The Sales Perspective – An Interview with Jill Rowley of Eloqua

We recently had the chance to catch-up with Jill Rowley a.k.a the Eloqueen to discuss various topics about our B2B world and marketing automation.  As one of the leading sales representatives in the marketing automation space, Jill has established herself as a thought leader and advisor to some of the worlds largest companies.  We would like to thank her for taking the time to talk with us.

Q1.  Much has been written about the change that has occurred in B2B marketing as a result of the buyer landscape change.  Has there been a corresponding impact on B2B sales as well?

A1.  Yes.  Today’s buyer wants to self-educate and is not interested in engaging with sales until he has a clear understanding of the problem(s) and how to solve them.

Traditionally, sales people have only wanted to talk to people who were “stamped qualified”.  And herein lies the problem – wait for the buyer to be stamped and the sales person may find themselves without a seat at the selling table.

To be a part of the conversation, sales people today must be present when and where the buyer is learning and provide relevant content to support the buyer’s education process.  By engaging early, sales still indirectly shapes the buyer’s demand and at the same time gains visibility into the buyer’s activity.

For example, is this a buyer that is researching the question, “Why marketing automation?” or maybe, “Why Eloqua?” or have they even gotten to the point of “Why?”  By engaging early in the conversation, the sales person has a better understanding of how educated the buyer is and can then map relevant activities and content.

If I view my job as having to sell that feels forceful.  My job is to get someone to buy.  How do I get them to buy?  I do that by being an information concierge.  I am their information concierge.  I am their conduit to information they need based on where they are in the buying process and the role they play.

Q2. We have spoken many times about how marketing automation alone is not enough.  While indeed a robust technology, it needs more.  What do you tell your potential buyers that they need in addition to the technology?

A2.  Very simply, I tell buyers they need people, process, data, content and technology — in that order.  Everything is predicated on having the right people with the right skills otherwise the rest will not follow.  From there your people then define the process; ensure that you have clean, complete and current data in order to segment and personalize; and create relevant content for the segments.  Once you have defined all of this then you can implement marketing automation.  As good as our technology is, companies will not be successful without addressing the other four areas.

Q3.  You are in a unique role in that you are a sales person but spend an incredible amount of time with B2B marketers.  Using that unique vantage point, what are the biggest improvements B2B marketers can make?

A3.  The ultimate vision for any marketer is to prove their contribution to pipeline and revenue.  At the same time, they must also “do more with less” and spend efficiently and effectively. To accomplish this, there has to be complete alignment with sales and shared ownership of the funnel.  Not a separate marketing funnel and a separate sales funnel, but THE funnel that tracks sales from campaign to close.  From there, both sales and marketing have a single set of data to work from and for marketing this provides the ability to actually prove their pipeline contribution.

In addition to metrics, another area where B2B marketers can improve is to better engage with the customer with content relevant to where they are in the funnel.  Buyers don’t want content that sells; they want content that helps them make a buying decision.  And even though this is B2B marketing, in the end we are all consumers so don’t be afraid to have fun with the content and make it engaging and entertaining.  Experiment with different channels like video, develop visual content like infographics, and make sure what you produce is in small bites.

Q4. You are one of the more social media savvy sales people we know.  How are you using social media to connect with your buyer and what lessons can both marketing and sales folks learn from you?

A4.  I utilize social media for two things – to be present where my buyer is and to learn more about them.  Statistics show that buyers are using social media to self educate.  Social media gives me the opportunity to be part of the conversation and share content whether it is Eloqua-branded, industry articles, or thought-leadership pieces.  The buyer who is in the channels sees my contribution vs. hearing me try to sell.  In the end, this helps me establish a much more credible personal brand.  Its also a little ironic too as I’m almost more of a marketer than a sales person at this point because I read everything my buyer reads in order to understand their problems.

I also use social media to learn about my buyer – what are their interests, experience and expertise; what is their level of influence and who influences them; and what is their personality and how do they like to be engaged.

Q5.  Various statistics state that anywhere from 30-55% of the buyer’s journey is complete before engaging with a vendor.  As a sales person, how do you get involved in that 30-55%?

A5.  Again by being where the buyer is before they are ready to engage.  Cold calling as a “cold call” is dead but there are still other tactics to cold call.  Again, I’m not sitting here with a fat pipeline where the buyer is “qualified”.  I mainly use LinkedIn and some Twitter to conduct smarter outreach.  If I am engaged with Company ABC, I’ll conduct an advanced search for marketing professionals within their company.  If I see someone I want to engage with then I’ll send him/her a personal note and an invitation to link up.  Its still cold calling per say but just a smarter way of engaging.

Q6.  Not many sales people in the B2B space are considered thought leaders – what steps did you take to accomplish this and how can marketing and sales folks move from product pitches to an educational/thought leadership approach?

A6.  It’s really about taking the time to understand my buyer vs. sell to my buyer.  I need to understand their needs and their environment.  I must also be that resource that helps connects them to relevant influencers whether that is analysts like Sirius Decisions, IDC, Forrester, Aberdeen and Gartner; consultants and other thought leaders like The Annuitas Group; an industry association like Marketing Sherpa, the MAI or B2B Online or even a customer who has been successful in utilizing our product.

But I not only know the buyer, I also know our customers.  This year our Eloqua Markie Awards had 176 submissions for 20 categories.  I read every one of them.  Part of what earns me the trust as a thought leader and advisor is that I know how our customers are using our software to conduct smarter marketing, better align sales and marketing and automate their manual processes.  I know our customer stories and can communicate that the “future advocate.”

I think prospect is a dirty word.  It sounds like a piece of meat ready to kill.  I instead call prospects, i.e. potentials buyers, “future advocates”.  When it comes down to it, potential buyers are future advocates of Eloqua, marketing automation and even Jill Rowley.  So as I engage with a potential buyer, I am consciously thinking about how I can make them a future advocate for those three things above.