TLDR: How customers buy and how companies sell are two entirely different things. Traditional marketing and sales teams have to adapt to the new reality of buyer behaviour – where getting the right information is more important than who it comes from – if they’re to get ahead. This requires new thinking around commercial leadership, shaking up the organisation of internal teams, and building a holistic customer-focussed infrastructure from the ground up.
In most B2B organisations, marketing and sales exist as two separate functions.
The former is responsible for doing a bunch of top-of-funnel stuff that generates leads, while the latter chases these leads to see if there’s any potential business to be had. In between is some kind of ‘handover’ where these contacts move from one camp to the next.
And… that’s pretty much where the relationship between the two departments begins and ends.
You know what the problem is with having a marketing journey and a sales journey? They forget about the most important part of winning new business – the buyer journey.
Prospects don’t care about your internal organisational setup. What is it to them how you attribute success against activities? Why should they care who is ‘handling’ them within your business at each stage of the process?
They just want the right information at the right time to make the right decision. And – in the age of digital – it’s never been easier for them to get it.
Memorise these statistics:
- 43% of buyers prefer a rep-free buying experience
- Over half of millennials don’t want to engage reps vs. a quarter of baby boomers
- Only 17% of the buyer’s time is spent talking to reps; the rest is on independent learning
Yet we keep building commercial programmes against a linear “marketing > handover > sales” model which is untenable. As more senior buyers age out of the process, the problem will only get worse.
Essentially, we have a situation where sellers aren’t selling the way in which buyers want to buy.
So… what can we do to fix it? Here are the three main steps I’d take as an early-stage company (re)building their marketing and sales functions from scratch.
Set the Right Leadership and Goals
Some organisations have attempted to unify the marketing and sales functions under a single figurehead – the Chief Revenue Officer.
The theory is sound. Have one person responsible for revenue lead the in-market and out-of-market strategies to go get it.
In practice… a little more problematic.
You’re essentially looking for a unicorn. Someone who has deep, demonstrable experience finding success in both the marketing and sales disciplines. It’s rare to see, even rarer that early-stage companies can secure the talent.
Often what happens is a sales-focused leader is given responsibility for everything and naturally leans towards their preferred competency. Marketing becomes a glorified SDR unit or on standby to make decks look pretty.
Which exacerbates the problem we had to begin with.
You need skillsets from both sides of the spectrum working in harmony towards a common objective. Hire a marketing lead and sales lead who are equal in seniority, accountable for the same revenue and brand targets, and incentivised to develop a commercial workflow that maps against the real buyer journey – not just the assumption of one.
Fix the Team Organisation
Before the internet came along it made sense to build a marketing and sales operation in a linear sequence. Generate interest at top with advertising, direct mail and trade shows and allow sales to guide customers through the nuanced exploration of how a product or service fit their specific needs.
In 2022, it’s a completely different ballgame.
Not only are there dozens of new channels through which to educate prospects; there is an increasing expectation from buyers that vendors use them.
(remember – almost half of decision-makers prefer to do all research themselves)
Customers may start with a deep-dive on your website before asking to speak to a rep.
Or they pick up the phone first and then dig through your technical documentation.
Or they speak to colleagues from the industry and come ready to buy, no pitch required.
What we’re talking about here isn’t a marketing or sales challenge – it’s an information one.
How can you give prospects what they need in the way they want it? How can you built the optimum customer journey?
The smart B2B companies are building their commercial strategies working backwards from this mindset.
- First, figure out the typical buyer journey leading up to puchase – who is involved, what information do they need to make a decision, where do they want to access it? This requires research – both direct with customers themselves and indirect across your CRM and analytics.
- Second, restructure the team against this process. As a rule of thumb, most companies will see at least four common ‘jobs’ from their prospective buyers – Discover, Purchase, Implement and Run – and should thus distribute resources to support each one. Importantly, all of these teams should all be accountable for revenue targets that ladder up into the ones held by leadership.
- One of the biggest issues with the traditional marketing and sales functions is the siloing of information. So the final step is to develop an insights centre responsible for tracking success across the function and feeding back common trends to constantly improve and iterate the process.
Build an MVP Infrastructure It’s crazy to me how many companies out there trundle along using a Frankenstein collection of tools that don’t talk to one another.
There’s one platform for sending emails. Another for managing the website. Perhaps some pieces are plugged into Google Analytics? Or loosely connected via Zapier? Oh, and don’t forget there’s a CRM being used by marketing while sales manage their contact books in Excel.
I’ve been in this situation and it’s Grandma’s recipe for inefficiency and frustration for early-stage companies.
For one, you will waste a huge amount of time trying to marry datasets across tools to try and get some grasp as to what is going on across the buyer journey. Inevitably it will require a ton of manual data entry that ends up in a spreadsheet no one but you understands and likely becomes out-of-date the moment it’s completed.
Secondly, a gust of wind may blow over your tech stack if you don’t have developer support to integrate and manage all the tools properly. One wrong field entry or misconfigured trigger can bring the whole machine down at a moment’s notice and send you on a near-impossible scavenger hunt to try and find the culprit.
And finally, the missed opportunity cost. Remember, the buyer journey is not linear. Prospects may start with marketing and go to sales before closing a deal or vice-versa. They may ping pong back and forth between the two for a while. Or come to you ready to buy.
What’s important is that you are waiting for them at the right moment with the right information in the right channel. And this is very difficult to achieve when half of your team have no idea what’s going on on the other side because they don’t have access to the same platforms.
Early-stage companies need one platform that can handle 80% – 90% of their needs from day one – build, run and monitor campaigns, manage contact information, collect data across all owned touchpoints, provide visibility on pipeline and automate as much of the workload as possible.
Something like Hubspot*.
*not a sponsored post, it just kicks ass
How customers buy and how companies sell are two entirely different things. Traditional marketing and sales teams have to adapt to the new reality of buyer behaviour – where getting the right information is more important than who it comes from – if they’re to get ahead of the competition. This requires new thinking around commercial leadership, shaking up the organisation of internal teams, and building a holistic customer-focussed infrastructure from the ground up.