Don’t Be So SaaS-y – B2B Business Development is Still Best In-Person

The Sales Funnel existed long before the Internet, and yet more than 80% of people still buy from — people.

To Serve is Human.

Twenty-seven years later, it’s certainly fair to say the Internet has achieved maturity as a market. And yet, even in so-called “consumer” markets – people still prefer to buy most things (especially pricey things) in-person.

The more important the purchase, the more important it is to buy in-person.

Now if you take into account the various surveys on B2B purchasing trends which speak to word-of-mouth’s dominance over the market with 94% of purchasers backing that up with online research – you might think you have a chance at catching some of those sales from your online sales funnel. Forrester’s report on the death of the e-commerce salesman could even support that idea – but effective marketing is not about such broad strokes.

More to the point: 3 out of 4 purchasers begin and end their buying journey through social recommendations, and 8 out of 10 executives reach out to their online network for the final words on a purchase as well.

And you have a 4% — FOUR PERCENT — chance of having any trust through cold contact, such as an online sales funnel. Whereas a mutual connection, bumps trust up 84%.

There are plenty of multi-generational corporate household names with all the awareness ad-budget in the world, who don’t have trust rates over 80%. Content marketing alone – online or off – does not make a trusting relationship!

But ask just about any business development professional today where a sales funnel lives – and they’ll tell you it’s all online. Any business can and should go online, they say. What foolishness!

First of all, how do you account for the differing business needs of all the parties involved in a purchase? How do you account for the differing needs between customers, even? No two sales are the same in B2B marketing – they might always start with a gatekeeper and end with about 6 decision-makers, but the information and support needed by each person, in each company, is vastly different.

What are you going to do – get an IP map of every prospect’s office and make special content for each of their individual computers by hand? So much for automating it!

…and I’d like for you to imagine just for one second how many teeth you will have to pull to get the individual IP addresses for every employee and decision-maker.

There is no Automatic Way to Sell

Insofar as B2B is concerned, the online sales funnel is trying to recreate a Picasso, with a paint roller.

Only a human can convey the empathy needed to build that level of trust. Only a human can adapt to the body language, the cultural language, and the corporate language in the blink of an eye, to say just the right thing and give just the right information, at just the right moment – to the right person, in the right tone.

If anything, business owners are only all the more savvy to this, and are therefore only all the more unlikely to trust a machine.

To serve, is human.

Marketo Data Tells Us: What is the Top Conversion Rate by Channel?

Referral is by far the highest acquisition channel for conversion rate (almost 4x the average.)

– Marketo

Behind Referral marketing, next-best are Partner networks and Inbound marketing. In other words — if they don’t know you from a hole in the wall, you’ve got a ONE PERCENT shot AT BEST, and that’s if you PAID for them to know you.

Put it this way – if you connect with 100 people, you could focus on referrals and get 10-12 clients, or partner networks for 5-7 clients (because let’s be honest here, inbound marketing is generated by referrals and partners) – or you could do anything else and net about 3 clients or less. Indeed, you would have to hit 500 connections to get just 1 client from email – and to be as effective as referrals, you would need an email list of 5,000!

So what, you might say – just get a bigger list, right?

Well, there’s this thing called market sentiment. Do you really think those 5,000 people you blast with email week after week are NEVER going to speak to their colleagues about how much they DO NOT trust you?

The bigger they are, the harder they fall. And the same holds true for your campaigns – if you have to go big, make sure you do it for good reasons. Scaling too soon just means you’re pissing off more people, faster.

There’s Only One Good Reason to Scale

Before you’re making sales reliably, the best path forward is ALWAYS in the smallest possible scale – aim small, miss small.

Next time you see someone carrying dynamite, ask if they would rather walk, or run.

That means keep a small list, contact the fewest people possible who represent the smallest opportunities, and after you get a couple sales – make small campaigns to see if that strategy can scale.

Scaling a marketing campaign means reaching more people with the SAME methods. It does NOT mean changing methods altogether – ie going from an in-person strategy to an online one, or replacing the telemarketer with an online ad – so you can reach more people, “automate the process,” or what-have-you. It simply does not work that way.

You don’t have to start selling in-person, but often times you won’t find out what you need to know any other way. But if you start with an in-person (as opposed to online) “sales funnel” and intend to go to an online campaign – understand right from the beginning that you are starting FROM SCRATCH when you make the switch, and ONLY happen to know more about your market than someone who started with an online-only strategy.

Yes you have an advantage by knowing more about your market for all those hours spent in-person, but that is the ONLY advantage. Different channels require different strategies! What works in-person DOES NOT work online. Not directly, at least.

And anyone who says otherwise, or says to you they know exactly what needs to change from one channel to the other – is selling lies and snake oil. Nobody knows.

Marketing is an ART. What works for one company in one market through one channel, will not work as well even if the only thing you change is the smallest of details.

Countless marketing tests and studies have revealed the importance of “insignificant” details – like having a phone number results in a 30-50% conversion rate, whereas the bare online form would net at best 10% of that very same traffic. And did you know just HAVING customer reviews boosts conversions by 60%?

Every last one of these “little details” needs thorough attention to get your conversion rate over 10% BEFORE you attempt mass scale – else, as mentioned before, you risk simply pissing off more people, faster.

Even So, An Internet-Best 20% Doesn’t Beat 44% or 80%

Slower? Sure. But next time you see someone carrying dynamite, ask if they would rather walk, or run.

You might not think of your product or service offering as dynamite, but if you’ve built it right, then it really is dynamite – to your customer. When you’re making a true solution, something that will knock their socks off because it is JUST that awesome, then it’s a big bang for big bucks!

Shouldn’t you give your customers just as much consideration as you expect of them?

There’s good reason why experiential marketing converts at 44% and in-person marketing converts at 80% – and that reason, is you.

About Patricia Mayo

"You enable my best as I enable yours." Patricia Mayo is The Un-Editor; an award-winning marketer and 7th-generation entrepreneur who wrote the first book on managing remote teams back in 2007, and puts the dictionary in her home library's Fiction section. Mother, ubergeek, and modern renaissance woman who believes humanity can be free once information is too. Get in touch: morethansum at gmail dot com