channelchatgeneric120Sales and marketing: It’s not what it used to be. While some things remain the same, new technologies are constantly changing the way we do things. We talked to some experts in both fields to find out what you need to know when it comes to sales and marketing in 2018.

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What is the most important quality you look for in a salesperson when you are hiring?

Andre D’Urbano: Drive. Consider the 80/20 rule (the Pareto principle) that indicates 20 percent of the people will generate 80 percent of the business. That 20 percent minority is linked by several common denominators, but none greater than drive. It is the one character trait that separates the few “quality” salespeople from the average. You can’t teach it and it is even harder to judge in an interview. But find a candidate with drive and you have a person that you can build a team around. The motivation and initiative these individuals put on display is extremely infectious to an entire sales team. It’s like dropping a “positivity bomb” into a sales bullpen. 

Luke Goldberg: We are strictly a business-to-reseller business, but I personally have been hiring and training salespeople for over 28 years. Based on that experience I think certain characteristics are critical across the board.  We look for people with passion and a belief in the products they are selling.  You can’t fake “belief,” and if you don’t have it, you will not succeed.  We also look for people with interpersonal skills; can they write? For so many millennials, this is a lost art.  Also, the age of glass has also created a tendency for younger salespeople to rely too much on social media and technology. We still need people that can engage in a phone call and face to face.  I look for someone who can truly engage; do they really look you in the eye and make an effort to connect?  Body language is also something I look for; how does someone carry themselves?  Do they project confidence? 

Elise McFarlane: Cultural fit is more important than any hard skill in my opinion, and it is really important that they believe in the need for sales and marketing alignment. Both teams need to work together to sign the deal. Sales has changed significantly in recent years as a result of new technology, both in the software space and in other B2B and B2C verticals. Everything from cloud computing to e-commerce and social media has changed the way we engage with customers and prospects, making it more important than ever to understand how a buyer travels through a sales funnel from the first touch point to the last. Understanding a prospect’s challenge and identifying how you can help them address it is an essential skill for every salesperson, regardless of the industry they work in.

Jenna Stramaglio: The most important quality I look for in a potential candidate and representative of the organization is, quite simply, a good person. The traits that make up a good person are essential to making a salesperson successful. A company needs someone who has moral character and integrity when communicating with potential clients, current clients and partners. A company needs someone with determination who will not give up when something is hard. A company needs someone who is selfless, someone who genuinely cares for others. Finally, a company needs someone who imagines and inspires those around the individual. 

One of our articles this month maintains that cold calling is not dead, but many other experts claim that it is. What’s your opinion?

D’Urbano: Show me someone who thinks cold calling is dead and I’ll show you someone who never enjoyed it to begin with. Over and above its purpose as a prospecting tool, cold calling is the best sales training mechanism available to the industry. It teaches a rep to be quick on their feet as they encounter different scenarios with every door they enter. Cold calling allows salespeople to chat with end users in a no-pressure environment and learn about the company, the client’s industry and gain a quick snapshot of what and who they are based on size as well as number of employees. 

Goldberg: In the information age, there is no such thing as a truly “cold call” any longer.  The days of opening the Yellow Pages and smiling and dialing are over. That said, phone sales is NOT dead.  I just mean that you shouldn’t call any prospect without researching who they are; what are their key corporate initiatives? When you make contact, you can do so from a standpoint of knowledge — sure wish I had those tools when I was dialing for dollars as a teenager in the 80s.

Dominic Pontrelli: The amount of cold calling could be one of the key contributors to sales turnover. Industry averages indicate a 40 to 1 (2.5 percent) call-to-appointment ratio when “dialing for dollars.” There is a big disconnect between sales and marketing on this topic.  Marketing can actually support sales in this area on a number of fronts by providing 1) Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) from net new nurture campaigns; 2) Customer campaigns introducing value-added offerings based on customer’s environment; 3) Phone script talk tracks to better articulate the value propostion; and 4) Traditional flyers, leave behinds, with relevant value proposition.  We have seen an improvement in the call to appointment ratio of up to 37 percent (40 to 15) when aligning marketing to these types of sales activities.

Where are you investing the most marketing dollars this year?

D’Urbano: A majority of our marketing dollars this year has gone to and will continue to be invested in trade magazines and websites. Salespeople have an immense thirst for industry knowledge as they strive to provide their customers with the type of world-class service that is unmatched in their territory. They want to share the type of information their customers can’t find on Google. The quality salespeople must position themselves as a unique source of valuable information and for that to happen they need to read the industry magazines and websites. This is our chance to communicate with them through these same magazines, teach them about an alternative to toner. Sales reps do in large part subscribe to these publications and most make a concerted effort to learn about industry trends, read up on the competition and are eager to see the products they represent advertised in those same publications.

Kay Du Fernandez: An area that is extremely important to our marketing efforts is our sports marketing strategy. Konica Minolta prides itself on investing in sports teams nationwide in an effort to become a familiar brand in all markets. Coupled with branding exposure, this gives our dealer partners access to unique engagement experiences in a competitive arena where suspense is heightened and there’s a strong desire to win. From our sweep of the 2017 prototype-class International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) race series with our No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing/Konica Minolta Cadillac, or as the official printer of the PGA Tour, to our partnership with the World Series Champion Houston Astros, dealers have access to a number of different sporting events nationwide. Hospitality and time spent at these venues helps to further develop relationships, creates a shared experience, and memories to last a lifetime. 

Goldberg: 2018 will be a foundational year for us in creating a standalone division within CIG that is 100 percent focused on the delivery of solutions and services that drive and accelerate dealer growth, profitability and innovation. Our marketing dollars will not be spent on marketing CIG to the dealers but on driving these solutions that allow the dealer to more effectively harness their value proposition and to grow their business. 

McFarlane:  The biggest area of investment this year for PrintFleet is the creation and enablement of online content. We have plans to redo our website, create a community and an online knowledgebase with product documentation, update our training and put it online with a learning management system (LMS) complete with videos, learning resources, interactive quizzes and certification programs. Every aspect of our marketing strategy builds on a core goal: ensuring our customers and prospects have everything they need to be successful at their fingertips. 

Is inbound marketing a part of your program and if so, what impact is it having?

D’Urbano: Presently, 65 percent of B2B buyers have already made a purchase decision by the time they engage with a vendor sales rep professional. This means marketers are challenged with uncovering opportunities to influence customers on their own terms, all across more channels than you can count, and in a way that’s more personalized and data-driven than ever before. We are now implementing Pardot, which is a marketing automation tool allowing us to effectively predict and measure customer behavior for the first time. We will also have the benefit of creating and nurturing drip campaigns, lead scoring and increase our overall marketing productivity.

Goldberg: Amplify was launched in late 2017 as our dealer empowering, end-user facing inbound marketing program.  We have had incredible traction in the early stages because so many dealers are very good at their core business in hardware, MPS or even MS, but they lack resources and haven’t been able to establish original content that drives leads and new business. 

McFarlane: We transitioned to an inbound marketing strategy completely a couple of years ago and saw an increase in leads of over 70 percent in the first year and continued to grow an additional 25 percent the following year. As the name suggests, inbound marketing is about attracting leads and a key component of this is content. We have built an editorial calendar and adjusted our plan to hit certain content creation targets each quarter. By putting useful, engaging content online that helps prospects identify challenges as well as potential solutions, we are in a position to act as MPS advisors and enable customer success.

Stramaglio: Inbound marketing strategies play a very large and instrumental role in our program. It is very important to us that we provide the ability to create avenues of dialogue for the marketplace through modern communication tactics. If you think about it, anything that an organization achieves, either internally or externally, is not done without an initial conversation. By utilizing all of the major inbound tactics like content creation, social media, SEO and branding, we are encouraging the marketplace to engage with us and establish a more personal rapport with those we encounter and develop relationships with. Its impact has been one of enormous positivity which reflects in our growing dealer and partner communities.

What do you find is the most effective marketing media to reach your end customer?

Du Fernandez: Marketing has transformed from being a one-way push of branded content through separate channels of communication to customers now demanding a completely integrated, connected and relevant experience. The “omnichannel” marketing approach requires brand and messaging consistency across all your different channels of communication, including website, email marketing, advertising, public relations, sales, digital marketing, open houses, social media, video, blogs, direct mail, etc. Today’s buyers are so inundated with information that in order to stand out, it takes multiple touch points and relevant messaging to cut through the clutter. Digital marketing continues to be a key area of focus that cost-effectively allows us to communicate and drive traffic to our website. We redesigned our website back in 2015 and through targeted content marketing efforts, continual website optimization, lead nurturing campaigns, search engine optimization, video advertising and social media strategies, we’ve increased our website traffic from referral sources by 130 percent and generated a 40 percent increase in leads over the past two years. At the end of the day, as a B2B marketing organization, our primary goal is to generate marketing qualified leads to improve sales productivity to support revenue objectives.

Pontrelli:  Since the introduction of Buyer 2.0 several years ago, we have seen digital marketing taking the forefront, inclusive of inbound marketing, SEO, blogging and the like. Driving website traffic is crucial as Buyer 2.0 utilizes up to 70 percent of the sales cycle researching digital content in order to become familiar with technologies and services required prior to calling in the sales representative. It is critically important for dealers to engage in these activities; however, there is work to be done prior to launching these efforts.  The trick to a successful marketing media campaign is understanding your audience, its needs and positioning your website, landing pages and content according.  The majority of dealers who have tested the digital marketing strategy have come up short on leads/ROI because the messages are bland, they are not connecting with the appropriate decision maker, and website content is not aligned with the value-added services and solutions they are offering.  Direct email campaigns, indirect campaigns such as blogs and nurture campaigns, and the use of social media such as LinkedIn and Google Plus have been proven to be highly successful once you have determined the relevant message targeted to the appropriate decision maker, including the proper content to position your dealership as an expert in the area you are marketing toward.

How do you keep your website at the top of search engines? Can you share some tips?

Du Fernandez: In order to stay at the top of search results, we make it a practice to consistently understand rapidly changing search technologies and best practices. Search engines reward sites that are technically sound and produce relevant content to their users. Responsive site design on all devices puts us in a good position for the impending shift to a mobile-first index. We also use various tools to understand user behavior when they are on our site and the type of content that is most popular. This ultimately improves the user experience and ensures that they are finding the most relevant content that they are looking for. Quality content goes a long way toward helping your site’s organic ranking. Regularly creating well-optimized page copy, blog posts and white papers not only helps us to be viewed as thought leaders but also informs the search engines that we are relevant across those specific topics. Search engine algorithms display sites that are regularly updated with content-rich information that matches their search terms. 

Goldberg: We are focusing our efforts on dealer empowerment. One aspect of our content marketing/inbound marketing program, Amplify, is the creation and retooling of dealers’ websites to become vehicles that the search engines love.  Search engines love original content and we are helping to provide that.  We are driving SEO via blogs, case studies, position papers etc. Too often web presence is too much about the “what” and not about the “ why,” and we are endeavoring to create powerful repositories creating value and differentiation for dealers.

McFarlane: Google is always updating their search algorithms so we are constantly adjusting our tactics to meet these SEO requirements and drive organic traffic. Building authority is one of the best ways to keep your website at the top of search engine result pages, so we are currently restructuring our content using topic clusters with the help of our favorite marketing platform: HubSpot. Seriously, if you don’t use it you should. Additionally, our planned website redesign will focus on Google’s mobile-first ranking factors, which have a significant impact on where you appear in their results. 

Is social media an effective platform for sales?

Du Fernandez: There are a number of statistics that point to why social selling is important for the modern sales organization: 92 percent of B2B buyers start the buying process online, 75 percent of B2B buyers use social media to be more informed about their vendors, and 78 percent of salespeople who use social media outsell their peers. Social selling is integral to the current sales process. The new sales model is about engaging and educating prospects and customers via social networks. Social media has given people a platform to make emotional connections, develop a natural, authentic conversation and build trust with people. We encourage our employees to join online communities, take content and share it to their networks to ultimately become an influencer, a thought leader and someone your customer would want to invest in. 

Pontrelli: LinkedIn could be a very effective platform for sales, if implemented correctly. I highly recommend dealers invest in this training and approach to the market. LinkedIn in is a tremendous tool to get wider and deeper into your accounts, prospect to the appropriate C-level decision makers, and provide excellent messaging/positioning of your brand to your audience.  LinkedIn sales activities and targets should be put in place and monitored, similar to traditional targets. The use of messaging on LinkedIn is also proven to be very effective versus traditional cold calling tactics. Many dealers also utilize Facebook, which I personally feel is important for community-related activities, not necessarily the best for a B2B selling platform.

Stramaglio: As our culture continues to embrace the transition to more digital trends, social media is a bridge between the old and the new. It is a multifaceted tool allowing businesses to seize opportunities for greater business development. From increased exposure and brand awareness to lead generation and more intimate customer service, social media enables organizations to educate the market, target wider audiences, increase brand equity and remain relevant. If you can effectively do all the above, then social media can be an extremely successful platform for sales and revenue generation. 

This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of The Imaging Channel.