The nature of B2B sales and marketing is changing fast. Many decisions are made these days to stabilize the businesses and get the highest return from spend, while proactively responding to customer demand. Though 2020 is not being approached as a year - it’s four quarters. Each as a distinct season as we reimagine how to engage with customers and deliver valuable services.
What companies do today to capture revenue quickly lays the foundation for future growth.
Efficient commercial leaders are starting to gain a clearer picture of new customer behavior, tracking new patterns, and collecting insights into demand. A better view of the market and understanding of customer expectations will enable thoughtful forecasting of demand across channels. Marketing is already adopting agile thinking to enable decisions with minor data, supporting the speed of decisions by modeling out scenario implications in just a couple of days. New measures will be rigorously assessed by their impact on EBIT and the company’s ability to execute quickly.
Driving sustainable, profitable growth through a range of strategies around the portfolio, promotions, value scenarios, and pricing will play an important role during planning for the recovery and shaping company positioning for the new normal.
Reshaped sales and marketing landscape
Digital transformation seems to be one of the biggest priorities of organizations today. At the same time, we need to be aware that potential customers are changing their behavior. They are better informed and more demanding than ever before. They engage and expect vendors to act as trusted advisers and consultants, not as salespeople anymore. They expect marketing communications to be personalized and relevant for their job role and particular stage in their purchase process. And they expect the sales team to tailor their approach to their pain points and 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 remains fractured. Each department has a different culture, 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 integrated cooperation between sales and marketing to position the company as a trusted adviser, 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
With events canceled, businesses are getting more creative in how to keep their pipeline healthy. To compensate companies are doubling their webinar efforts by creating compelling content that will be used 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. But they take 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 roles need to evolve. Efforts are already being reinforced by marketing and sales technologies. 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 sales funnels 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.
Don’t underestimate stakeholder prospecting, think it well through. It helps to 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 of the purchase cycle.
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 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 responds 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 or 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 consider the customer’s data, how it’s stored, their existing tech stack, their progress in the digital transformation, and any regulatory issues concerning their sector. 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.
Sales are this way moving into a challenger role, understanding the way customer currently operates and point 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.
The relationship between marketing and sales is changing. Slowly. Companies can no longer afford
the two departments working in silo. 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 a 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 department leads, and their teams, to accept and embrace the change. Both driving better cooperation through a combination of more rigorous measurement, regular cross-functional meetings around customers, and better technological integration.
Both roles understood, measured, and rewarded in ways that support the integrated effort across the customer journey.