In the first blog of this series we outlined how the buying process has changed dramatically over the past several years. The Buyer, not the Seller, now controls the entire purchase process as B2B sales are shifting to consumer based. We also discussed what it is you need to consider and be prepared for if you are eager to drive meaningful cultural change and increased revenue for your organization. Part 2 will cover how your culture, attitude and team dynamics can impact your ability to increase revenue growth, and the need to facilitate a shift in your customer’s buying process, not your B2B sales process.
Longer sales cycles = Be prepared
You have to begin by accepting that buyers have extended their purchase cycle by 1.5X-2X (Sirius, 2012) and revenue growth is going to be both a marathon and a sprint. Your sales team still needs to remain focused on hitting revenue targets, however you need to accept that as deals enter the pipe and buyers are going through the first few stages of their purchase, some of them are going to hit the pause button. What is crucial is that you have a plan for what occurs next when this happens. Does the lead stay with the rep or does it go back to the inside sales team? Is there a way to stay in front of them without wasting the time of sales reps? What content will they want to digest in the interim?
Buyers want and expect to be educated first
It may be necessary to embrace the need to develop new disciplines and fully commit to content marketing. This is arguably the most radical change that needs to be made and it is also your most significant opportunity. Your marketing team will have to take your buyer further through your sales process because it is what your buyers demand. The days of generating leads through marketing and tossing them over the fence to the sales team are over.
Hint: Marketers can’t do this alone! They will need the support and contribution of your executive team and product specialists, acting as thought leaders. If marketers can effectively leverage your thought leaders, they can support the sales team exponentially, keeping them focused on selling.
Sales and marketing on the same team
The days of compartmentalized offices are over. For many companies, this is the biggest hurdle as it has become a cultural norm. B2B Sales doesn’t always care about what marketing does as long as it leads to more leads, and marketers don’t think sales appreciates or understands the work they do (and they are often correct). As with any successful team, to compete and win you are going to need to align sales and marketing with the tools, content and processes necessary to support your inside sales reps with content that demonstrates thought leaders and differentiators effectively. Mutual respect is key.
Technology is king – embrace it
The advent of marketing automation platforms, Google Analytics and CRM’s has led to the ability to bring sales and marketing teams together like never before. These technologies allow you to implement a Sales Architecture, Infrastructure, and Technology Platform that provides transparency and accountability throughout your entire sales process. Keeping score helps teams flourish. This isn’t rocket science; just head out to any Little League or Soccer Field on a Saturday during a game and compare it to what happens during practice. During exercises, energy level and focus fluctuates. Put them on the field where they are accountable for and measured by their results and everything changes. It’s a great deal more interesting and fun as well.
Finally, budget appropriately
As was previously mentioned, sales is now both a marathon and a sprint. What this means is, while we appreciate the need and pressure to hit quarterly numbers, it’s unreasonable to expect an effective process to fall into place that quickly. You need to plan on investing in this new engine for at least 4-6 months until you will start seeing constant results. Remember the scale of the shift you are undergoing. As the process becomes imbedded into your culture and your teams align with this new train of thought and start firing on all cylinders, revenue will increase and cost of sales will decrease. This dual-benefit allows you to utilize your increased revenue and cost-savings to grow the engine and produce exponential results.
Summary – Sales and Marketing as one unit
- Your buyer demands education
- They want access to thought leadership and product specialists
- Thought leaders can’t waste time on prospects that just want education
- Your buyer does not want to engage with sales until they are ready to purchase
- You must demonstrate you understand their situation and pain before engaging a prospect with sales
Everyone can understand the social contract between salesperson and buyer. The Seller sells, and the Buyer buys. Pain, gain, and solution selling are still important, but it is becoming increasingly important for your sales team and your marketers to get prospects on the phone by sharing thought leadership from your product specialists and executives. Pressuring the buyer to buy and introducing a sales rep prematurely may lead to winning a couple deals in the short term, but it will drive more deals into your competitor’s hands in the long term.
So the question remains – what does my B2B sales and marketing organization need to look like to create the proper demand for my sales team now that marketing’s job is to take buyers beyond just awareness and drive leads into my sales funnel? Look for our next blog in the series that outlines “The Core Competencies I Need From My Demand Generation Team.”
If you would like to learn more about how Gabriel Sales can apply some of what we have learned for your business specifically, contact us today.