It’s been quite a ride since mid-March, and as sales leaders, you likely are still trying to make sense of a marketplace that can often be nonsensical.
That said, protecting your current book of business, as in any previous market downturn, likely represents the first, and best, place to start.
Given, however, that you count on relationships which require visibility, and often, face-to-face interactions, in order to be successful, it’s time to turn your attention to new techniques which resonate in a virtual sales landscape.
It starts with a true understanding of what the client is looking for, how they define service, through their lens, and delivering with excellence -- when that lens is attached to a computer.
Through our conversations with sales leaders, and in our own experiences, here’s what we consider to be the defining characteristics of a next-generation approach to account service.
1. Digital is king: You might be surprised to learn that even B2B buyers have become increasingly comfortable with the concept of procuring your offerings through eCommerce. A recent McKinsey study found that the desire to order off a mobile app has grown more than 250 percent. This places an increased emphasis on spiffing up your customer-facing digital experience, to ensure that they can complete phases of the buying journey without human intervention.
2. Quality matters: Though product quality is typically outside of the reach of the salesperson, it ranks as the No. 1 concern among buyers. In our own study of B2B procurement, we explored how quality influences buying decisions, and how the buyer leverages the quality argument to negotiate. What we found was surprising: Nearly two-thirds of buyers said that products or services which performed as promised would likely justify a higher purchase price.
So, what does that mean for salespeople? Though your team may not be able to control quality, they should have a thorough understanding of what buyers expect from your product or service, so they can be sure to present the appropriate solution.
3. There’s no “I” in customer: A colleague of ours suggests that salespeople, too often, are leads in the “Narcissistic Opera” – they say, “Me, me, me, me, me” too often! Today, with budgets tight and the time that we have to woo buyers even tighter, your salespeople need to truly focus only on the customer – how they make money, what they care about, etc. Sharpen your key points. Lead with empathy. And exchange the generic patter for real solutions that show you truly understand your buyer.
4. Go higher and deeper: Now is the time to coach your team to be what we call a “system-thinking” seller – derived from the scientific idea that parts operate differently when integrated into a whole. In sales, that means your interactions with buyers should include an exploration of your solutions in the broader context of the buyers’ business. Probe deeply, ask thoughtful and insightful questions, and use curiosity in conjunction with active listening and analytical ability to demonstrate knowledge of the foundations of your buyers’ business. One recent study found that 84 percent of customers became frustrated when they didn’t think a salesperson was responding knowledgeably to their questions or concerns.
5. No gimmicks needed: Many salespeople have expressed concern that without the usual trappings of relationship selling – things like swag, snacks, and samples – they believe they’re not truly able to connect with buyers. It turns out, buyers never really wanted those gimmicks anyway. In a recent survey, we found that tchotchkes were next to last in a list of 10 attributes in salespeople that buyers were looking for.
Instead, stuff in your virtual tote bag these keys to success: Be transparent and clear about things like pricing and product availability. Respond quickly to requests for special pricing, customization, or if issues arise with the order. Maintain pricing integrity, since sudden discounts can signal distress within your business. And offer honest solutions to your buyers’ demands – understanding that they’re not just looking for the right answer, but they’re looking for what works.
At face value, within a marketing dashboard, such fraudulent traffic looks similar to normal traffic—which means it often eats away at results and budgets and skews baseline data for years before it's discovered.
Recognition of an issue is the first step toward identifying a solution, such as implementing ad fraud prevention software and restructuring your budget.
Traffic sources are obscured
Identifying this sign of ad fraud again requires looking beyond just clicks and visits. If by looking deeper you discover a high proportion of traffic from limit-ad-tracking (LAT) enabled devices, new or unique devices, or VPN or anonymized visitors, it could be fraudulent activity being intentionally obscured.
Some obscured traffic is normal, so determining what is real and what is sapping your spend can be difficult. Start by taking inventory of where this obscured traffic originates.
If very high proportions of obscured traffic are from individual partners, sub-partners, or site IDs, there is likely a big opportunity to clean up those sources. The resulting savings can be reallocated toward sources delivering real traffic.
As an indicator, this sign is about to get a whole lot more difficult to detect. Apple's privacy-focused updates to iOS 14 will render all traffic from users on this version completely anonymized and untrackable.
Moving forward, high proportions of anonymized user traffic will shift from being an anomalous indicator of invalid traffic to being quite normal. In fact, I suspect we will see lots of simulated activity from devices running this operating system where fraudsters capitalize on this update to obscure traffic.
User behavior is odd—or impossible
If user behavior is so strange it doesn't seem possible, it's probably because it isn't.
Seek out strange patterns within your data that may be indicators of bots or automated-system that are targeting your marketing budget:
- Are there multiple clicks from the same user simultaneously?
- What about visits from the same user from different parts of the world on the same day?
- Do prospects suddenly go silent during post-conversion events and communication?
Few businesses will have the analytics capabilities and the data prepared in such a way that allow for this type of analysis, but there are specialists that can help you get transparency into traffic quality.
The key is just getting visibility, first and foremost, so that you can see the true extent of the impacts of ad fraud on your advertising efforts.
In reality, ad fraud comes in so many forms and levels of sophistication that it takes hundreds of data points and equally sophisticated analysis to reveal it. The fraudulent traffic exposed by the above-listed three indicators barely scratches the surface.
Marketers have an opportunity to use tools available in the market to identify and eliminate threats that eat into their ad budgets as the economic downturn disrupts other efforts.
Fraud detection can give your advertising a performance boost, but it also begins to establish new, more realistic baselines that can more wisely guide ad spend for years to come.