Marketing has evolved, buying has evolved, and now sales is ready to evolve.
We’re seeing that the line between marketing and sales is getting blurrier by the minute as salespeople get more love from developers and new sales tools. But is it just deepening the gap between sales and marketing and how do you share the pipeline if sales is trying to take marketing into its own hands?
If a company wants to be successful in 2016, its salespeople must be agile high-performers. That means using a stack of solutions that enable them to close more deals with more opportunities. A common misunderstanding is that the sales stack is changing the sales process, but it’s not. The sales process shouldn’t be affected by sales tech. Instead the sales stack must be built to support the sales process, not the other way around.
Sales reps must understand the changing behavior of online buyer journeys, and that means being proactive, timely and personalised in their communications. New sales tech allows salespeople to have a clear view of what the buyer is doing online and it makes it easy to conduct enough touches with prospects at the right time and in the right way. These new specialized solutions are allowing sales to sidestep marketing automation and take matters into their own hands, resulting in salespeople asking for more turf from marketing.
Adoption risk is the number one challenge in terms of sales tech and the only way to survive this trap is to have a process for ensuring successful adoption of new technology.
So how can B2B sales and marketing people adapt to these changes and what should they be looking out for?
1. Establish shared goals
As sales tech enables salespeople to use the kinds of techniques – on a smaller scale – that were once the sole preserve of marketing, sales and marketing departments should align themselves to ensure their goals match. When big goals are shared, whether it’s more meetings or more leads, the whole process gets more simple and transparent. This is because the entire focus is not on the methods but the end result.
As digital disruption enables sales to become part of understanding the whole digital and analytical process, driving towards shared goals is one of the success factors that will differentiate advanced sales and marketing teams from the rest.
2. Define marketing’s role
The role of marketing has to be clear so that cooperation between sales and marketing is as streamlined as possible. There have to be some clear lines drawn about how to share the turf. One way to ensure this is happening is to make marketing responsible for creating the message and content, while sales focuses on being the voice of the company.
Salespeople can test content and other information provided by marketing and give internal feedback, thereby improving the quality of the message everyone communicates to customers. Sales can reuse content on their own small campaigns e.g. with different email tactics. Marketing is supposed to build a bigger strategy behind all of this action. The voice of the sales rep is the final part of the journey, honing and prepping the buyer for the sales pitch itself.
3. Handle leads together
How to handle leads has always been the big question. Along with when does marketing push leads to salespeople, how does the whole process really work and who nurtures leads? In today’s digital era marketing should be responsible for the lead nurturing strategy at a broader level, with a more long-term level approach to lead nurturing. Salespeople, on the other hand, need to have pre-heated leads that they can polish into diamonds and close with 1:1 tactics and personalization.
If some leads that are already in the hands of salespeople won’t convert into closed deals, they should be sent back to marketing’s warm pool of leads so they can target them with personalised drip campaigns (depending on the lead and its maturity). Managing a larger group of colder leads is essential for marketing when scanning and monitoring leads that are heating up and ready to be delivered to sales reps.
4. Understand online sales analytics
I’m not going to talk about behavioral sciences here, but the fact is that sales reps must understand the intention of the buyer who leaves digital footprints all over their website and other places. If they can’t see this information for themselves or get it from marketing, salespeople are basically doing their job blindfolded – resulting in sales pitches being more or less like shooting in the dark.
Sales tech tools reveal critical analytical information in an simple format which can be easily used to strengthen any sales pitch. Understanding what the prospect has been doing on your website, when they open an email and when they are most likely to respond to a phone call are examples of information that sales reps should be able to handle in 2016.
5. Share data
When it comes to the data itself, marketing should be mainly responsible for managing it and should have as much oversight as possible. CRMs are today the main hubs for data exchange between sales and marketing because they can be used together with other tools, automating different workflows and centralizing data. It’s good to use sales tools that integrate with your existing CRM to make data delivery as easy as possible.
Another essential element of data handling – to avoid – is ensuring that the marketing department doesn’t just throw data over the wall to salespeople. Marketing must make sure that salespeople understand what actions can be taken with the data available.
Sales tech tools can work on their own, but in many cases these tools fetch data from marketing activities. Because of this, the cooperation between sales and marketing has to be aligned and data usage must aim in the same direction.
In 2016, if you want to be an old school sales guy saying you will do things the way you’re used to, because that’s the right thing to do, then fine, just do it that way. But don’t be surprised if you get run over by modern sales guys driving their lamborghinis when you’re stuck pedaling your rusty bicycle.
P.S. Don't ever forget about constantly improving your sales skills.