The entire sales landscape is undergoing an extraordinarily rapid rate of change. While that can be disruptive and frustrating at times, I’m glad to see it as sales has greatly lagged behind other business disciplines and has fallen completely out of sync with how customers actually buy.
An insightful article on Forbes captured the challenges companies are having in making the transformation successful. The most important point of the article was the importance that marketing has in driving sales transformation and acceleration.
Sales and marketing alignment is a problem in most organizations and it’s especially acute in small and mid-market businesses (SMBs) where they rarely have full-fledged marketing departments that can support all of the initiatives needed.
The article aligns with much of what we’ve been saying on this blog for years and puts even more focus on the importance of marketing leadership and involvement in the sales process.
Some key highlights from research done by MHI Research Institute include:
- It’s common knowledge that more people are involved in the (sales) decision. But our research shows that more importantly, a rising number of sales resources are now involved in complex opportunities. This results in a creeping increase in the cost of sales and makes collaboration even more critical.
- Sales executives are starting to realize they need a lot of well-designed, targeted and organized selling content to fuel these modern selling systems. Content directly impacts their ability to achieve top line sales results. So sales operations and channel marketing teams are creating content that more directly supports sales conversations including: sales playbooks that assemble content relevant to a particular selling situation and validation content that demonstrates ROI and customer success.
- Improving the business awareness of salespeople is critical because selling product features to more sophisticated buyers will not get results. Sales professionals must deliver compelling insights to differentiate themselves and communicate value to close business at premium pricing. So sales operations executives are looking to “value messaging” skills training to help their sales people communicate and influence buyer perceptions of value.
As a result, executives are increasingly looking to technology as a “force multiplier” to leverage productivity. Now one of the fastest growing fields in the technology space, these “sales enablement and acceleration” tools offer a lot of promise, yet are not being effectively used by most organizations. The underlying cause of this failure, as diagnosed by the author of the article, is not the technology, but rather is the buy-in, support and full collaboration of marketing with sales. “Senior marketing leadership is critical to successful sales transformation because sales enablement programs and technologies need well designed, organized, targeted, and actionable content to run effectively.”
While the sales side has always talked about segmentation, niche focus and taking a consultative approach, the needs of modern sales organizations don’t fully align with the strengths and focus of sales executives. Marketers have been dealing with and mastering important aspects for years, including:
- Clearly defining personas.
- Developing content that aligns with the buyer’s journey.
- Developing value-based messaging to support the value proposition.
- Mapping a complex technology field to determine what technology should be utilized and how to utilize it.
- Digging deep into data and metrics to assess message performance and adjust as necessary.
I am by no means suggesting a decrease in the importance of senior sales leadership, but it is my hope that readers of this post walk away with two thoughts:
- A fully-aligned, strategic marketing to lead generation & management to sales process must be developed to sustain growth, and
- Marketing executives must engage deeper in the b2b sales process and work collaboratively to ensure organizational success.