Why Industrial B2B Sales & Marketing Need Closer Alignment?
Here are 3 answers:
- To deliver above-market growth
- To upgrade Sales and Marketing to drive revenue and improve margins
- To not fall behind competitors!
Our last blog, "2017 Industrial Sales & Marketing Recommendations" shared our 2017 recommendations for industrial part and component suppliers (manufacturers and distributors). The final recommendation concerned getting Sales and Marketing Aligned and we promised another blog post on, "Exactly why you'll need this alignment and how best to achieve it". This is that post!
Marketing Transitioning to a New and Bigger Role?
In case it's not yet obvious that Marketing now plays a bigger role in sales than in the past let's first establish that as a fact. The internet has empowered the customer and changed the buying process - as has been widely reported, "a sales rep often isn’t involved until 60% of the sales cycle is complete". Who, but Marketing, is responsible for providing information, influencing and helping prospects during that first 60% before they are ready to talk to Sales? Traditional marketing of the past, now called 'outbound marketing' typically included evangelizing with magazine and TV advertising. However, as the internet has changed the buying process, so Marketing has adapted and changed too. Nowadays, Marketing typically fulfills its role with inbound marketing, demand generation, lead nurturing and marketing automation. Wikipedia defines "inbound marketing" as, "a technique for drawing customers to products and services via content marketing, social media marketing and search engine optimization." Marketing’s role has evolved from evangelizing products and services to finding individual prospects, educating and helping them discover your solutions. If that sounds like the traditional role of Sales - that's because it is!
Sales Transitioning to its New Role?
Sales still has that role too, in fact they now share it with Marketing. In addition Sales has had to adapt and change too. Sales in no longer in control of B2B sales and only becoming involved 60% of way in (when buyers are ready to select a vendor). As Jill Konrath put it,"that's the worst possible time for sellers to initially engage ... decision criteria already set, sellers have little room to influence the outcome except by cutting price". Plus the buying process is typically more complicated, the sales cycle longer and often includes evaluation teams and multi-level approvals. Unchanged is the need for Sales to still overcome objections rooted in human emotions and uncertainty (often the key skills of experienced sales staff!). The problem is getting involved when prospects are searching for solutions, not first communicating with them when they may be 60% or more of the way to a decision! The way to do that is to be helping not selling, and doing so much earlier!
How Will Aligning Them Address the New Buying Process?
Sales and Marketing goals and roles in the modern buying process are shared and intertwined. Both, at different times, must build relationships with prospects, challenge the status quo and help buyers discover better solutions. They need each other to be successful, avoid confusion and stepping on each others toes! The customer is in control, but can and must be influenced by aligned Sales and Marketing using new technology and strategies. Your team can learn a lot about your prospective customers even before they contact you. For example, you might know that their designers have searched for, selected and downloaded certain product CAD models. One or more may be 'locked and loaded' into the Bill of Materials (BOM) of their CAD design, ready to be purchased once the design is approved. A CAD model download can be a 'Trigger Event' for Sales because it can alert suppliers to the start of a new design that could be using their products. Astute and timely followup by Sales can ensure and even expand that opportunity. Your combined team can track the prospect's progress through the sales funnel to a successful close but there are no longer clear lines between Sales and Marketing responsibilities. Therefore both must align their work to ensure consistent messaging with prospects at each stage. That's the need for aligning Sales and Marketing! With that established, let's move on to what it entails.
How to Align Sales & Marketing?
We're not specialists in how to achieve this alignment so will first refer you to some specialist resources then outline our simple take on what's needed. A simple search will reveal many excellent books, ebooks, white papers and other content on Sales and Marketing alignment - including those below:
- B2B Selling in the Age of the Customer
- How Marketing can Radically Impact Sales
- Six Steps to Transform your Marketing and Sales Capabilities
- 7 B2B Marketing Strategies You Need to Know About - Build a Better Marketing Plan in 2017
- Do you Really Understand How Your Business Customers Buy - from which the diagram below gives a more detailed model well worth reviewing.
Here's Our Take:
For the most part the specialists propose aligned processes, rules and agreements to establish common terminology, definitions, technology, decision making, etc. A very simple approach is to:
- Note down all the steps of your current Sales and Marketing processes. For example, it could be these 6 steps, 'understanding the buyer', 'understanding their buying process', 'content marketing mapped to that process', 'challenging the buyer', 'personalized communications and content', 'closing'.
- Note whether Sales or Marketing is doing each step today?
- Note whether Sales, Marketing or both should be doing that step today?
- Figure out a new integrated sales and marketing process to find, understand, engage and close customers and assign roles and responsibilities
- Decide whether to keep Sales and Marketing as separate entities with carefully managed alignment or to merge them into a new hybrid Sales and Marketing Team (what Kuno Creative calls 'SMarketing') combining staff from both in one unified team that focuses on finding, helping and closing customers?
Final thought: However you decide to proceed, aligning Sales and Marketing is an important component of an industrial supplier's digital transition, but alone, it is not sufficient! As McKinsey put it, "executives today need to focus on building capabilities with the same level of commitment they showed when transforming their businesses through 'lean' operations." You'll need a big picture view of how your company operates, creates value, delivers customer experience DIGITALLY! In short, you'll need an holistic strategy for your digital transition. It's likely that online catalogs, configurators and CAD will be necessary components of your strategy. We are specialists in those areas so please call us or use either button below - we look forward to helping improve the efficiency of your sales and marketing process this year…