Trusting Your Partner is Critical in Your Strategic Prospecting Strategy
Conversations with B2B marketing and demand generation vendors often go something like this:
“We have this thing we want to sell you.”
You wouldn’t send your B2B sales team into the field with such a generic, one-size-fits-all pitch. So why would you do business with a vendor who doesn’t commit to understanding your business’s unique goals and challenges?
You need a partner, not a vendor
As we’ve previously discussed, strategic prospecting begins with a clear communication within your own business about who actually represents your ideal prospects.
To begin executing this plan, you need more than just a vendor who can take a few demographic filters and plug them into its lead machine.
You need a trusted partner who works to truly understand your goals.
Building a trusted relationship with a strategic prospecting partner isn’t easy. It requires a lot of homework and open back-and-forth about how the partner will design and execute demand generation programs that match your goals — not just in the next quarter but in the coming year. And it’s not a one-way street; a trustworthy partner will ask you tough questions about your strategy and how you measure your success.
But the effort is worth it. In a B2B sales environment where lead quality is still a major stumbling block, building a trusting relationship with your strategic prospecting partner is one of the smartest investments you can make.
And it all boils down to both sides asking the right questions.
Your partner should ask what you really need
How are you going to measure your success over the next six months?
• Adding more MQLs into the top of your funnel?
• Increasing your count of Sales Accepted Leads?
• Closing more deals?
• Growing the value of each signed contract?
Asking these questions may seem like no-brainer, but many vendors will simply try to sell you a drip of BANT leads to route in standard nurturing campaigns. And that’s probably not what you need right now.
A 2019 B2B Marketing Mix Report found that for 2019, the top priority for B2B sellers will be increasing the number of sales leads, which really isn’t surprising — everyone wants to shorten the sales cycle and increase revenue.
But the challenges that face your organization may be different. Your sales team’s plate may be full at the end of a product release cycle, and over the next three months you actually need an influx of MQLs to nurture along toward the next big push.
A trusted partner will ask about the specifics of your annual and quarterly goals. If you need an immediate influx of revenue, they’ll build in an intent-driven, high-touch prospecting program to book sales time with the hottest prospects on your named list. If your funnel has gaps at certain stages, a targeted telephone-based demand gen program (such as our ActiveBase) can level that out. And marketing teams always need highly-qualified MQLs.
A trusted partner will work to understand your goals and build an integrated plan to meet them.
Your partner should never stop asking questions about your business
The thing about B2B sales and marketing goals are that they are always changing.
Your strategic prospecting partner needs to continuously ask questions to ensure your programs are on-target for your needs right now, and in the future.
At True Influence, we commit to quarterly business reviews with our top customers. We use these meetings not only to review the performance of our programs against current defined metrics, but to also check in on the overall health of each customer’s revenue pipeline. If there’s been a bump in the road, or if market conditions have unexpectedly changed, we adjust our programs or advise our customers on new strategies to tackle challenges as they arise.
You should make sure your partner understands the science of B2B sales and marketing
I’ve already talked about how a strategic prospecting partner is going to ask tough questions about your specific needs and goals. It’s a natural part of the learning curve that’s required in building a trusting relationship.
However, you don’t have time to educate a vendor about the latest B2B marketing strategies and theories. A trusted partner already understands how B2B sellers approach the market, and this wisdom should be built into both their technology and program design.
When evaluating potential demand generation partners, make sure they can credibly explain how their programs help you identify Demand Units within purchasing groups. Ask them how they will help you identify the value of multiple leads from within the same organization, to avoid what SiriusDecisions calls “second-lead syndrome.” Hint: These leads can be incredibly valuable, and indicate high organizational intent to buy — don’t let a vendor tell you they should be discounted as dupes.
Also, ask them how their intent monitoring technology and B2B contact database can help you get a clear picture of the Total Active Market for your product or service.
Asking these questions will help you distinguish between a partner who truly understands the complexities of B2B sales and marketing, and a vendor who just wants to sell you a vanilla solution.
You should never have to ask if there’s a problem with your partner’s program performance
You can’t afford to wait a month to learn that a vendor is not going to deliver on a demand generation program.
A trusted partner immediately lets you know about any significant roadblocks as soon as it knows there’s an issue. And this goes beyond the KPI dashboards and canned reports you’d expect from any modern platform. Your customer success rep knows how to reach you, and should quickly offer up news of a problem — along with possible solutions.
When selecting a partner, be sure to ask about program alerts and response times if something goes wrong. And the best badge of your partner’s commitment to performance is a good old-fashioned warranty. In any good-faith dispute, the customer should always be right. At True Influence, we guarantee the accuracy of our leads through our TripleCheck verification service — you should expect the same level of commitment from any strategic prospecting partner you choose.
You should ask tough questions about your partner’s technology
Many demand generation vendors offer solutions that are cobbled together from bits and pieces of other vendors’ data and technology. This is particularly true with intent monitoring solutions, where vendors rely on data co-ops and other mix-and-match sources. These kinds of solutions simply don’t scale to meet the needs of enterprise B2B sales and marketing teams.
Be sure to ask for specifics on how both intent and contact data is gathered and verified before it’s onboarded into a partner’s system. Understand the system’s underlying analytics, including the number of different variable types that are used to weight prospect behavior to identify spiking purchase intent. And get a clear picture of the Identity Graph resolution methodology that maps these behaviors directly to the accounts and individuals who are expressing intent.
Technology matters. Be sure you understand and trust the wiring that drives your partner’s programs.
You should ask your partner how its customers shape its business
I’ve talked a lot about how a trusted strategic prospecting partner should work to understand the challenges and goals of its customers.
The clearest evidence of this commitment is how the partner uses feedback from it customers to build its own products and services.
Ask a potential partner if they have a customer advisory board that it turns to for advice on its product roadmap. Does it often survey its customers (and even potential customers) about what they really want from a demand generation partner? And how do these priorities map to your own goals and needs as a B2B seller?
You can even find evidence of a potential partner’s focus on customers in the marketing collateral it posts on its website. Does it talk about how its products and services solve customers’ problems? Does it offer detailed case studies instead of vague promises?
Be sure your partner values what it learns from its customers.
You have to be ready to answer your partner’s questions
I started this post by saying that a strategic prospecting partner should ask you detailed questions about your business goals.
As a partner in the relationship, you have to be ready to answer those questions. There’s no shortage of advice on how to set your sales and marketing goals for the coming year, but perhaps the most important single piece of wisdom is that these targets must have meaningful quantities attached to them. Otherise, they’re just wish lists, and you can’t build a business on wishes.
This post at Impact does a nice job of walking through the basics of how to set quantifiable marketing goals based on what you know about current marketing and sales performance metrics. This process includes simple math, like using your close rate to determine how many sales opportunities you’ll need to meet revenue projections, to more granular factors like:
• Upsell review from existing customers
• Sales goals for a current product line
• Focus on certain content assets for brand extension
It all seems like a no-brainer. But again, just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it happens at all B2B sellers. It often doesn’t.
Your strategic prospecting partner will work hard to pull these answers out of you. But ultimately, it’s up to you to provide the correct answers.
Trust is the foundation for growth
Strategic prospecting is a comprehensive approach to B2B sales and marketing that requires trust between all parties involved. This includes your relationship with your demand generation and marketing services partner.
Ask the right questions, and be prepared to give the right answer, and you will build a partnership that grows along with your business.