Optimizing your B2B inbound marketing for influencer sales

Ed Marsh | Feb 26, 2015
Did you see Bryan Mosely's @bmose14 great post yesterday on influencer sales?  Writing on the HubSpot blog he asked:
"Most salespeople think that to be successful in sales, you always need to get to a decision maker, no matter what. Why waste time talking to anyone else but the person who has the authority to sign the contract?"

That makes sense if your a pure "sales rep" whose content to live in the days when cold calls and glad handing were hallmarks of successful reps.  It's not so pertinent today when 70% of the buyers journey happens before buyers come out of the shadows.  Nor does it account for the fact that 74% of buyers select the first vendor that creates value for them.  And it's something B2B inbound marketing folks need to understand.

Most leads are influencers - because most buyers are teams

If you sell a complex B2B product or service, typically there is a team buying process.  If you sell to SMBs, where the owner is the operations manager, HR director, in-house counsel, CFO and sales manager the team is trapped in one frantic mind.  But in most cases there are multiple roles/perspectives/agendas and budgets involved.  It's a world where almost anyone can say "no" and the team must say "yes."  How's it feel to be a prosecutor?!

The "decision maker" today is largely a myth.  It's a handy concept for coaching and managing sales, but it's not helpful for actually moving deals to a close.

If you accept that, then in essence, most of your leads (particularly IQL & MQL) are by definition influencers.  Now they could be a PA researching at someones direction.  Or they could be an engineer searching for a solution which they'll present at a staff meeting, or an HR manager looking for something to convince finance and operations tht they need to adapt - but they're all influencers.


That's why 3D corporate buying journey's are critically important tools for revenue growth success.  (Important distinction here.  You can be a digital or B2B inbound marketing superstar, spewing out a stream of MQLs...but if you want to create revenue and get your CFO on board, you'd better be thinking about revenue growth.  It's a couple big steps beyond!)

Brian says "Coach the Influencers"

He's right.

But he's wrong in assuming that you'll even have an open line to your influencers.  So if you've got to coach them, but you can't dialog with them, what are you going to do?

If you see sales as a verbal jujitsu match between you and a buyer, then you'll be out of luck.  But if you recognize that sales today is about your ability to help buyers buy, and you use B2B inbound marketing, then you already know the answer.  You'll use your content.  And you'll use it in two ways.

First you'll have content that actually lays out the team buying journey and coaches your lead, the influencer, on what content you have and how it applies to their colleagues' perspectives.  You'll make it easy for them to share on your behalf - at the right time in the process and with the right people.

Second you'll create content that they can consume in conjunction with other buying roles.  Webinars and surveys which pull in different perspectives are both great tools to to foster productive collaboration between influencers and their colleagues.

But it gets better - lead scoring that works

So, you know that you have to work through influencers.  And you know that you've got to navigate a system where any "no", or even one person just "misplacing it in their pile/inbox" sinks you.  

So what else do you know?

Of course that what you observe about the influencer's behaviors also gives you insight into whether you're on the right track...or the fast track to nowhere.

For instance, what if your influencer is an HR type.  You have a step in your nurturing which includes some tools for financial analysis of the buying decision.  You send them a nurturing email and see from Sidekick that they open and click the link.  You then see "them" (you deduce they forwarded it) open it several more times clicking the link a couple times.  Your prospect stats show an unknown user from the company visited.

Guess what....They're trying to get their finance colleague on board.  If the finance person converts, great news.  If they click but don't...

Does that mean your deal's dead?  Of course not.  But if there are typically 3-4 business functions that must agree, and you've created content mapped to the buying journey and business functions to support your lead, then you can draw some conclusions; you can adjust your lead score; and most importantly you can adapt your approach based on the additional insight you'll gather.

Let the process run....or be part of it

I hate the term B2B inbound marketing because using the word marketing tends to compartmentalize what it means for folks with traditional familiarity with the business functions.

So if you're stuck in that mindset - that there's a stark line between the rudimentary work of marketing and your sales artistry, then you just keep concentrating on bullying past the influencer to get to your "decision maker."

But if you're serious about success, able to subsume your ego to the team's collaboration, then embrace influencers.  Better yet, co-opt them toward your virtual sales success and interpret the resulting data.

Great B2B inbound marketing is paradoxical.  It's simpler than many claim.  It's really about helping buyers buy.  But it's vastly more complex than many understand.  Want a bit of insight?  Check out our free whitepaper on the complexity of today's B2B markets.

free whitepaper complexity of revenue growth strategy