As marketers, we’re always looking to be impactful. We hone identities and refine messages in the hope that once these are paired with the ideal touchpoint, we’ll engage customers and leave a lasting impression.
But for B2B companies, the single most important touchpoint often isn’t a digital ad or your About page—it’s your sales team. Because an interaction with sales is often the first formative engagement that customers have with a brand—which is critical for establishing a relationship and communicating your company’s unique value.
Your salespeople don’t exist in a vacuum, nor should they. Because for B2B companies, sales teams are the best representatives of your brand. So it’s critical to support them with the learnings, tools, and relationships that will enable them to effectively deliver your message and drive greater sales outcomes.
To get a better understanding of how to achieve this, we reached out to our good friends at Templafy, a document generation platform that’s redefining the way we think about enabling content for sales teams. Sullivan’s Partner and Chief Strategy Officer Nicole Ferry sat down with Templafy’s Head of Partnerships Peter Tuborgh to exchange insights on how branding can and should work to empower B2B sales.
Build a Genuine Understanding
Although B2B sales teams bring their own skills and expertise to their engagements with customers, your brand is what unifies their efforts and validates the message they’re presenting through your overarching value proposition. “Your brand establishes the platform on which sales teams operate,” says Peter, “A strong brand eases the sales process by opening doors, lowering the prospects guards and generally making it easier to level-set with customers.”
He also notes that a strong brand is what helps companies set themselves apart, lending them credibility and the ability to charge a premium. Sales people that are not aligned to the brand miss out on this core value.
Branding helps articulate what kind of relationship you want to have with your customers. It can also help shift sales meetings from overly-complicated and product-driven discussions to conversations about the essential value that you’re delivering to clients.
But aligning everyone on the finer points and intentions of a new deployment takes a concerted effort. So when you’re designing the brand platform, consider minimizing the operational burden placed on salespeople, so that they can instead become intimately familiar with the brand vision, mission, and identity. Otherwise, Peter says, results can be less than desirable, “Brand management can quickly become a daunting exercise to police and govern minute and technical details of the Brand CVI.”
At Sullivan, we agree that marketing has to nurture the relationship between sales and clients. You can’t just throw a deck over the fence. Education on the company’s vision, but also ‘What is a brand?’ is key. The most important conversations that teams should be having are not centered on brand elements like logos, but on understanding how to differentiate the company from competitors and thread that message through all interactions and touchpoints.
Prioritize working together
Too often, branding shifts and other strategic moves by marketers can feel as though they are conceived of and handed down from a lofty “30,000 foot” viewpoint. By the time the change in messaging or visual approach is implemented down the line, it can lose its effectiveness, or simply not be adopted by the sales teams. To ensure that your efforts are leading to greater outcomes, sales teams need to be an integral part of discussions about brand and marketing plans. They are one of the most critical partners in the process, acting as proxies for clients to test hypotheses.
We’ve seen the value of this notion firsthand while supporting our client Insight Partners who approached us about reimagining their capabilities presentation. We began talking to the sales team during the discovery process and learned that none of them ever really used a presentation during the first conversation. However, they did think it would be helpful to follow up after that conversation once they were better informed with a presentation of very tailored examples of how Insight Partners has helped companies in a similar industry, stage, and with similar challenges to scale and succeed. It was their input that led us to rethink what we were creating, and where it fit within the sales process.
But creating symbiosis is not just about having everyone in the conversation, it’s also about how the two groups are communicating with each other. Marketing and sales teams need to practice more constant and effective communication, exchanging learnings, concerns, and data in order to help both groups achieve their goals. It’s critical to create more frequent internal touchpoints where sales and marketing teams share insights and plan together.
That said, it isn’t just about the exchange of information.“The implementation of your learnings is crucial. Information has to be funneled back to marketers to refine content to better fit the sales team’s needs,” says Peter.
Let sales do what they do best
Sales people are a valuable resource. After all, they’re the ones who turn leads into revenue. But all too often, these professionals need to spend time performing tasks that have nothing to do with that essential responsibility.
As marketers, we need to take every opportunity to plan ahead and relieve sales of any work that does not contribute to their success. Salespeople are frequently forced to choose between spending additional time with potential customers and creating on-brand sales documents (e.g. Pitches, Proposals, and Contracts). However, when equipped with the right tools and technology, no choice is required. Everysalesperson has the capacity to be a brand ambassador and interact more with clients.
“Make it frictionless for the sales team. Don’t break up workflows and over-complicate things that can be simple,” says Peter. “The number one thing that takes time away from meeting with clients is creating and managing business documents” he adds. To increase efficiency and impact, marketers should think about bringing approved and high quality content directly to sales teams’ existing workflows, implementing them inside applications they already leverage like Microsoft Office or Salesforce.
And while there is a demand to make materials more templatized and turnkey for sales experts, Peter also sees the need to tailor marketing assets to individual clients. “We need to automate as much as possible while being able to substantiate and customize content to the prospect. There should not be a trade off here.”
As marketers in the B2B space, we need to be more intentional about how to support the implementation of our work by sales teams, allowing them to use the tools we give them as effectively as possible. By embracing these principles, you can ensure that sales acts as a fortified extension of your branding efforts, all the while empowering them to feel confident and capable of delivering the message, and by extension value, to the customer.