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B2B Sales and Marketing Lessons From Retail Sales

897867627 cbd991173b m I recently returned to work from maternity leave.  While I was gone I did lots of thinking about inbound marketing.  As I’m sure many new mothers do (sarcasm).   I had an interesting experience with one of my favorite retailers and realized their marketing and sales teams were doing an excellent job working together as a well-oiled machine.

All too often I hear of marketing teams and sales teams running in different directions.  A marketing team could do an excellent job of bringing in leads, however if the sales team is not prepared or educated on how to take a lead further down the sales cycle, there is no gain.  While a retailer doesn’t necessarily drive leads, they can be a perfect example of marketing and sales working well together.

Relating Retail to B2B Sales and Marketing

For example, walk into a retail store. That retailer has spent lots of marketing dollars just to get you in the door, still much of it on outbound marketing.   You’re now in the store browsing and it’s almost a guarantee the sales associate will ask one of the following:  “Can I help you find something?” or “Are you looking for something special today?”  As a potential customer our knee jerk reaction is to smile and say “no thank you”.  What a terrible opportunity to waste! 

Of course I’m looking to buy something; otherwise I wouldn’t be in the darn store in the first place!  However, the question the sales associate asked was not effective.   I’m now left on my own to browse and I might miss what I was looking for and walk out without spending a dime.  To steal the words from Julie Roberts in Pretty Woman; “ Big mistake. Big. ” The same thing will happen if a marketing team drives in leads and the sales team can’t move the lead to the next stage.

Doing It Right

Now let’s take a lesson from Black House White Market.  I love their stuff.  Last time I shopped there I was asked for my information; name, address, phone number and email.  Brilliant! 

1. I have given them permission to market to me.
2. They can now track what I purchase and when and use that information to create marketing that caters to me.

I received their catalog and of course saw something I liked.  A few days later I found myself in the store looking for that black shirt I’d seen in the catalog.  Marketing had done their job and an excellent one.  I was now in the store with my credit card.  It’s now the sales associate’s turn. 

I was greeted with a smile and a question that was undeniable “ What are you shopping for today?

1. It’s an open ended question that will elicit something more than a yes or no.  Compare this to the close end questions from the first example that yielded a “no thank you”. 

2. It’s obvious.   Of course I’m in here shopping for something, otherwise I wouldn’t be in here.  This is especially applicable for inbound/web leads – they wouldn’t have been on your site if they weren’t looking for something.

What a can opener of a question!  I told the sales associate I’d just had a baby and was working on losing the baby weight.  I went on to tell her I’d seen a black shirt in the catalog and was thinking about treating myself as motivation.   Needless to say I walked out of the store with not only the shirt, but an entire outfit – shoes, belt and all.

This is an excellent example of a marketing and sales team working in tandem.  At HubSpot we like to call this SMarketing.  Before you jump to the conclusion that lead quality is the problem, first find out what your sales team is doing with your leads.  How are they opening the conversation?  What suggestions might you offer that would open up the discussion?   You know your potential customer as well or better than sales.  You might find augmenting what’s happening AFTER the lead is generated can increase lead quality opposed to adjusting how it was generated.  

Does any one have other examples like this to share?

Photo Credit: taberandrew


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