Weekly Accelerator Updates

Week 6: Marketing and Sales Deep Dive

Week 6 Update

  • Week 5 Recap
  • Sprint 2 Kickoff
  • Marketing Deep Dive
  • Sales Deep Dive
  • Additional Resources

Content Credit: The Marketing and Sales sections of this article are inspired by the Marketing and Sales Masterclasses from the DIYMTC website, hosted by the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. 

Week 5 Recap

Congratulations! You are more than halfway through the accelerator!

Midpoint Check-in and Retrospective

Last week, you created or updated your one-page Executive Summary and your 5-minute venture pitch. Through this process, you have identified areas to focus on within your venture. Great job all!

You also did a midpoint retrospective where you reflected on the following:

  • What worked
  • What could have gone better
  • What you might do differently in the second half of the summer

We hope that you take the time to recognize and celebrate the progress you have made thus far. Well done all, and keep up the good work!

Sprint 2 Kickoff: Deep Dives

This week is the start of the second and final 4-week sprint for the summer. The focus of this second sprint is to do deep dives in every area of your business, and fill in the blanks for areas where there are gaps in knowledge.

By this time, you may have validated many critical assumptions. If that is true for you – congratulations! You can now hit it hard and drive towards making more progress in the areas that are worth investing in.

For teams that have just pivoted: breathe. You will be able to build back faster and better, having gone through it once already. Take this week to develop your new business case, and make a plan to test new hypotheses.

Remember that the goal for all teams within the program is to learn everything about your venture’s market and customer, go to market strategy and financials, so that you can maximize learnings in the least possible elapsed time, so that you have the data to make strategic decisions with.

With time at a premium, prioritization is key. When you plan work for your team, always ask this question: What is our riskiest assumption today? Are we working on tasks that helps us test these assumptions? Is there another way forward that can help us learn more faster?

Marketing Deep Dive

Start with building a great buyer persona

Without further ado, let’s do our first deep dive into Marketing. It all starts with the buyer persona. This is not always the same as the end user persona.  Hubspot provides a walkthrough tool that can help you create your buyer persona. That is the first step before you do anything in marketing and sales.

List out all the details. What job title do they hold? What was their career trajectory prior to this job? What are their success metrics at work? How comfortable are they with technology? What is their history and affinity to the type of product or service you are selling? How do they prefer to do due diligence – are they more likely to try free tools and figure it out, or do they want someone to concierge them through the whole process?

Map out the buying process for the buyer persona

The next step is to map out how the buyer persona makes a decision to buy your product. Economic buyers typically go through three phases:

  • Becoming aware that there is a problem
  • Consider how they might deal with this problem and evaluate options
  • Decide on the best option based on a set of criteria

Market according to the buying process

With the buying process in mind, you can take steps to connect with your potential buyer with helpful information or advice tailored to the phase that they are in within the buying process.This is how you “nurture a lead”.

Awareness phase

Let’s say you connect with them when they are in their awareness stage. Ask yourself what resources you can create for your buyer persona to help them understand their problem. It could be a quiz, a tool, or an e-book.

Consideration phase

Now, if you’re connecting with the buyer persona during their consideration stage, what materials and tools might you create for them to compare options during their research of potential solutions?

Decision phase

When they get to the decision phase, that is where the product or service descriptions come in. This is easiest to do and many companies overinvest in materials for this phase. However, 90% of the people you’re going to connect with digitally are going to be in the pre-decision stages (awareness or consideration). Make sure you invest equally in materials that connect with your prospects in the first two phases.

Generating organic traffic to your website

How do you generate awareness? One way is to let your prospective customers find you organically by searching on Google. Google Search has become very smart. Outdated tactics like keyword optimization will no longer work. You need to start playing the game of topics. One way is to build content to rank organically and win at the SEO game.

You need to structure your content pages of your website and your blog in a way that is cleaner, and more deliberate, to signal to Google which sort of topics, you’re an expert for. You might create a “pillar page” – a gigantic Ultimate Guide to your area of expertise on your website. Then you create sub articles of smaller pieces of content related to the main topic.

This “pillar-cluster” approach signals to Google that your company is the authority on this topic. If you do this wisely you can beat the giants in your industry and come up ranked first or second on a Google search.

Generating traffic through content posted on social media

The next thing you need to decide is what are the channels that you’re going to reach them through. You will not have the bandwidth to have three or four social media accounts. Focus on the network that gets you the most connections with your potential buyers. For consumers it might be Instagram or Facebook; for businesses, it might be LinkedIn.

When you start seeing what type of content in which type of channel is working, it is okay to add some dollars behind it, distributing your content through social media like Facebook and other channels. But don’t do this until you have done experiments to prove that you can get people to engage on the given channels first.

Converting traffic into leads

Website traffic becomes valuable when you can convert it into “leads”. Here’s the golden rule of converting traffic into leads: You have to find ways to add value to that website visitor, such that you can extract value in return.

For example, you can offer a piece of useful content (such as an E-book, an infographic, or a video) and ask for their email in return. This is called a “lead form”. You would capture the email on an optimized landing page. The visitor then becomes a “lead”.

Another option is to use chatbots. A lot of people will give you their name and email instead of signing up on a lead form. So it’s good to have both.

Providing multiple calls-to-action by phase

Let’s say someone is in the consideration stage. They do a Google search and find an article you wrote with an interesting snippet. They click on that link and navigate to your website to read that post. This is the pillar content and it links out to a lot more interconnected content.

Now that you got your prospective customer on your website, you can have multiple calls to action (CTAs) for people in different stages of their buyer’s journey. For example, someone who is in the consideration phase might just want to read the post. They are not ready to talk to anybody just yet. Appropriate calls to action include inviting them to sign up to learn more, engage with a chatbot, or subscribe to a newsletter. You have then captured their email so you can send them helpful information later.

On the other hand, if someone is pretty advanced on their buyer’s journey and they are already considering engaging with a vendor, an appropriate call to action might be to invite them to “take a quiz to find the right option for you”, or if it is a B2B direct sales business, “request an assessment”.

Nurturing leads via marketing automation

Once you have their email, and you know what phase they are in (awareness, consideration, decision) from the CTA they clicked, or the article they read, you can “nurture the lead” through marketing automation. This takes a lead who might not be ready to buy just yet, and advances their buying process to get them to the point where they are ready to buy something on your website if you are B2C, or to speak to your sales team if you are B2B.

Let’s say the lead downloaded a piece of content. After the download, you can program your marketing automation platform to send them an email a few days later, talking about something related to it. And a few days later you may send another piece of content that is a little further along that buying process. Then the last automated email that may be sent might be an offer to buy (for B2C) or an offer do a free 30 minute assessment on the problem they may have (for B2B). This last step actually tries to connect the lead with sales.

While this is happening, the sales team can get automated internal notification emails about leads who have been progressing along the buyer’s journey to give them notice that they may be ready to speak with someone in sales.

Sales Deep Dive

Getting started with sales

Let’s move on to a deep dive into sales. To convert a lead into a customer, you should try to create a relationship before you speak with them from a sales point of view.  That relationship is more content, more helpful tools for them to go through and try to solve their problem.

In terms of the prospecting mentality – you should always be helpful. If they want to get help with a problem, and you go in wanting to know whether you can help, you will do well.

The four stages of the B2B consultative sales process

There are four stages to a B2B consultative sales process:

  • Identify: Find inbound leads, or create a list of target accounts
  • Connect: Make contact through email, warm intro or the like
  • Explore: Ask the customer to explain their problems
  • Advise: Based on data shared by the customer, advise them on how they can best solve their problems.

“Advise” is the last stage of the sales process. By that time the customer has conceptually bought into the idea that you can solve their problems. After that, you are ready to start negotiating the price.

“Identify”: Lead generation

Where do you get these leads? This is the hardest part. Inbound can work, but it takes time and money.

One way is to establish yourself as an authority on social media. Find the ideal buyer profile, look at what they comment on – then you comment or repost or reshare or send them a note. “I like the blog post you posted!” You may start an amicable conversation that might lead into a sales opportunity if it didn’t, it doesn’t matter. You are still engaging with your target market.

If you worked at other companies before, current and past clients are a great source of new leads. You also have the power of your alumni networks.

“Connect”: A few ways to engage the prospective customer

What to say when you do not have an inbound lead

How you talk to your prospective customer makes a big difference in whether they will want to engage with you to learn more. One way is to open your conversation by first naming the type of problem your business can solve.

“We help people like you who <have this goal> but are frustrated <because they have this problem> <pause>”

With that, you have named the persona, their goal, their challenges. Then you can ask, “does this happen to you?”

There is no need at all at this stage to explain your solution. This is very effective, because this clearly tells them whether you are relevant for them right now and whether the problem they are trying to solve is something you can help with. If they don’t have a problem or a need for you, you don’t have a need for them. You can then move on to the next call.

What to say when you do have an inbound lead

Now, if you had an inbound lead – someone who came to your website and downloaded a piece of content, or they cold call you – they are already interested in you and want to know more. You might instead structure the conversation in the following way.


“Hello <prospect>! <pause> It is XX from Company A. <listen for recognition of your agency>

State your purpose

<Prospect> the reason I’m calling is that I got a note that you downloaded an ebook on <topic> this morning from our website. <pause for recognition> Does that ring a bell? <pause> I was calling to follow up and see how I might be of assistance?

Start a dialog

<They will likely say something like, “I haven’t had a chance to go through it yet…>

Oh, that’s ok <prospect>. If I might ask, what were you looking for help with when you downloaded the ebook?

Assume that they’re going to tell you they don’t remember downloading it or they haven’t read it. That happens 99.9% of the time. So you can ask at the end: “What were you looking for help when you search for <this resource on this topic>?

Always end with a question. This changes the dynamic of the conversation into one where they’re answering questions, which helps you build context.

If they say, “oh I am just doing research and I got curious about this topic but I have no interest”, you can move to the next one. But if they are looking for help, this is where they will tell you. “Well, I have this problem…” And now you can ask more questions to really understand the problem.

Pro-tips for a successful sales process

Don’t sell in the first conversation

Relax a little, and try not to sell anything in that first conversation, where you want to establish an initial relationship. Ask high level questions. How are they managing their company? What sort of problems are they trying to solve? What sort of goals do they want to achieve?

If you stop selling in your connect call, your prospects are going to be more likely to want to talk with you again. You are also going to be more natural and human, now that you’re not worried about selling. You will listen better and you become more likable. This will help you move more opportunities forward.

Demonstrate an understanding of their problem, not your solution

The most important thing you have to avoid is to try to do a pitch of what you do. Showing an understanding of their problems is way more important than showcasing your solution.

If you find yourself talking about what you do and what your company does, you are not asking enough questions. Take half an hour to understand whether they have a problem you can solve. If so, then suggest scheduling more time to follow up.

Schedule time every day for prospecting

Sales is tough. The number one thing that will help you do better in sales is put time on your calendar for sales. If you don’t have time on your calendar to prospect and connect with prospects, you’re not going to do it. Budget 1h a day for prospecting. That is better than 5 hours one day a week.

Plan to try to connect multiple times

The other thing you need to do is to plan to connect at least 3 times. Most sales people only try to connect with their leads once. 35% tried to connect with their lead one time. Only 25% try a second time, only slightly over 10% try a third time. So if you’re trying more than three times to connect with someone, you are creating a huge competitive advantage. The ideal cadence is a two-day follow up with 6-10 calls or email touches.

Using automation to help manage the sales prospecting sequence

Technology can help you manage this process. Look for a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to help you track touches. You should record every outreach attempt – when you sent an email, when you called someone, even if they did not respond. You can create email templates or sequences of emails, where the cadence is automatically embedded.

Tailor your messaging to the role

Lastly, you have to be aware of who you’re speaking to – and tailor the messaging to the role. If you are talking to the CEO, you might be talking about how you can help them increase revenue and reduce costs – you will be talking about profitability. If you are talking to the Chief Marketing Officer, you might talk about how your solution can help them improve marketing performance and lead generation. If you are talking to the VP Engineering, you might be talking about how your solution can help improve productivity and give them more insights into how their team functions.

Additional Resources

Read the following articles to learn more.