There are some titles that may sound a little too grandiose for a small and medium-sized business. “President” or even “owner” might sound more appropriate than “chief executive officer,” for example, if you’re not running Fortune 500 firm. Similarly, “head of sales” often works rather than VP of sales.

When you get to something like “demand generation specialist,” on the other hand, it’s less about a title and more about identifying a need and focusing attention on it. Though sometimes used interchangeably with “sales development consultant,” demand generation specialists or consultants represent a very savvy and strategic way to approach how a company manages information about their clients and ultimately grows the business. In that sense, it’s an area of specialty that belongs within SMBs just as it might in a large enterprise.

The obvious concern, of course, is how the average SMB can find, train (or even afford) a demand generation consultant if they’re only working with a handful of people in their entire sales group. The answer lies in understanding more about what the role encompasses and how it could be applied successfully within your environment.

Demand Gen Defined

In some cases, demand generation is thought of as a function of marketing — creating content and using tactics to drive interest in potential prospects and providing leads to the sales team. In other large firms, demand generation represents the evolution of a sales development representative who connects with prospects by working the phones or using other means to essentially get an appointment for a member of the field sales team or an account executive.

The average SMB probably doesn’t have that kind of division of labour today. More likely there is a group of sales reps who manage their own accounts, from pipeline creation to closing the deal. There aren’t enough people to hand over a list of accounts, and even if there were, they might be too junior to trust with those relationships. And in the SMB space, getting a meeting is truly only the first step in an often prolonged purchase process.

Hacking The Demand Gen Role

The flip side of all this is that demand generation is arguably even more critical for SMBs than a large enterprise. Putting all your eggs into a few account baskets makes it difficult to grow. There’s greater risk if an account goes quiet, or goes away entirely. Nurturing that pipeline by researching prospects in granular detail, helping offer competitive intelligence or otherwise paving the way for the initial pitch can’t be ignored. That’s why it may be necessary to think creativity about making a demand generation consulting strategy, even if you’re not a big company. There are a few different ways to go about it:

  • Have demand generation consulting come from the top down: SMB owners or presidents are often the most informed (and aggressive) about seeking out new client opportunities and then delegating members of their team to follow through on the steps that lead to a sale. If that’s the case, though, keep in mind how that will make running the other operational aspects of the business potentially more challenging. If you’re not already using mobile apps to handle key functions today, becoming more intentional about demand generation consulting could provide the impetus to do so. 
  • Start demand generation consulting where you’re data-rich: If you’re using CRM today, look at your key accounts and the information you already have at your disposal. Think about treating demand generation consulting as less of an individual role but a project whereby you dig deeper to find new opportunities within an existing customer or ways to cross-sell or upsell. Or, take the opposite approach and start a demand generation consulting project where the sales team tries to get more information in CRM on accounts where you’re “data-poor.” This could make addressing the more account-based nature of marketing and selling a little easier in the long run. 
  • Use demand generation to measure technology ROI and team productivity: The bottom line is usually all about how much money the sales team brings in, which is fine. But if you accept that marketing automation can help drive better engagement across channels such as e-mail, your web site or even social media, demand generation becomes a critical metric. It’s not only a case of how many meetings get scheduled, but how using marketing automation in concert with CRM can help make those meetings end with a purchase decision.

As demand generation consulting becomes a core practice, if not a single job within an SMB’s sales team, it will change the way people are hired, how they are expected to spend their time and how their performance is evaluated. It will also be one of the ways SMBs can compete with larger firms on a more level playing field.

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