B2B buyers are taking advantage of digital to reshape how they learn about and purchase solutions—often with little to no assistance from a provider’s sales team. With this shift to self-service, sellers would be well-advised to consider a buyer’s user experience throughout the sales process. To do so effectively, sellers need to more tightly integrate sales and marketing.
That means saying goodbye to the tools and techniques (emails, phone calls, conferences) they’ve long relied on to get in front of prospective buyers. It also means moving from facilitating transactions to building and sustaining trusted, high-value relationships. For their part, marketers will have to work far more closely with sales to shepherd leads through the funnel, as well as develop and disseminate personalized content.
What Does Integrated Sales And Marketing Look Like?
To engage today’s B2B customers and prospects more effectively, marketing and sales must collaborate across the entire customer journey in a way that’s meaningful to customers.
Such an integrated approach can benefit a company in several important ways.
1. It enables sales and marketing to leverage content more effectively: Sales needs to assume more of a marketing role, engaging with customers by sharing and publishing relevant content via social media and other distribution platforms. But salespeople typically don’t have the right content to publish. That’s where marketing comes in. Marketing should be willing and able to adjust content to ensure it meets salespeople’s needs while helping them execute campaigns targeted to their accounts.
This collaborative approach extends and heightens the impact of marketing content. It also helps salespeople improve their personal brands and build reputations as thought leaders—and that’s important. According to a recent study, just under half of C-suite executives said thought leadership has led directly to their awarding business to the company publishing it.
2. It improves leads and how they’re managed: In most organizations, there’s an abrupt hand-off of leads between marketing and sales. With marketing and sales working together, a company can more effectively manage and cultivate the leads it generates.
For example, sales can retarget a person who responded to an initial marketing campaign with progressively more tailored and relevant content. This, in turn, creates a much more seamless experience for the prospect.
That can have a big impact on how a prospect views a company. According to a LinkedIn study, 90% of business decision-makers said they are more likely to consider a brand’s products or services if its sales reps shared content that’s applicable to their decision-making role.
3. It provides a way to measure effectiveness and impact more accurately: As a company builds a more data-driven operating model across sales and marketing, it can determine what kind of “playbook” is most effective in acquiring new customers from a sales perspective.
On the marketing side, helping salespeople run campaigns at a more targeted level increases marketing’s ability to demonstrate its value to the business.
Reimagining the way sales and marketing teams work together is a significant effort. It requires substantial organizational change, as well as new processes and tools.
Sales and marketing roles and responsibilities should be designed around how customers buy. The overall processes for such activities as content development, lead cultivation, and performance measurement must be much more integrated, and it must be collaborative.
A multilayered approach to technology will help. Relationship intelligence platforms can help salespeople build a holistic view of each customer. Traditional customer relationship management and marketing automation systems will remain core to their respective teams but must become much more integrated. And social media will continue to be important as both a way to generate insights on customers and prospects and a channel for engaging with them.
When combined, such technologies can have a huge impact on sales effectiveness. According to the LinkedIn study mentioned earlier, the best-performing salespeople are also more likely to use a multilayered technology approach.
As B2B buyers continue leaning more heavily on digital channels to learn about and purchase products and services, sellers will have to do a much better job of integrating their sales and marketing efforts to engage them. It’s the only way sellers can create the seamless customer experience that converts awareness into sales—and keeps buyers coming back for more.