B2B sales organizations sometimes blame sales people for second-rate sales numbers. But in the current B2B marketplace, they may be mistaken.
These days, two out of three B2B buyers say they’d rather go online to educate themselves about upcoming purchases than meet with their sales rep, according to Forrester Research. But most B2B sellers still expect customers to interact with their sales reps if they want to weigh options and make purchases, the research firm adds.
Forrester goes on to say in its “Death Of A (B2B) Salesman,” report, that B2B buying behavior has shifted towards digital, with the best B2B sales strategies using a variety of digital platforms to predict and respond to customer behaviors. Organizations that do this can steal share from the many that don’t.
Where does that leave B2B marketers and their sales teams? B2B companies not satisfied with their sales numbers should think critically about whether their B2B sales and marketing strategies are aligned with the ways their customers want to be engaged.
Three B2B Marketing Challenges
The decline of traditional B2B sales is inextricably linked to three new market realities:
- Ubiquitous Technology. B2B buyers are using it throughout the buying journey. While connected customers challenge the existing model where sales reps educated customers and forged relationships, they also open new opportunities for B2B marketers. Marketers that use technology to engage customers along the path to purchase will achieve a competitive advantage by staying closer to customers throughout the buyer journey. Adding technology doesn’t take sales reps out of the picture, but it changes their interactions. For example, lead nurturing via personalized emails appeals to connected customers. The same goes for negotiations conducted over email, chat, and collaborative software.
- The Rise of the Stealth Buyer. Because B2B buyers have ready access to the information they need, they’re not signalling an intent to buy until later in the game. That means B2B marketers need to use technology to identify these buyers and engage them before they sign.
- Dynamic Engagement. B2B customers expect marketing efforts to be tailored to their interests and their place in the path to purchase. They also want more, or total, control over how often marketers try to engage them. The opportunity for B2B marketers is getting both marketing and sales teams aligned on these preferences, so that the entire buying process is seamless and friction-free. It can only happen through a concerted effort to gain customer insights and align organizational teams.
To deal with these new realities, and get the levels of sales growth they’re expecting, B2B organizations have to take a hard look at how well their marketing is keeping up with their customers, and then how well the entire organization is aligned with these efforts.
You can classify these different types of alignment into four stages, beginning with the customer insights and then how well they are integrated within marketing, sales, and the entire organization. We’ll share details of each of the four stages and how organizations can advance from one to the next in the coming weeks.
We’ll begin next week with an overview of the four stages of customer insight and organizational alignment, and the strategies B2B organizations need to use to move from one stage to the next.
The goal is complete alignment between the organization’s process and its customers’ buying behaviors, which in turn drives the kinds of B2B numbers that keep the C-Suite happy.
In the meantime, if we can offer more details on using these methods within your organization, don’t hesitate to reach out.