pipeline.
Chris started his career in engineering then moved to product management and this is where he understood that in order to build the right products, he had to go and talk to customers (which Chris identifies as something the common SaaS marketer doesn't do) and so when he moved into a demand generation role, he did the same thing – talk to customers.
This allowed him to create the content that resonated with them, what objections they had, and he discovered what they thought of the competitive landscape – he understood them.
Chris emphasizes that in order to be a successful sales person, you have to be part of their community, understand and communicate with your customers, sales reps, and SDR teams. They have to see you as a peer rather than just a vendor.
It’s important that although sales and marketing are distinctly different function, in order to be good at one, you must be good at the other. However, there is a trap and it’s something may companies have fallen into and that’s making the mistake of trying to do them as one. You need to respect both of them.
But this is where the disconnect is, marketers tend not to have a thorough understanding of the sales process as they’re actually not incentivized on conversions, just generating leads. This is why, in many companies, the marketing team can send through 3,000 MQLs (Market Qualified Leads) that come from something like e-book downloads through to SDRs (Sales Development Representatives) whose task it is to move leads through the sales pipeline. However, these 3,000 MQLs from the e-book download often don’t convert.
On the other hand, we have marketers running ABM (Account-Based Marketing) programs in whereby efforts are focused to target best-fit accounts and turn them into customers – but wait, doesn’t that sound like sales? It is.
And so, in the ABM realm we have marketers that’re actually doing sales and their companies are not focusing on actual marketing. And that's becoming an issue.
Something that ourselves at Sales IQ advocate very strongly for is that every sales professional that we coach and the businesses we work with is to really go and listen to the customer and find out what makes them tick.
And this is something that Chris absolutely believes is imperative and is something that has set him apart as a marketer today. When we talk to people as sales professionals, we should listen but also probe and ask questions.
Start conversations, post comment, share your thoughts on platforms like LinkedIn and read the responses. This facilitates talking to people in a one-on-one conversation. By listening to your prospects, you can refine your messaging and tailor your communication so it resonates with them.
We’ve established that to be an effective marketer, marketers have to actually talk to customers. And we find that sales people are calling customers all the time but time and time again we see that they’re not actually listening to what the customer is saying, they don’t understand their reality, or work with them to find a solution.
At Sales IQ, we work with these sales people and say ‘ok, let’s do an ICP’ (Ideal Customer Profile) and it comes back with a lot of stuff missing. Which is why Chris believes marketers should do this process. Sales can’t. Sales is invested in the outcome and so they don’t hear the real story.
Marketers, by design, should not be invested in the outcome.
In 2013, Chris remembers doing market research and admits that he didn't do it well, because he was invested in the outcome.
Even though he was a marketer, he still wanted that person to buy something. Three years later, he now goes into meetings and doesn’t care whether or not that person tells him that the product is the worst thing ever. But if they tell the truth, then Chris counts that as a win because now he has the knowledge and the insight to go and execute against it.
Therefore, by separating from the outcome and making people feel comfortable about telling you the truth, and being able to ask the right questions in a way that doesn't lead them to the answer that you want to hear, is key.
The philosophy of sales hasn’t changed. Since the days when people traded before currency, they traded product for product value for value. From early man to the modern-day. Sales hasn't changed.
There must always be a value exchange, if people see value, they invest in the product, and relationships, etc. are built around that.
However, there has been a shift in sales. And this is what CEO & CO-Founder of Sales IQ, Luigi Prestinenzi is excited about is how salespeople can take marketing practices like demand generation and make it part of their remit. Salespeople can create demand generation processes on their own.
When we think back 15-20 years ago, inbound leads were unheard of. Of course, there were some companies that had the budget to do a lot of above the line activity (ATL - meaning things like TV, Radio, Billboards etc.) to achieve this.
We asked Chris his opinion on how important he thinks it is for all sales people to see marketing and demand generation as a fundamental skill that they need to build over the next couple of years to be relevant.
“It's absolutely imperative.
It's already happening, right? Like the best account executives recognize that they don't need SDRs to source pipeline, because they can get better pipeline on their own, that they don't need anything that marketing inserts, if it's good (because a lot of marketing pipeline is not, especially at these types of companies) that if they're not going to wait for SDRs to book their meetings, and they're not going to wait for marketing to send them e-book downloads, they're going to go out and source that pipeline on their own.
And they recognize that cold-calling and sending spam and bulk emails through outreach might not be the way. And so, there's different ways, but account executives that take control of their own destiny that recognize that, this is a clear opportunity.
his is the path to becoming the number one account executive to being the best in your organization at sourcing your own pipeline, is how you do it.
And the interesting thing is that the best account executives are migrating to using traditionally marketing tactics, because it is the quickest way to business development today.”
We asked Chris if he had advice for any salespeople that are liking and agreeing with what Chris has to say (but feel like they’re a bit behind in the development side of things) where can they start to build their skills from an Account Executive, SDR, or other sales person.
“Okay, so let’s set the scene and say that you’re a new AE or working at a legacy hardware brand, and you just got a nice tech job at a SaaS company selling to CFOs. Let's just say that that's the situation right now. You don't know much about CFOs you don't know that much about tech SaaS. You had previously sold a couple of copiers, did pretty well at it and so here you are.
One of the first things that you should probably do (aside from internal relationship building (if we're talking external, focus on your job). One of the first things you should probably do is you should try and talk to 10 CFOs in a non-sales conversation. The key then, is in a non-sales conversation, understand them. The next part is to learn and extract as much information as you can (while not being annoying) and you have a personal conversation with those people and are able to deliver whatever value you can back and those types of things are a really great.
A way to do that is by starting your own podcast, it doesn't even have to go on Apple or Spotify. But being able to say ‘hey, our podcast would love to have you on the show’ and invite the top 10 CFOs from Martech (Marketing & Technology) companies on it, and 80% of them will say yes, because I give this advice and 80% of people say yes, you should go on this podcast with them.
And then you get to talk to them, and you get to learn. And you also get to network. And you can then ask ‘hey, by the way, do you know any other people that would want to be on this podcast?’
You also get to create content that you can push out on LinkedIn. So, you get this like on content creation, muscle building. And I think that is one of the best ways to get started.”
Again, it’s about being part of the community before you’re selling to the community.
When Luigi interviewed Seth Godin in Chicago in early 2020, one thing that resonated was the idea of the minimal viable audience. Don’t worry about selling to the masses. Just get your community in play.
Find that community, find their tribe, and just lead them. Inspire them and lead them.
However, in order to resonate with that specific community, you're going to have to potentially alienate another audience (something most conservative B2B tech companies won’t be willing to do).
You can start to see tech companies in San Francisco taking stands that are that are important, but of course it will turn a certain group of people off but those are important decisions that B2C companies make and have wild success with and B2B companies too, however, because of the way they're run they typically don't do those things, but in order to get to your minimum viable audience, you have to.
It is important to remember that not everyone is a customer.
If you’ve got to this point and you’re hungry to hear more of this absolutely incredible chat Luigi and Chris had together, listen to the full Sales IQ Podcast where there is so much more gold waiting for you to discover.
This article fleshes out a few key points made within the first 20 minutes of the interview (skip to around 19 minutes to listen to fresh content not covered in this post).
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Following a highly successful B2C & B2B sales career in the Australian education industry, Luigi founded Sales IQ Global to serve Sales Professionals. He has worked with thousands of sellers and is a master of creating quality opportunity pipeline to exceed sales targets.