Overcoming the seller dilemma
Tension between sales and marketing has long been a hindering factor in the B2B sector. But there is a new, and widening, gap that could harm the bottom line. B2B technology buyers are increasingly educating themselves on business solutions, putting salespeople on the back foot.
The rise of social media has led to the empowerment of B2B buyers. Their ability to research and discuss potential solutions online reduces their reliance on the expertise of salespeople. Some sources report that a typical buyer’s decision making processes is now 57 per cent complete before they consult providers. This puts salespeople at a considerable disadvantage. In fact, a Gartner study released last year suggested that technology salespeople have ‘lost their mojo’. It said that relying on traditional approaches, such as sales presentations, can result in simply telling the customer what they already know.
There is much at stake here. Later involvement in the sales cycle risks commoditisation of relationships, making them more transactional than consultative. Worse still, some sales opportunities could be missed altogether if your firm is discounted during the initial stages of the decision making process.
But there is scope for this threat to be turned into an opportunity. The Gartner study suggests that salespeople should focus on adding real value by providing tailored information highlighting how the customer can enhance their own business. Could sales and marketing collaborate to achieve this?
The answer is yes. Marketers can identify the emerging fissures between sales teams and prospects, then find ways to bridge them. Social media is a case in point. We know that technology buyers are discussing pain points and potential solutions on social platforms. Marketers can help sales teams unlock the ‘hidden sales cycle’ that is embedded in these conversations.
Clearly, being present on social platforms is not enough in itself. Careful management of the tone, content and pitch of social interactions is essential. It is too easy for a salesperson taking a traditional selling approach to rock up as a gate crasher at the social media party. Marketers can play a vital role enabling salespeople to be a welcome, if unexpected, guest.
This can be achieved in part by educating sales teams in social listening and social etiquette. But it can be taken to a higher level than this, enabling salespeople to earn back the role of solutions expert. All of that traditional sales collateral can be stripped back and repurposed into social friendly content that is tailored to the needs of different industries and buyer personas. So those White Papers and 50-slide PowerPoint decks might be condensed into a series of customised infographics or slick two-minute videos. It’s all about finding ways to provide the right information in the right way at the right time. Brevity and relevance are the name of the game.
Ultimately it comes down to recognising that today’s buyers follow an alternative path to purchase. Salespeople need to leave their sales pitches behind and join their prospects on the new buyer journey. Marketers can play a vital role providing navigation systems and signposts.
Who knows, perhaps this could signify a new dawn of B2B sales and marketing collaboration.