As discussed in “The Roles of B2B Marketing and Sales Need to Change”, today’s B2B organizations realize that the relationship between their sales and marketing functions is evolving. But in our work across a variety of industries we’ve noticed a significant gap between this recognition and the ability to execute meaningful organizational change to address it. That gap is not surprising; change is hard. But it’s needed.
“In the past decade, what marketers do to engage customers has changed almost beyond recognition, ” explain the authors of the Harvard Business Review article “The Ultimate Marketing Machine”. Due to the pace and severity of this change, the old system isn’t working anymore, but organizations have been slow to catch up.
“[I]n most companies the organizational structure of the marketing function hasn’t changed since the practice of brand management emerged, more than 40 years ago. Hidebound hierarchies from another era are still commonplace,” the authors lament.
One-Way: Do Not Enter?
The traditional Sales/Marketing exchange has been a one-way street.
- The Set-Up: First the marketing team creates content that introduces offerings to the market and generates interest. Then this interest is qualified as potential leads for the sales team.
- The Hand-Off: Sales then takes those leads, positions broader marketing content to the specific business context (value selling), and hopefully runs them to closure.
Is this traditional system completely wrong? Not necessarily. But the specific and immovable hand-off point coupled with the fact that marketing is qualifying the leads can cause an unnecessary duplication of efforts as they often require a significant amount of further qualification by sales (hence the recent prevalence of the MQLs/SQLs terminology to differentiate). So what should the new sales and marketing relationship look like? “Structure must follow strategy—not the other way around.”
Blurred Roles: Definite Results
Through a collaborative process between marketing and sales functions, the organization can identify targeted content tailored to the prospect’s specific stage in the buyer journey. These easily digestible buyer assets will help generate more qualified leads. No longer is content entirely marketing’s responsibility. Now, effective content should be a responsibility of the sales function, powered by marketing.
“There is something unique about today’s selling environment that represents an opportunity to forever change the dynamics of this relationship” between marketing and sales asserts CEO, SMO and entrepreneur Jason Wesbecher in Entrepreneur. “Today’s B2B buyers simply don’t need the assistance of a salesperson in the same way they did a decade ago,” he continues. “Instead, they rely on thought-leadership content, product reviews, case studies and peer recommendations that marketing teams develop to nurture prospects.”
Successful sales and marketing content must:
- Map to the Buying Journey: Early in the buying journey, these assets must be digitally deliverable and communicate immediate value in their business context.
- Say More with Less: This is value-selling content. Think of it as the elevator pitch without the elevator.
- Supersede Face-to-Face: Buyers want to cut right to the value proposition without waiting for a series of in-person discussions.
We help our clients zero in on holistic solutions that share three key capabilities:As mentioned earlier, there is no lack of technology support for putting this new process into action. Solutions for creating better digital engagement with the marketplace are offered by any number of vendors. But nurturing collaboration and realigning deeply ingrained patterns of behavior require more that the flick of a switch.
- Differentiate the engagement based upon the unique needs of the buyer. This means that they support the development of buying personas, around which content/messaging/outreach can be managed.
- Aggregate engagement capabilities (data management, audience modelling/targeting, multi-channel, content management, qualification/scoring, etc.) that have in the past been provided in a best-of-breed fashion to the market via point solutions. Organizations should not be spending their time knitting together technology.
- Enable tight/rich integration with sales automation solutions to support coordination/handoffs and closed-loop reporting/analytics.
Find out how Baker Tilly can help your sales and marketing functions collaborate to achieve real results.