Sales trends 2018: Trend 8 – How sales and marketing can excel in a world in flux

In this sales trend from the Barrett’s 12 Sales Trends Report for 2018, David Hubbard explains how sales and marketing can work together to excel at generating revenue.

Who’s in flux? The buyer. They have dramatically changed how they identify, evaluate and purchase solutions over the past 10 years, and they continue to evolve. Every member of the buyer team for B2B and considered B2C purchases has instant mobile access to the information they need, throughout each stage of their purchasing process. Even when they are fully engaged with us, they are constantly interacting with our competitors’ information.

As a result, sales and marketing are in flux. Marketing and sales organisations have changed how they engage the buyer by implementing social media engagement, content marketing, social selling, programmatic advertising, inside sales/development teams, automation, big data etc.  

We’re continually changing how we engage buyers but, no matter how hard we work, we are unable to accelerate sales

While the buyer has dramatically changed how they arrive at a purchase decision, most sales and marketing organisations have not dramatically changed how they arrive at a closed sale. Marketing strategy is still focused on branding and lead development while sales strategy is still focused on selling products and closing deals. These strategies made sense in 1998, when the only way for a buyer to access vendor information was to attend a vendor trade show or issue an RFI (Request for Information) to the local vendor office. Today, the buyer is moving through each stage of their purchasing process online, so we need to have a modern strategy that reflects that reality.  

If marketing just creates leads and sales just closes deals, what is the company’s strategy to close the gap? Who in marketing or sales is responsible for creating and distributing the online content that will quickly move a buyer from a potential lead, into a customer, into a repeat customer? This is the sales cycle and it is getting longer, not shorter.

How your company is undermining key strategic intiatives

There are three strategic initiatives that have the potential to close that gap via increased sales and marketing alignment, collaboration and execution. However, the company’s overarching revenue strategy of ‘marketing generates leads – sales closes deals’ is undermining these cross-functional initiatives: 

  1. Sales Enablement is not accelerating sales. More companies are adopting sales force enablement as a discipline, yet sales performance at most companies continues to go in the wrong direction. Fewer companies are achieving their revenue plan (89.2% in 2012 but only 85.5% in 2016). Fewer salespeople are achieving their quota (63% in 2012 but only 53% in 2016).
    • Why not? Sales Enablement is supposed to be a strategic, cross-functional discipline designed to increase sales results and productivity. Unfortunately, Sales Enablement is currently focused more on improving sales processes within the sales organisation, rather than improving revenue growth processes between sales and the buyer and between sales and marketing. According to CSO Insights Sales Enablement Studythe top priority for Sales Enablement groups in 2016 was to increase revenue. However, enabling collaboration was a priority for only 16.5% of Sales Enablement groups and only 21% of Sales Enablement had a formal process for collaboration.
    • What should we do? Six-point-nine percent of companies are bucking the trend and delivering world class sales performance, according to CSO Insights 2017 World Class Sales Practices Report. They adhere to a dynamic, formal sales process; they strive to achieve trusted partner or strategic contributor relationships with their customers; they maintain superior alignment with their customer; they communicate value messages that are aligned to the customer’s needs; they articulate a solution that is aligned to the customer’s needs; they deliver CX that is aligned to their brand promise; and they deliver consistent CX across all channels.  
  2. Account Based Marketing (ABM) is not delivering accelerated revenue. Eighty-one percent of B2B Marketing organisations have adopted ABM. Fifty-seven percent of B2B marketers claim that sales and marketing are fully aligned (Flipmyfunnel Study). Eighty-five to 97% of B2B Marketers achieve higher ROI than other marketing activities (Altera, ITSMA studies). So where is the revenue growth?
    • Why not? Most of the measures of ROI are focused on the number of account leads generated per additional marketing dollar spent, not the amount of revenue dollars generated per additional marketing dollar spent. In fact, 62% of B2B marketers do not measure marketing activities taking place in the middle of the funnel and 80% of B2B marketers do not have dedicated tools to track multi-touch attribution, according to Demand Gen Report. Passing leads between internal functions is clearly not the kind of sales and marketing ‘alignment’ that will accelerate revenue from buyers.
  3. Marketing Automation is not accelerating B2B sales. While the automation technology has the capability to support both sales and marketing activities across the entire buyer lifecycle, it is not being used in that way, according to the Econsultancy State of B2B Automation report.
    • Leads? The sales force has their definition of a qualified lead, which is based upon criteria such as company, industry, location, size etc. In contrast, marketing uses a qualified lead definition that is primarily based upon prospect engagement: less than 16% of marketers are using progressive profiling or account-based lead identification to deliver the quality of leads that sales needs.  
    • Pipeline? The sales force has a sales process they follow to move a qualified lead to an opportunity, then to a forecasted deal, then to a win/loss. In contrast, marketing’s direct involvement in pipeline conversion activities is minimal. In fact, only 45% of marketers MAP systems are integrated into the sales CRM, only 24% of marketers have the capability to target individual buyer team members with dynamic content and only 15% recycle leads until the sales force is ready to re-engage the prospect.  
    • Repeat Sales? Up-sells? Cross-sells? Automation could significantly improve revenues in this area should we choose to deploy it.

We’re successfully executing creative tactics and technology without achieving the results we expect. Technologies and tactics are distracting us. It’s not about choosing the right marketing technology from 5000 vendors or the most popular marketing tactics from a survey. Nor is it about choosing the right sales technology from 700 SalesTech vendors or the most popular sales methodologies.  

The most important thing we can do is choose the right strategies and then select the right tactics and technology that will most effectively execute that strategy.

Choosing and executing the right sales and marketing strategies

Our goal must be to use these modern tactics and technologies to help the buyer move through their entire purchasing process and purchase our solution. Here are three steps to embrace the flux and excel at revenue generation:

  1. Both sales and marketing must share a common, deep understanding of the buyer’s business needs, their purchase process and their buyer team members. B2B buyers continue to self-educate throughout the entire buying journey and only engage vendors AFTER they have determined their vendor short list. Within the last three months of their buying journey 63% of buyers accept vendor outreach, 72% of buyers engage sales reps and 64% of the competitive bids are issued. What are the winning vendors doing to win these deals? 1) The winning vendor’s website speaks directly to the needs of buyer’s industry and expertise and its content speaks directly to the buyer’s company; 2) The winning vendor’s marketing/sales content makes it easy to show buyer ROI and/or build a buyer business case for the purchase; 3) The winning vendor’s sales team showed stronger knowledge of the business landscape and the solution area and the sales team has more insights about the company and their needs. Demand Gen Report’s 7th Annual B2B Buyer’s Survey.
  2. Both sales and marketing must share a common, documented sales/marketing process. Currently, 73% of sales organisations lose at least 53% of their forecasted deals (31% lost to competitors and 22% lost to ‘no decision’). The sales pipeline is just a representation of a company’s sales process: the step by step actions a salesperson (and marketing person) should take to convert a prospect into a customer. At a minimum, this sales process must be documented, managed and enforced. Each stage of the sales process should be directly aligned with each stage of the buyer’s preferred purchasing process. The exit criteria for moving from one sales stage to the next should be based upon buyer actions within their purchase process, not whether we had a meeting or did a demo. Since the customer is continually evolving their purchasing process, the sales process must continually evolve to maintain buyer alignment. Our competitors are continually updating their solutions and sales tactics, so our sales processes need to be similarly updated so that all sales reps will quickly be informed of any change and our company’s counter tactics.
  3. Both sales and marketing must share a common, documented content strategy. Sixty-three percent of marketing organisations do not have a documented content marketing strategy. Marketing is creating an unbelievable amount of great content, getting great customer engagement and generating an increased number of leads. We have a number of people creating content for blogs, articles, social networks and the sales organisation, but where is our documented content strategy? The strategy that defines which buyer team member we are targeting with the content piece, the information the buyer needs to move to the next stage of their purchasing process and the next action we want the buyer to take. Where is the in-depth description of our Ideal Customer Profile and how they will identify, evaluate and select our solution? Where is the in-depth Ideal Partner Profile and what content do they need to accelerate revenue?

When everything seems to be in flux, we must stay focused on the buyer’s business needs and maintain alignment with the buyer’s entire purchasing journey. We must adopt a common, modern revenue strategy that accelerates buyer action throughout their entire buyer journey. With this common goal for both sales and marketing, we can begin to collaborate to jointly execute the best technologies and tactics that will convert more prospects into repeat customers.

NOW READ: The differences between business, sales and marketing strategies


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Peter Strohkorb
3 years ago

Wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments here, Sue Barrett. Smarketing is the only way forward. We need to align Sales, Marketing and CX with the way that modern Buyers want to engage and buy.
A good article. ????

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