How to keep B2B sales teams on track in 2017

Lucy Jones, head of content at Strategic Internet Consulting, discusses the considerations B2B sales teams should make to adapt to shifting environments in 2017

Are you ready for the inbound sales revolution?

For B2B marketers, inbound tactics have been a core consideration for quality lead generation for a while. 

However, many businesses find that following up on those leads remains a challenge. Yet is that any surprise if they’re still following a traditional, legacy sales model?

Just as inbound caused marketing to evolve, sales is now entering its own inbound revolution. Sales reps are shifting from a ‘closing’ mindset to helpful selling and earning the trust of today’s buyers. According to the HubSpot State of Inbound 2016, sales enablement and social selling are increasingly prioritised - 16% of organisations now plan to invest in Sales Enablement as a priority.  

Is your sales team ready to adapt? Here's how to keep sales teams on track In 2017:

1. Train your team to understand the inbound sales methodology

First, to understand where sales is heading, it’s wise to get to grips with the inbound sales methodology - and understand what sales enablement can do for you.

At a top level glance, the inbound sales methodology adapts to how buyers purchase today, so like inbound marketing, inbound sales prioritises helpful nurture; supporting leads through their buying journey rather than pushing the sale or interrupting. Sales enablement describes the process of providing sales teams with the business intelligence, resources and lead insight needed to develop effective conversations. Marketing and sales alignment lies at the core of successful sales enablement. In traditional processes, 79% of sales reps don’t have access to lead interaction history before reaching out. But with the right alignment, improved lead quality, reduced sales cycles, and more fruitful conversations can result.

Of course, adopting any new process or mindset requires training investment and buy-in. That can take time, so examine training options now to keep teams on track next year.

2. Align with marketing

Although sales and marketing alignment is mentioned above, it’s worth mentioning again. It’s that important!

True alignment allows more than sales enablement alone. It’s key to improving lead quality and transparent action across a business. Creating an SLA (service-level agreement) between sales and marketing is the first step to effective strategies; 82% of organisations with tightly aligned SLAs believe their marketing to be effective according to HubSpot. Largely, this success stems from keeping everyone on the same page; with an SLA, responsibilities are clear for each team, and the whole organisation gains clarity on the exact definition of an MQL (marketing qualified lead) or SQL (sales qualified lead).

As “marketing delivers poor quality leads” is still a common complaint from most sales teams, better aligned working and business-wide transparency on which leads are worthwhile will only advance your 2017 sales activity.

3. Integrate your CRM and marketing automation platform

Of course, without the right technology and integrations, it’s hard to completely align your sales and marketing teams. To really get ahead, your CRM and Marketing Automation platforms need to integrate - otherwise business-wide transparency and alignment can’t happen. So if your CRM is currently a siloed spreadsheet, or lacks integration capacity, you might want to investigate other options.

4. Reduce cold calling, ramp up social selling efforts and shift conversations to the environments your prospects use

Oh, cold calling. Like breaking your diet in the middle of the night, cold calling and other outbound tactics remain dark temptations. But, just like breaking your diet, they won’t bring the long-term results you want. You know that. So be strong.

Moving away from familiar-but-ineffective strategies can be difficult and again requires a time/resource investment. But strategies like social selling will help you reach the leads you want - and earn trust and credibility. 42% of sales people are already communicating via LinkedIn and Twitter for business purposes (HubSpot). Plus as 55% of buyers do all their research using social networks, it makes sense to prioritise social - and position your team to communicate via whatever platform the buyer is on. Think outside the phone call!

Switch To Helping, Not Selling

Above all, the message to take away here is to stop and rethink B2B selling in 2017. Whatever your goals and targets, switching practices to more buyer-centric methods has been on the horizon for a while, but there’s no denying that now really is the time to pay attention to inbound approaches.