What is Front End Sales and Marketing?
The front end sales and marketing process is much more work intensive than the back end. Your salespeople have to engage complete strangers and build a relationship from nothing. When you look at statistics for customer acquisition vs. customer retention, most will say that it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than keep an existing customer.
This number has been floating around the internet for years and may have come from research conducted by the Technical Assistance Research Project in Washington, DC, in the 1980s! Although its exact source remains elusive, we know that it is often cited as fact without any parameters around it. We really don’t know much about the research used to make this claim. Marketing in the 80s looked different than today in the age of digital marketing. Is it B2B or B2C? Are customers buying $2 fittings compared with customers who spend millions on capital equipment?
The cost difference is really irrelevant because growth acquired by squeezing more out of your current customer base is limited. You need new customers. Expanding into new markets and new geographies also requires new business development. Customer churn is inevitable, so front end sales are necessary to realize back end sales growth.
Trying to avoid customer churn? Contact us to find out how Athena SWC can help.
New Business Development Challenges
There are many new business development challenges facing B2B businesses today. Most recently, companies have struggled with maneuvering through the pandemic. Labor and supply challenges have made successful companies take a closer look at the types of companies they are targeting to ensure that limited resources are being used effectively.
Although companies understand the importance of bringing in new business, many companies struggle to effectively implement front end sales and marketing strategies that will help them reach sales goals.
- Salespeople chase the wrong type of opportunities or all opportunities without focus.
- The sales team is inadvertently inefficient from the lack of opportunity focus and wearing too many hats.
- Companies don’t understand and address market needs as they change
- The company lacks market awareness.
- Companies can’t or don’t measure, quantify, and improve ROI for sales and marketing
Often when there is an attempt at lead generation, it fails. Lead generation that lacks strategy with a process that includes a clear path for execution and refinement will struggle.
The Importance of Having a Front End Sales Process
As a manufacturer, you understand the importance of having processes to provide organizational structure and support for production and quality. You may even have key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure back-end activities. However, many fall short when it comes to applying those same principles to front-end sales.
You may have a highly talented sales team that works hard, but without a front end sales process, they may be working harder than they need to and be missing opportunities. Implementing a repeatable and scalable front end sales and marketing process will boost conversions and lead to more sales.
Creating a Front-End Sales and Marketing Process
A sales process can be complex with many moving parts. It provides a detailed road map of where you want to go, but there can be many stops along the way. At times, you may need to adjust your course to ensure you will meet the goals you have created for your company.
An effective front-end sales process will include planning, execution, analysis, and process improvement.
Planning is a critical aspect of process development. Take your time to do it right to avoid disappointment during the execution and analysis stages. Many questions should be asked and answered as you work through your process planning.
- What is my sales goal ($$), and how many sales do I need to reach it?
- For step-by-step assistance, read Do the Math: Hitting a Home Run with Your Sales and Marketing Goals
- How do I define the steps in my sales cycle (specific actions taken to convert a prospect to a customer)?
- Who are my ideal customer (industry, sales potential, geography, etc.) and the decision-makers and influencers?
- For more information, see Target Markets and Buyer Personas: Fishing in the Right Pond
- What value (defined in terms of increased productivity, reduced costs, increased revenues) does my company/product/service provide my customers that the competitor doesn’t?
- Learn more by reading Finding and Communicating Your Competitive Advantage
- Is my staff consistent in communicating our value?
- What methods will I use to relay my message (trade shows, emails, case studies, cold calling, internet marketing, advertising, etc.)?
- How will I address a prospect’s objections?
- What metrics will I use to track and measure my performance targets?
- How will I course correct, when necessary?
- What technology will I need?
- If you need a CRM, See Navigating CRM Options.
- What staff will I need?
- To ensure your sales team has the right skill set, read How to Find the Right Salesperson to Fit Your Needs and read Is your Salesperson Really Selling to learn about the importance of the division of labor
Your process should include a timeline for task execution and goals broken down into weekly, monthly, and quarterly activities.
The actionable items in the execution of the process include:
- Prospect and market profiling
- List building and cleaning, prospect outreach (calls, voicemails, emails)
- Website optimization
- Content creation
- Prospect nurturing
- Follow-up on prospects, quotes, and RFQs
You will have determined how many new prospects to reach out to weekly during the planning phase. Ensure that you are using a CRM system or calendar to set reminders to follow-up with prospects, outstanding RFQs and quotes, and any other activities that must be done at a future time. Not having a specific date for a future activity is not an excuse for allowing that activity to fall through the cracks. Make a best guess when necessary.
Monitor website visitors and respond to inbound inquiries quickly. Engaging social media posts should be done regularly on sites that your prospects may use, such as LinkedIn.
Future interest prospects that have opted in to receive emails and educational materials should receive something at a minimum monthly to keep you top of mind. Website monitoring, content creation, and SEO activities should also be part of your monthly activities. Evaluate data to verify that you are meeting your monthly goals.
Every quarter, analyze your data to determine how you are tracking against annual goals. Are conversions at each step in your sales cycle happening as expected?
If you are off, dip into your quality management toolbox to perform a root cause analysis and implement a process improvement plan.
Some areas to consider and adjust include:
- Are your sales cycle steps accurate?
- Are you targeting the right prospects?
- Are you getting and using critical market intelligence?
- Does your messaging address the pains in your industry?
- Is your content resonating and addressing needs at each step of the sales cycle?
- Is your website driving the right traffic to your site?
Statistical quality guru and self-described “teacher of a theory of management,” W. Edwards Deming said, “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” Collecting and analyzing data is a critical step in front-end sales and marketing.
Data-driven decision making (DDDM) is a process for making strategic business decisions based on facts, metrics, and data rather than intuition or observation alone. This doesn’t mean that you need to collect an overwhelming amount of data for your front-end sales and marketing process and have a slew of statisticians pouring over it.
Collect data that support your goals and metrics. This may be website activity, conversions, prospects’ movement through the pipeline, email analytics, customer feedback, etc. Review the data to determine if you are meeting your goals.
If the product you make was suddenly not meeting your customer specs, you wouldn’t just keep making a poor quality product and hope it corrects itself. You would implement a corrective action and take steps to remedy the problem. The same is true for your front-end sales and marketing process.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) provides an example of the steps required for process improvement in the paper, “The Process Approach in ISO 9001:2015.”
“Problem solving and improvement typically follows the essential steps of:
- Define the problems or objectives
- Collect and analyze the data on the problem and relevant processes
- Select and implement the preferred solutions
- Evaluate the effectiveness of the solutions
- Incorporate the solutions into the routine”
If your process isn’t working, you should evaluate your organization as a system because the root cause of the failure may not be tied to one specific process. For example, a company’s industry reputation for poor customer service may impact its ability to attract and retain customers.
Once you have determined the root cause of the failure, you can readjust your goals, if necessary, and implement a solution that will help you meet your goals. Re-evaluate regularly to ensure the fix is working.
Athena’s Process-Driven Approach to Front End Sales and Marketing
We provide a proven, best-practice front end sales and marketing process using a combination of inbound and outbound marketing activities. Our repeatable sales lead generation process helped many manufacturing and supporting businesses reach their sales goals.
You will see a consistent flow of qualified prospects move through your sales pipeline with our process. We will also work with your sales staff to reach a resolution with the leads we’ve provided through RFQ and quote follow-up.