Adding more salespeople won’t help you grow your technology business. Here is why.

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This blog was edited and updated on 01.11.2022.

When planning for business growth, the first thing that many tech companies consider is hiring more salespeople. The logic behind this seems crystal clear. If last year an existing salesperson sold, let’s say, 1 500 000 EUR worth of products, there is good reason to think that adding an extra salesperson will increase sales by a somewhat similar amount, right?

Not necessarily.

The world has changed, and there is a good chance that your business is losing ground to the competition and blindly missing out on the largest business growth opportunity this century so far.

Why is that, by itself, adding extra salesmen won’t help you grow?

You see, the world has changed dramatically. And the Internet is to blame.

These days business buyers no longer contact salespeople for 1-to-1 advice on how to solve their problems. The salesman’s coveted role as buyers’ trusted adviser is long gone, for the most part.

How B2B buyers buy today? Source: IBD Consulting presentation

People just don’t want to be lectured about what to do, what to think and what to believe. They research the solutions they need and form their opinions on their very own.

They search on Google.

Look on forums.

Chat with peers at other companies.

Read industry reports, analysis and expert opinions.

Occasionally download a whitepaper from a source they trust, participate in a webinar or sign up for a trial.

All this without ever talking to a salesperson.

Doesn’t feel quite right?

Think back to how you made your choice the last time you had to buy a complex product for long-term use.

Did you drive to a local shop to ask for advice and recommendations? Or did you search on the Internet, read reviews and tests, and check out forums, and then when you felt you had found the right solution, finally made an order over the Internet?

As well as anecdotal examples there is lots of serious research available about B2B buyers’ behaviour.

Source: IBD Consulting presentation

Research from Gartner indicates that 57% of the buying process is over before the customer even contacts the seller. Another piece of research from Forrester indicates that 66%-90% of the buying process is self-directed.

Unless you actively research, analyze and plan the buying process (this is called the customer journey), you never even hear about tones of business opportunities

While your business growth may feel solid and you may have just decided to do more of what seems to be working, unless you actively research, analyze and plan the buying process (this is called the buyers’ journey), you never even hear about tonnes of business opportunities…

So what you should do to grow your technology business?

To sell the way technology buyers buy, you first need to be clear about your go-to-market choices. Analyze your competition and develop a strategy for your product, your target customers, the markets you want to operate in and your buyers’ profiles. Finally, design your customer journeys.

Source: IBD Consulting’s framework for Go-To-Market strategy development

Once you have a clear strategy, you can start creating marketing content, such as product videos, whitepapers, infographics, “How to…?” guides, case studies, ROI calculators and similar marketing content that will allow you to attract the attention of your potential buyers and keep that attention for the whole of the b2b sales cycle – which is usually a lengthy one. This approach is often called inbound marketing.

You have to use marketing content to create a path of the least resistance for your buyers.

A good way to think about competition is to view it as competing customer journeys.

In essence, you have to use marketing content to create a path of least resistance for your buyers, and to build trust along the way.

Even if your salespeople don’t have a chance to talk to the buyer

How should I start?

As with all new things, there is an option to either make (change things internally) or buy (hire external help).

“Make” or do inbound marketing yourself

For most companies, the “make” option is a serious challenge, because to successfully execute inbound marketing would require new knowledge, a new way of organizing and measuring marketing processes, changes to sales and marketing roles.

It’s not a small or simple change management process we are looking at and it is particularly difficult for established companies that found their product/market fit a long time ago and are therefore driven just to do more of what’s working (or what seems to be, at least).

Many global companies are still struggling with digital transformation and smart-moving start-ups are often able to badly upset the incumbents.

Many global companies are still struggling with digital transformation and smart-moving start-ups are often able to badly upset the incumbents.

“Buy” or use external technology marketing consultants

Using external help allows companies to quickly reap the benefits of inbound marketing and start generating sales leads.

In fact, it is very rare for companies to execute their digital marketing strategy on their own. According to research by Adestra, 94% of companies that evaluate themselves as best in class in the field of digital marketing are using at least some external help.

Source: Adestra, 2018 Digital Marketing Plans for Best-In-Class Success

In case companies want to develop strong internal digital marketing competence, it is worth considering a hybrid model, with consultants helping with strategy and execution and transferring the competency to your company over time.

But does digital marketing work in B2B?

Yes, it does. Just look at industry leaders, such as Microsoft or at the countless blogs, whitepapers, webinars, product videos, infographics and so on.

Make no mistake, while being hugely profitable, Microsoft knows how to count money of marketing investments.

You can trust me on that.           

But let’s look at an industry and company that is more down to earth – or, perhaps we should say, more up in the sky – Delair: a leader in unmanned aviation. I recently picked this company to use as a successful example when talking about digital marketing in B2B.

According to the company, in 2016 they more than tripled their revenue year-on-year and announced they had received investment from Intel.

Source: Delair website, accessed June 2018

Linkedin Premium indicates that, in addition, the company is expanding fast in terms of headcount.

Source: LinkedIn Premium data, 2018

So what does it takes to be a world-leading company in this industry?

When I checked in June 2018, I saw that the company has a blog that is updated weekly, has published ten case studies and conducts live webinars. They are present on all major social networks, having over 4000 followers on LinkedIn, where they post daily. They have over 30 videos on YouTube, and the most popular of them have been viewed over 7000 times. In addition, they make use of Google Ads and possibly other digital advertising opportunities.

What benefits of digital marketing are they getting in return?

I’ve already mentioned the massive growth the company has experienced, along with investment from Intel. As Delair is a private company, we cannot know their results for sure unless they choose to publish.

In relation to being able to attract attention and website visitors around the world, here is what they get according to Similarweb.

Source: Similarweb.com

While Similarweb and other third-party tools are not very precise, we can conclude with reasonable certainty that the company is getting over 20 thousand visitors to their website monthly.

That is a massive number for the UAV industry. You can trust me on that.

With an approach like this, Delair can be sure that their salespeople are busy handling incoming leads.

And it’s not just that. Because the company has invested in creating marketing content that not only attracts attention but also educates their prospective customers, they can be sure that their salespeople spend most of their time talking to educated prospects who are already familiar with the product and its use cases, as well as its limitations.

So time is used wisely and marketing and sales productivity is very high. Everyone’s happy.

How much does it cost to implement world-class B2B marketing?

In answering, I have to start with a caveat.

You see, the amount of marketing effort and investment required to attain your desired market position depends on what your direct competitors are doing. As a result, it is only possible to know what it will take and how much it will cost to reach the growth objectives once the go-to-market strategy is in place.

The good news is that in a good number of traditional industries companies are still struggling with digital transformation and winning over is possible with a rather modest investment.

The amount of marketing effort and investment required to attain your desired market position depends on what your direct competitors are doing

By and large, for most B2B companies it would be cheaper to achieve significant growth by having an external consultancy such as IBD Consulting setting up and running their online marketing efforts (we call it the Digital Sales Engine) rather than hiring even a single full-time digital marketing specialist.

Conclusion

With the ever-present availability of the Internet, the world has changed significantly.

While the lost business opportunities are easy to ignore, because there wasn’t a contact with the customer, it’s crucial for business growth and survival to adapt marketing and sales practices to the way b2b customers are actually buying these days.

Even though using traditional methods and selling to already known customers can still provide some business growth in good times, failing to adjust may well mean the company being destroyed the next time a financial crisis comes around.

And while salespeople continue to be critically important in closing deals, increasingly it is inbound marketing that ensures sales get enough qualified leads to ensure growth on the international market in the first place.

 Rolands Ozolins is a technology marketing strategist and co-founder of IBD Consulting. Schedule a call to discuss how IBD Consulting can help your business.

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