Previously clear lines between Marketing and Sales are gone: Instead there is now a Marketing-Sales Continuum. The technology, sociology and economics of B-to-B Marketing and Sales functions have changed fundamentally. As a result either function can take over much of the ground of the other. By all means, do panic a bit – and then, relax. Extinction is not at hand. In fact, the new realities offer new glory for people in both functions. You can go get it.
FIRST: WHY YOU NEED TO REBUILD THE PLANE IN MID-FLIGHT
Technology shifts. The noble and oh-so-loved Brochure cannot begin to compete with something like a multi-level micro-site with rich modular video content supplemented by a strong user forum. Likewise, the continuous marketing din that surrounds every customer portends a sad fate for anyone doing one perfectly crafted Email Blast when his competitor is using marketing automation to do 5 orchestrated customer “touches” for the same price and effort. Finally, social media is just hitting stride and has already created and destroyed businesses and sales models on a large scale.
The sociological shifts are as big and cross-generational.
- Place: Last Year’s Trade Shows are not where the majority of the world’s new young customers are getting and exchanging advice daily on what to see and buy.
- Demographics are destiny. Your geographic mix almost surely needs adjusting: Most people keep investing disproportionately in their past markets instead of the important new ones. And, yes, it will take a lot more work, because your biggest problem is not that your new customers are foreign to you, it is that you are foreign to them.
- The dynamic of evaluation and decision-making have changed. There is a network rather than a path to your customer. How do you find out who is your desired customer’s most influential acquaintance and what and where he/she wants to know about your product? Social media are the important new facilitators and accelerators of the primacy of customer communities.
The financial shifts are well known. Corporations expect a steady rate of productivity improvement. Sales forces are relatively expensive but efforts to limit them face the fact that those resources are difficult to leverage across geographies and product lines. The picture is no rosier on the marketing side. The effectiveness of Marketing spending often faces skepticism.
HOW IS MARKETING NOW SALES?
Marketing departments stagnate or decline if they do not get tangibly related to and accountable for creating real sales. In the past it was safe for Marketing to create information and sales tools and then rely on the sales force to use them to reach and influence customers. Marketing can now reach out very specifically and directly to the very people who were previously only contacted by Sales. OK, they can. But should they? Yes, yes, for at least two reasons:
- Because there is no alternative. The buying process has clearly changed and customers now conduct much of their product investigation and evaluation on line or in person with people other than a sales person. If Marketing does not understand that buying process thoroughly and get its company’s messages where the customers are conducting their investigations, those customers will be lost to the competition.
- Because generic information and sales tools have decreasing value. Customers don’t have the time or patience to figure out if or how your product meets their needs. Similarly, sales forces don’t have the time or knowledge to take all prospects through that process. To surmount these barriers, information, messages, sales tools and communication channels must be very specific to each target market segment.
HOW IS SALES NOW MARKETING?
How does an experienced sales person meet a quota that goes up 12% with products that don’t increase in net price? Note that I said, “experienced”. This isn’t a matter of learning to do the sales job. You have become more effective over time and yes, you have cut into your personal time more and more to meet or exceed your quotas to date. Now what?
The current sales force automation tools provide some of great capabilities including pipeline visibility, activity tracking and some outreach capabilities. But progressive sales people need information and capabilities beyond that. For example:
- A CRM tool fully loaded with existing customers does nothing to expand the list of qualified prospects a sales person can address. For that, there are services that mine public sources and can give you detailed information about what customers are doing, which products they currently use, etc. But mining these sources requires a strategic marketing approach to sales development.
- The capability to send automated check-in messages to customers does not provide the stratification and value added content that is really needed to evoke action or a response. For that you need to: 1. Know your high priority customer segments and 2. Develop and offer each set of target customers a continuous stream of relevant content and non-transactional engagement opportunities.
Whether the sales objective is bringing in new customers (“hunting”) or building deeper buying from existing customers (“increasing share-of-wallet” or “gathering”), to reach the required new heights of their quotas, sales people need to apply focused marketing techniques.
RIDING THE MARKETING-SALES CONTINUUM WAVES
As with all major changes, the technological, sociological and economic shifts described create waves of great opportunity for people who tune into them and act — and sogginess for those who don’t. Here are three ways to ensure that you surf to success.
Each function had reached the point at which it’s productivity gains were slowing or coming heavily at the expense of the personal lives of its employees. New marketing and sales automation and social media technologies are making large productivity and effectiveness leaps possible. But you’ll only get their real value if you identify with the whole Continuum—not as a Marketing or Sales person, but as a Sales Development leader.
Through that lens you will see beyond arbitrary function boundaries and you will change your world. You’ll probably become relentless about making tight, clear links from upstream of what you do through downstream of your actions, all the way to the ultimate results, sales. Find the gaps and fill them — or make noise until someone else does so.
New Us: Better Together
Marketing and Sales activities are often very loosely aligned. Everyone assumes that someone else is ensuring their disparate efforts and assumptions are adding up to the desired results. Despite each group working very hard, relations between them often run from apathy to mutual sympathy to barely muffled acrimony. Growth often falls far short of what can happen if both functions put collective effort into focused, aligned and technology-enabled sales development initiatives.
Marketing and sales teams can work together differently for higher aggressiveness and effectiveness. Marketing can provide additional value added that feeds into a jointly developed blueprint for sales generation. Sales can drive those sales generation blueprints that include:
- Appropriate market goals tied to segment-specific customer intelligence,
- An action plan with needed marketing and customer engagement tactics regardless of who does them and
- The capture of leading metrics so that the marketing/sales effort can be adjusted frequently.
New. Period. Frontiers for Pioneers in both Functions
Find out what new inputs and outputs are possible by looking at competitors and, even more importantly, by looking at companies in other industries. Learn and standout in your company by becoming a champion for a pilot in one new initiative every 6 months. A few examples:
In the world of Big Data, many Marketing-Sales teams will soon be able to know every potential customer for their product and other relevant facts about them. Which function will make greater practical use of this capability?
Using Social Media, companies will truly be able to act as the “peer” and “partner” that they have always wanted to be for their customers. Which function will do so to create the highest quantifiable results?
The biggest value creators on Wall Street are now mathematicians whose algorithms exploit existing information in new ways to make profitable trades; is there analogous gold in your company’s customer information?
The future of your function is exciting — and it looks a lot like you.