Over the past five years, CSO Insights says the percentage of salespeople making quota has dropped from 63% to 53%. In today’s Third Industrial Revolution, nearly every industry is becoming increasingly competitive, entirely new categories are being created to solve emerging problems, and the marketplace is getting more cluttered with promotional materials. Simply put, the sales cycle isn’t what it used to be.
Many companies that successfully overcome these pressures are doing so with the help of third parties. Specifically, earned media. Ironically, while political and breaking news outlets are distrusted at an all-time high, press is still more trusted than advertising, especially trade and specialty publications. In fact, Ipsos Connect says nearly 70% of consumers distrust advertising, while Nielsen reports that 84% of people believe recommendations from a trusted and well-known third party are most credible.
ARPR was curious to further understand the impact that earned media has on buyers throughout their journeys and the potential it bodes for sales teams. So, in early 2019 we surveyed 115 technology sales professionals across the globe ranging from premier enterprise IT and hardware brands to growth-stage SaaS companies.
Our data report, The Role of Media Relations in the Sales Cycle, reveals that tech sales teams – from CROs to BDRs – understand the persuasive power that earned media coverage can have on prospects. Most notably, a whopping 93% of sales reps say they leverage their company’s media coverage (articles, TV coverage, blogs and podcasts) in communications with prospects.
We found that 40% of survey takers said that press coverage is most helpful during exploratory conversations that occur early in the sales cycle. This is most likely because sales reps must establish credibility and educate prospects during this period, and an independent media article can accomplish both. Fifty-four percent of respondents were split between the demo/presentation stage, the decision-making phase and the pricing negotiations phase. Another 17% said it didn’t matter – media coverage is a helpful sales enablement tool at all phases of the B2B buying process.
BFFs: Corporate Communications and Sales
Before sales representatives can fully realize the benefit of press coverage, there must be strong alignment between corporate communications and sales departments. Often, the bigger the organization, the greater the chasm between these two teams. Here are three tips for forging a greater friendship:
Create an open feedback loop. In order for the marketing team to keep generating headlines that the sales team wants, the two teams need a flow of communication. For example, if the sales team realizes that existing customers lack awareness about a product that could be cross-sold, that’s great feedback for the marketing team and PR agency. In order to help sales reps get past this upselling hurdle, the agency could land that particular product on PCMag’s Top XYZ Product list.
Operationalize the flow of news. Your tech PR agency might be landing your company 10 hits per week, but you aren’t getting your money’s worth if your communications team doesn’t have a structure in place to share those articles with the sales team. Whether you use an intranet, Slack or good ole fashioned email, the marketing department must have a standardized process for routinely sharing press releases and media clips with sales leaders.
Assess success together. Your company’s marketing organization can’t optimize its efforts without input from the sales team. When, where and how press coverage resonates with prospects during the sales cycle is valuable feedback for the PR agency. Equally important is how prospects first found your company. Consider adding a field to your CRM where sales reps can notate which publication(s) prospects have read about your business. Then, routinely share those insights with your peers in marketing.
As an IT sales rep told us in the survey, “I sent a media article via email to a customer. Got a call back the same day.” This type of feedback can make a marketing executive, corp comms manager and PR agency’s day. But it can also be the gateway to a more strategic media relations program that ultimately enables more efficient and effective sales cycles.