The nature of B2B sales and marketing is evolving fast. Many decisions these days are focused on getting the highest return from spend, while proactively responding to customer demand. Quality was considered a value, now it’s expected and needs to be evident. And, it’s not anymore about what we are trying to sell, it's about how we are helping our customers buy. It's about how we build with them relationship and trust.
What companies do today is laying the foundation for future growth.
The situation continues to change and flexibility in our response plays an important role. There’s still so much uncertainty, and while we are trying to gain a clearer picture of evolving customer needs and expectations, we need to continue to be ready for the unexpected new behavior patterns driving the demand. A business, therefore, needs to increase its agility in decision making and leverage the limited data for quick modeling of various scenarios, to select the ones that can add the most value.
Driving sustainable, profitable growth through a range of strategies around the portfolio, promotions, value scenarios, and pricing is playing an important role during this transition to the recovery and thus shaping company positioning.
Reshaped sales and marketing landscape
Digital transformation seems to be one of the biggest priorities of organizations at this moment. We need to be aware that the customer’s environment is also evolving. That is why customers are better informed and more demanding than ever before. They engage and expect vendors to act as trusted advisors and consultants, not as salespeople anymore. They expect marketing communications to be personalized and relevant to their role and particular stage in their decision process. And they expect the sales to tailor their approach to their pain points, to help them solve their problems and deliver business objectives.
A stronger sales and marketing handshake is therefore needed to enable a more effective and aligned approach in managing and satisfying these expectations. Unfortunately, still too often the relationship between the two departments remains fractured. Each department has a different culture, a different rhythm, and is measured, motivated, rewarded differently. The silo approach leads to a lack of trust, inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and weaker business performance.
The future is in the integrated cooperation between sales and marketing, to position the company as a trusted advisor, making sure the potential customers have the information they need and when they need it. The focus is no longer on selling to customers, but on helping them buy. Both roles need to be understood, measured, and rewarded in ways that support the integrated effort across the customer journey, and at each stage of the decision process.
Collaboration through Lead Generation and Compelling Content
When events shifted fully to digital, businesses got more creative in how to keep their pipeline healthy. To compensate, companies are doubling their webinar efforts by creating compelling content to fuel their top-end funnels with leads. Webinars, white paper, and research reports are efficient engines to reach the targeted audiences, and get the content out there, demonstrate thought leadership and expertise. Though, it takes a lot of effort to create compelling content
Managing leads through the funnel needs a data-driven approach. Usage of the CRM as a decision center is enabling marketing to put the right content in front of the right person at the right time, respectively to their role and vertical, addressing their needs, concerns at their stage in the sales funnel. The importance of addressing the right audience with the right message can’t be stressed enough.
When putting a Customer in the center of everything that the company does, the discussion shifts from what to how to increase the impact. To succeed both marketing and sales roles need to evolve. Efforts are already being reinforced by the technology. Marketing communications are becoming increasingly automated as the technology works out the best next action to move a prospect to the next stage in the customer journey, move the lead closer to purchase, and helps us scale.
How modern marketing can contribute better?
Marketing is moving from its traditional focus on awareness/consideration to a “full-funnel” approach that is considering the entire customer journey. This means a greater focus on sales enablement. Delivering the right message to move the prospective customer to the next stage of their journey. Tailoring content to individual channels to address the prospect’s questions and concerns long before they come into direct contact with sales. Ensuring customers have all the required information to convince their peers and decision-makers to take the next step.
However, this switch in focus can’t come at the expense of building awareness. Identifying and communicating with the right prospects remains crucial. We should not underestimate stakeholder prospecting. It will help us build an Ideal Customer Profile for the organization that would benefit most from your solution. Develop personas for the roles and stakeholders you want to engage with. Then identify the individuals that match those personas in the target company and engage with tailored content that will most resonate with them and their stage in the purchase cycle.
Don’t forget to also leverage sales feedback connected to Ideal Customer Profile, learn and analyze which deals have closed, and why. Use the learning to revise the communication and adapt it to the audience's needs now being more informed and up-to-date with customer situations. This optimization is vital and it relies on alignment with sales.
When lead is identified, don’t just simply pass it on to sales, rather use the Account-Based Marketing approach to generate personalized communications that recognize the concerns and respond to customers’ questions. This way you can help increase their confidence in purchase and ensure they have all the information they need to persuade company decision-makers to buy as well.
How modern sales can collaborate differently?
In the old days, the biggest sales challenge was finding new prospects. Marketing was irrelevant, sophisticated administrative support to the department. Today with the rise of content marketing, prospects are signaling their interest.
Sales always want to increase the number of stakeholders they talk to so they can increase their chances of closing deals. Sales used to champion and discuss the product, solution with a single customer stakeholder. Increasingly nowadays other stakeholders are becoming engaged in finding the right solution to solve their challenges.
Today, B2B sales must be ready to consider the customer’s data, their existing tech stack, their progress in the digital transformation, and any regulatory issues concerning the customer segment. A result is a growing number of stakeholders involved in every major technology purchase decision which puts even more emphasis on the role of the trusted adviser.
The traditional sales role is therefore transitioning into a challenger role, understanding the way customer currently operates and pointing out the improvements and value their product or solution could deliver. However, this switch requires help from marketing to help identify potential bottlenecks, capture a unique view, and address them through tailored communication to the respective audience and help nurture the discussion moving through the funnel.
Sales need to become more consultative and more concerned with the customer’s goals. Less focused on the features of its product or service. Flexible to engage in social selling and speaking about the value the solution is generating. With deal closing also getting customers on board to showcase best practices on behalf of the company to generate future demand.
Securing the base for the effective handshake
The relationship between marketing and sales is changing. Slowly. Companies can no longer afford the two departments working in silos. The main challenge revolves around culture, responsibilities, and measurement. The problems start though outside of sales and marketing, with how management and finance are measuring results. How organizations measure attribution also affects how leads are generated and processed
Most often the solution is identified in a way of greater integration of the two departments. How companies are approaching this varies, depending on maturity in their progress towards a single, fully integrated sales and marketing operation.
Some companies are uniting the two departments under a Chief Revenue Officer. The intention is to align goals, efforts, achieve technology integration, and establish a culture where both departments feel part of the same team.
To be able to build on each other’s strengths, other companies rather opt-in for closer collaboration between the two departments. When both agree on ownership of respective parts of the sales funnel. Where sales and marketing collaborate and support each other through the following practice:
having weekly cross-functional meetings based on data to discuss the pipeline, the number of leads generated, and their performance.
having in place agreement on lead quality vs. quantity objectives, lead criteria and qualification pre-defined, benchmarks for stage progress aligned.
having full visibility of leads throughout the marketing and sales process, thus enabling immediate awareness of what is happening, good or bad.
measuring performance at each stage of the process, having a regular discussion about action to either solve a problem or capitalize on an opportunity.
The long-established divide between sales and marketing is closing. Stronger collaboration requires the willingness of the two departments and their teams, to accept and embrace the change. Both driving better collaboration through a combination of more rigorous measurement, regular cross-functional meetings around customers, and better technological integration.
Where both roles are understood, measured, and rewarded in ways that support the integrated effort across the customer journey.