by Bob Apollo
If you’re in B2B sales or marketing, you’ve probably already heard this statistic: according to CEB research, 57% of the typical B2B buying-decision process is complete before a salesperson becomes actively involved in the sale.
By that time, the prospect is a long way down the path of scoping needs, establishing priorities, defining requirements, and short-listing potential solutions.
If there ever was a compelling catalyst to drive sales and marketing alignment, this is it. Put simply, if you’re not aligned, you’re being left behind. This is a theme I’m excited to address in my presentation, “Making the Connection between the Buyer’s Journey, Your Pipeline and Your Revenue Goals,” at the Sales 2.0 Conference in London on June 3. One thing I’ll share with the audience: sales doesn’t have to view the “57% is complete” statistic as inevitable. While the number is directionally correct, it’s only an average. Which means you can still potentially control far more of the sales cycle than you might think.
In fact, some of the best B2B sales and marketing organizations are clearly managing to successfully influence the prospect’s decision-making unit from an early stage in the buying cycle. How do they do it? First, they have something interesting, relevant and different to say. Second, they communicate that message using the forums the prospect is using to conduct their early research. This way, prospects see them as experts who can help them find solutions.
By creating a stream of compelling, customer-relevant content, they become a trusted source that prospects rely on. They seek to answer the questions “Why change?” and “Why now?” before they move on to answer the question “Why us?”
But they are not sharing the whole story: they are cleverly holding some of the detail back in a way that encourages the prospect to reach out to them earlier in their decision-making process than they would otherwise have done. To use a phrase that was popular in a bygone era of marketing, they are “giving them the sizzle but holding back the steak.”
And it’s not just about smarter marketing. Top sales teams have become smarter about the nature of the sales conversation. They are building on the issues raised by marketing with sharp insight and compelling anecdotes that encourage the prospect to think differently about the issues they face. And they are showing how their approach is different before going on to prove how it is better.
Is the effort worthwhile? The figures seem compelling. Aberdeen Group recently reported that highly aligned organizations grew revenues more than 30% faster than their laggard peers, and that marketing generated more than three times as much pipeline value.
This is all very impressive, but it can only be built on solid foundations. Sales and marketing first have to develop a consensus around what an ideal prospect looks like, what issues are likely to cause the prospect to take action, and what the typical stages in the prospect’s buying decision process are and how they might best be supported. But most of all, they need to share common goals and work together to systematically identify and eliminate any obstacles that might derail the buying process. Are your sales and marketing teams doing all that they can to achieve this?
Bob Apollo is CEO and Founder of Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners. Inflexion Point is helping many of the UK’s leading growth-phase B2B technology companies to systematically improve sales and marketing alignment. Prior to founding Inflexion-Point, Bob worked with and for many of today’s B2B technology leaders, including HP, Vodafone and Sybase, as well as a string of successful start-ups and growth-phase companies. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, @bobapollo, or http://uk.linkedin.com/in/bobapollo/.