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The Sales Game Has Changed. Here's How to Keep Up. The game has changed. The modern sales process begins with new marketing strategies that can help develop leads before your sales team gets involved.

By Nicholas Leighton Edited by Russell Sicklick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Selling products and services to customers is the lifeblood of any organization. This is especially critical for small businesses and new entrepreneurs. Without a constant inflow of new customers, many businesses risk losing their source of revenue and profit. But has it changed? Yes, it has.

The challenge is that the traditional sales model has become mostly irrelevant. In the past, a salesperson would engage customers early in the process and help them identify and understand their problems. In today's digital world, customers have numerous resources available to them to troubleshoot their challenges and find their own solutions. In many cases, customers have already decided on their desired solution and even the vendor they intend to use before a salesperson is even engaged.

To make matters worse, surveys have found that salespeople only spend a small percentage of their time (approximately 35 percent) on selling activities. Most of these inefficiencies are a result of poorly maintained customer databases and ineffective screening of leads by the marketing department.

Entrepreneurs need to take a new approach to improve their sales efforts. The game has changed. The modern sales process begins with new marketing strategies that can help develop leads before your sales team gets involved. Leveraging simple strategies can significantly improve the results of your sales activities.

1. Focus on nurturing leads

The sales process today takes significantly longer than it did in the past. One study found that most B2B sales take at least four months. This requires companies to spend more time and effort on building trust and maintaining relationships. An effective strategy is to proactively use targeted content. This will help demonstrate that your company is the expert and guide them to potential solutions. Your ultimate goal is to prepare them for the sales process.

  • Informational content: There is a wide range of options when it comes to providing customers with information content, including email distribution lists, blog posts, instructional videos and podcasts.
  • Multi-channel marketing: Since the sales process is longer, nurturing relationships with customers requires more interactions. Most customers require a minimum of 10 touches before they decide to purchase a product or service. Bombarding them on a single platform can be overwhelming. Instead, targeting them across multiple channels can improve the quality of these interactions.
  • Personalization: Generic cold call scripts and sales letters are no longer effective. Customers want to feel special and not just another number in the sales cycle. Being able to personalize communications and content can improve their experience with your company.
  • Engaging sales team earlier: Marketing has taken the front seat in building customer relationships early in the process. But you still want your customers to be engaged by a real person. The earlier you do this, the more influence you will have on their decision-making.

Related: 7 Strategies for Winning Back Customers Post-Covid

2. Create a lead scoring system

Unfortunately, too many companies focus on demographic criteria to help qualify leads for their sales team. This often leads to poor quality leads that consume a substantial amount of your sales team's precious time. Having your sales team focus on buyers who aren't quite ready or poorly researched leads who aren't decision-makers can come with significant costs.

Instead, businesses should develop a scoring system that allows the sales team to focus on buyers who have the highest potential to convert. For example, you can assign points to leads based on their activity, such as accessing certain pages on your website, downloading free information or signing up for email lists.

Related: How Do Your Sales Leads Measure Up?

3. Automate the marketing process

Only a small percentage of customers who view your marketing content or visit your website will eventually convert into real sales. Automating marketing tools and processes allows low-quality leads to naturally be filtered out of the process. Leveraging tools such as social media scheduling, sales funnels and automated email campaigns can increase your effectiveness. It also helps you scale your marketing to interact with thousands of potential customers simultaneously.

Related: 5 Marketing Strategies Business Owners Should Start in 2022

4. Get the sales and marketing team aligned

Oftentimes, poor leads and ineffective sales processes are a result of the marketing and sales teams working toward different objectives. By aligning your sales and marketing efforts, you can create a comprehensive strategy that leverages the strength and expertise of both teams.

The sales team can help the marketing team better define their customer persona to improve the search for quality leads. At the same time, the marketing team can help the sales team better understand their market research to understand which levers work the best with certain customers.

In summary, marketing is forever changing and so should you as an entrepreneur. As Ferris Bueller says, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Nicholas Leighton

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Best-selling author, speaker & business owner executive coach

Nick Leighton believes that business owners should make more money and have more free time. He does this through his best-selling book "Exactly Where You Want to Be – A Business Owner’s Guide to Passion, Profit and Happiness," speaking and coaching. #ChampagneMoment.

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