25 Dec Why Your Sales Team Should Lead Your Marketing Strategy in B2B?
In B2B as well as in B2C, your marketing and sales department must be aligned. Everyone agrees with that. However, many companies see no or very little communication between their marketing and sales team, and if they do, it is often unclear how these two strategic departments should collaborate.
What’s the purpose of Marketing
According to BusinessDictionary.com, Marketing is the management process through which goods and services move from concept to the customer.
In other words, marketing aims to facilitate the customer’s journey from prospect to client, by developing and selecting the right products, launching these products at the right price, and distributing and promoting the products in the correct places.
We often see SMEs using their marketing department for promotion only. It is not enough. Based on the definition above, your marketing department has two key functions:
- Business Intelligence & Design: gathering information about your customers, your competitors, current market trends, for innovating and gaining competitive advantages.
- Promotion & Distribution: creating relevant content and marketing materials in order to provide the right knowledge about the industry/market trends your prospect is experiencing, and promoting the solution you have to the prospect at each stage of the sales cycle in each sales channel.
The key difference between B2B and B2C Marketing is in the role and importance of the Marketing department.
In B2C settings, your marketing department will clearly prevail over your sales department (except for some niche and deluxe products). Because of the volume of the transactions/number of clients, there will be a higher involvement of your marketing department Versus your sales department throughout the customer journey, and there will be a higher impact of your marketing investment (i.e. ROI of campaigns) Versus sales department.
The sales team will be involved at a very late stage of the customer journey, and will have a minor role. For example, in an O2O strategy, the sales team will only begin to have an impact at a very late stage: when the prospect finally decides to go to the retail shop.
Whereas in B2B settings, the marketing department will still have an important role due to the “Digital Revolution” we are experiencing for the past 18 years. The sales department will begin having an impact at an earlier stage of the customer journey compared to B2C.
A B2B customer experience requires more involvement from the selling company, it will have to provide tailored information, product/service demonstration, several round of negotiations involving different stakeholders, and a higher level of customer service in order to win the first sale and, maintain and develop the relationship with the customer, in order to create upsell/cross-sell opportunities.
In B2B what’s the role of Marketing
No matter how complex is your product or service, the Sales Cycle will share some similarities. The prospects will:
- Search for a solution to solve a current problem/need
- Gather information
- Contact the selected companies for evaluation of the solution and pricing
- Selection of the best solution & Purchase
- Recommendation (positive or negative)
Your marketing team’s objective is to provide the right information through different materials and channels, at each stage of the customer’s journey .
A very common difficulty for your sales team is to be able to provide these information. It is said that most of the deals are closed after doing over 10 follow ups. Your company must provide the right marketing materials to your sales team, in order to have seamless, creative and informative follow up.
Usually, it is up to the sales reps to figure out what information they want to share with the prospects at each stage of the sales cycle and after each follow up. This is a big mistake.
Even though you would like to provide some freedom to your sales team, you also need to design the Customer Experience and Customer Journey. In other words, you must determine which information will be shared at each stage of the Customer Journey. Then, your sales team will follow up with additional information that will emphasize the problem it solves, the benefits it provides, etc.
Why Your Sales Team Should Lead Your Marketing Strategy?
As mentioned above, the objective of any marketing department to help the customer to progress through each sales stage of the customer journey, and finally purchase your product/service.
B2B involves much more interactions with the customers, deeper and more complex relationship, we can safely argue that your sales team will own the relation with your customers. It has huge implications.
There is a point where the marketing team will pass the lead to the sales team. In B2B, Marketing is unable to convert – this is a fundamental difference.
B2B companies’s marketing department are trying to capture and score leads: based on their own criteria, the marketing and sales department will define whether a lead can be passed to the sales department (high score) or whether it needs more nurturing (low score).
Two issues here:
- Transparency: Once lead scoring is automated, you will tend to look more at the figures than at the real companies/leads being scored. It is a problem. Every lead is not equal (a large company versus an unknown start-up). Some will need extra care and maybe, the involvement of your sales at an earlier stage than planned.Your sales team is on the battle field most of the time. How can you make sure that they are aware of the leads they have (in the nurturing process) on their territory? Each sales rep should be fully responsible of his territory. Without transparency, your marketing department will work on its own while your sales department will do the same.
- KPIs for your marketing: If you set a KPI to have a certain number of leads that will generate a certain level of revenue, you will get it (it is not necessary “real” though…). The KPIs you must set for your Marketing Department, must be around activities/results where it has a certain level of control. For example, number of seminars organized, number of Executives that attended this seminar, creation of content (staying relevant to your audience), customer journey’s bottle neck, etc. KPIs are here to focus on activities that brings results, not on the results themselves.
One of the key problem for business is to find out prospects that are “ready” to buy, in other words, prospects who already planned their project. Your marketing team is very important in finding out leads. SEO, SEM and Social Medias can help getting out of obscurity in your prospects mind, being a sponsor in specialized professional network will help gain brand awareness.
The most important part in the effectiveness of the message you are trying to convey, is how you share with your prospects the story of your clients.
In B2B, story-telling is the most powerful weapon you can use to influence your prospects. Often, we see companies blandly explain their products, instead of explaining what was the problem of ABC company, what were they trying to achieve, why did they select this particular solution and the business impact of this solution.
The problem of data collection
Passively collecting digital data (i.e. digital behavior, open rate, click-through rate, etc.) only gives you a glimpse of what is happening. Of course, these data are useful. You can have an approximate idea of where is the customer in the customer journey. You can score the lead and pass to the sales.
A common problem in the collection of B2B data, is offline data. Your sales team can collect much higher quality data by leveraging the relationship they have with your customers: uncover needs and problems that no solution/competitor solves; get advice from your customers on how your communication should be improved, etc.
How can you systematize the collection of off-line data and leverage these data?
You will need to have some “ready-made fields” or boxes to tick within your CRM that your sales rep quickly input the data. A sales rep who has to spend over 5 minutes to fill in the CRM will be discouraged to use the system. Only the “carrot and the stick” will push your sales force to fill in the CRM – which is definitely not what you want.
Also, there must be a place for collaboration between the sales and marketing. For example, you have several testimonials that you believe have an influence on your customers, however your sales team’s conversation with your clients reveal that the testimonial does not provide enough information about the impact of adopting your solution; and it has no influence on them. You can immediately redesign your communication.
Also, your company will need to produce as much as content as necessary in order to on-board the largest number of customers. Saying it’s up to the sales rep to demonstrate value and convince the customer to adopt your solution, is the same as sending soliders to war with no rifle and ammunition.
In conclusion, your marketing department will support your sales department. While your sales team is actively looking for prospects, your marketing team will generate brand awareness, supporting the generation of leads, and helping the sales team to have the right materials to share with the prospects.
Your marketing team should be under the management of your CSO/VP of Sales. By being part of the sales team, the collaboration and the objectives of your marketing will align with your sales team; which will in return bring you positive results.