Which Matters Most, B2B Sales or Marketing?
With the age of digital marketing now upon us, is sales now redundant?
Traditionally for most businesses, the marketing function was created to ‘serve’ sales with marketing leads. Marketing developed the value proposition, did market segmentation, produced marketing materials, even appointment setting. Once these generated leads and enquiries they handed them over for the sales team to close. This often led to marketing team resentment because they felt they did all the hard work and sales came in at the end and got the glory of making the sale. Conversely, countless salespeople often resented the marketing team because they didn’t have to meet endless clients, give presentations or handle the stress that comes from not making a sale.
Accenture’s State of B2B Procurement Study found that 94% of B2B buyers conduct research online before buying. Even in B2B sales, the marketing and sales funnel has definitely changed. Digital marketing, in particular, has taken over more of the steps leading to a sale causing the sales role to alter. Some salespeople are now only involved in the evaluation and purchase stages. Marketing can often do stages 1-4, even the first half of stage 5, with sales doing half of stage 5, plus stage 6 only:
So, is sales dying?
If we as salespeople add no value to client relationships then yes, sales will die in the same way any business dies if it doesn’t add value to a supply chain. Well trained and motivated salespeople however, can alleviate the perceived risks of buying and establish deep trust with a B2B client in ways that marketing cannot. They can also proactively nurture the relationship after the sale is made, if they learn how and are disciplined.
The Harvard Business Review found the strongest driver of purchasing is ‘decision stickiness’. That means:
The ease of gathering and understanding information
Trust in the brand or salesperson
The ability to weigh their options
This research found that if a brand or salesperson scores well in all 3 areas, it can increase referrals by a whopping 115%. The future of sales may therefore lie in helping customers feel good about their decision both pre and post-sale. Emotional intelligence and empathy may become more important than presentation and negotiation skills. Sales performance may be evaluated on how happy a customer feels with their purchase and their willingness to recommend the experience to others.
So, what can sales do? Sales needs to lead the relationship with marketing, to open up dialogue with marketing and solve any internal communication gaps. In the same way that marketing has moved more into the traditional sales process, so salespeople can upskill themselves and step more into stages 1-3 of the above marketing process, through social selling.
Social selling is the process of researching, connecting with and interacting with both prospects and existing customers through social media platforms such as LinkedIn or Twitter. Social selling is a long-term exercise of lead nurturing and relationship building. It also helps boost a salesperson’s credibility.
Great salespeople have always generated their own leads. With traditional methods getting harder (more than 90% of U.S. executives never buy from cold calls), salespeople should engage with their networks and educate them through blogs and posts. In fact, recent research found that 72.6% of salespeople who used social media in their selling, outperformed their colleagues.
Salesperson tips for social selling:
Clean up your digital presence as an individual (no gaps)
Optimise your social media profile (with help)
Join industry groups and forums (and participate)
Set up social listening alerts (and take action)
Subscribe to blogs (and blog yourself)
In summary, sales and marketing will likely continue to fight for power over one another for several decades to come. However, collaboration is key for a business to leverage fully from both of these great functions, so breaking down divisions is critical. Rather than resisting digital marketing’s reach into the traditional sales process, proactive salespeople should upskill themselves and reach more into marketing through social selling. The future is what you make of it!
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