There is a lot of pressure for B2B sales reps these days. With advancements in technology, social media, online reviews, blogs, webinars, and networking sites, buyers have developed new purchasing habits. And companies are feeling the shift – we are in the age of the buyers’ market.
Sales is being told time and time again that if they don’t change their ways, they won’t be able to survive the next decade. This is great for marketers as many sales organizations have recognized that they need to find new ways to attract and retain clients, and are now investing in marketing.
But as the sales and marketing worlds collide, we as marketers need to realize that we also need to shift our way of thinking. Otherwise, we won’t survive.
The Sales Struggle Is Real
The Mezzanine Group founder Lisa Shepherd explains in her book The Radical Sales Shift that “on average, buyers complete 57% of their purchasing process before they engage salespeople from potential vendors.”
SalesforLife shared similar stats in its recent webinar One Team, One Goal: Align Marketing & Sales to Accelerate Revenue:
- By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their interactions with the enterprise without collaborating with a human – Gartner
- 74% of buyers choose the sales rep that was first to add value and insight – Corporate Visions
- 60-70% of content in B2B organizations goes unused. The number one reason? Irrelevance. – SiriusDecisions
This means that buyers are doing all the initial discovery and research on their end before they even pick-up a phone and call sales. For marketers, when we look at the new purchasing model, we leverage the 57% number to explain how marketing lives in this space.
But we need to realize that the 57% isn’t marketing – it’s still just selling.
Buyers may be the ones in charge, but they are still being sold to when they are researching their problems and solutions.
You can know how to market information, but in order for you to be successful, marketers need to know how to sell.
How Do Marketers Sell?
Awareness, consideration, and the decision making stage is what marketing books are made of. I’ve seen many marketers educate sales reps on this vocabulary. Yet, if sales and marketing are going to play well together, marketers need to work on obtaining input from sales so that we can provide reps with the tools they need to get clients further through the buyer’s journey.
When I was in sales, I was taught that there are 4 key areas of selling:
- Build trust with your clients. Prove to them that you are reliable, competent, and knowledgeable.
- Understand a client’s need or problem that she is trying to solve by asking the right questions.
- Based on the information provided by the client, present a solution. If you asked the right questions, you’ll provide the right solution.
- Maintain and support the client to increase the level of satisfaction, which brings you back to building that trust.
These 4 stages of the sales cycle made a lot of sense while I was in sales. Now that I’m back in marketing, this knowledge is even more valuable.
This cycle is essentially the same thing as the awareness, consideration, and decision making stages that marketers have been taught in the past, but it’s too cookie cutter. We just need to accept that it’s time to let that mentality go and become knowledgeable at selling.
Understanding the sales cycle is just the first step in becoming a better marketer. The details within each stage is going to vary for organizations, sales teams, and the type of business a rep is after. Putting the time and effort aside to dig deep into the sales cycle that you are going to be marketing takes time, but it will be worth it in the end.
In order to create great strategy and tactics, we marketers need to make our own shift in the way we think about that 57% purchasing process by starting to market the selling process.