The Modern Industrial Sales Cycle: Align B2B Sales and Marketing
The clash between B2B sales and marketing departments is a familiar tale that dates back to the early days of industrial business.
You know how it goes. Industrial marketers focus on quantity over quality and deliver a swarm of leads to sales departments. They consider the job complete, check off their list, and get upset when sales teams don’t follow up with the leads they delivered. Sales staff, on the other hand, have quotas to meet. They don’t have time to weed through a mess of unqualified leads. Instead, they prioritize reselling to existing customers and known leads, which doesn’t drive business growth.
Management is left to solve a challenging situation – wasted spend, and wasted sales time.
In recent years, marketing automation has been touted as a solution to this head-butting between sales and marketing departments. The claim is that marketing automation tools can align sales and marketing efforts and steer business growth in the right direction. But what exactly does that look like and why is marketing automation the answer?
Hint: It doesn’t start with understanding automation, but by understanding industrial customers.
More specifically, it begins by recognizing the changes that are taking place in the modern industrial buying cycle. B2B buyers now trust online sources for the majority of their decision-making research. In fact, B2B buyers are generally more than two-thirds of the way to making a buying decision by the time they actually make contact with a business (Bain & Co Research). The key to aligning B2B sales and marketing efforts is realizing what these changes mean for sales and marketing teams and creating connections between different roles.
For marketers, the modern industrial sales cycle puts emphasis on information. Industrial buyers are looking for resources which can help them evaluate a product or service.
It is the responsibility of marketing teams to make information available for buyers at all stages of the sales cycle, providing value as their interest grows.
Sales teams, on the other hand, are responsible for building a trusting relationship with buyers who already know about the products or services they need. Successful sales efforts provide a personalized experience that caters to buyers exact needs.
Sales and marketing have distinct roles to play in the modern industrial sales cycle, so how can marketing automation bridge the gap?
It starts by providing quantifiable characteristics about whether or not a lead is sales-ready.
In the past, there has been a disconnect between what marketers consider a lead and what sales teams are prepared to follow up with. Part of the reason for this is the fact that is has been difficult to define exactly what characteristics a sales-ready lead must possess. Marketing automation tools allow businesses to establish a set of behaviors that provide hints as to when a lead is likely ready to make a buying decision. Once a lead engages with different marketing materials and performs a defined set of actions, sales staff will be notified. This takes the guess work out of passing leads along and ensures that marketing and sales teams are working with the same definition of a lead.
Once leads have been passed to sales, it is important for sales staff to do their homework. Industrial buyers have done their own research and sales teams need to understand exactly what they are interested in. Marketing automation eliminates the blind handoff of leads from marketing to sales. Instead, sales teams can clearly see which marketing materials a lead has already engaged with and understand precisely what a buyer needs. This allows sales teams to prepare detailed presentations tailored to specific buyers.
For example, in the past, marketers at an FRP tanks company may have passed leads to sales that were interested in vertical storage tanks. That’s helpful but broad. With marketing automation tools, sales professionals can see that a lead recently looked at saltwater specific tanks and was comparing sizes between 2,000 gallons and 4,000 gallons. They can prepare a presentation comparing the two, which will help a buyer with their decision. This personalized experience goes a long way towards establishing trust and eventually closing deals.
Finally, marketing automation tools help to knock down the walls between B2B sales and marketing departments and increase visibility between the two. Sales can easily see which marketing efforts the marketing department is working on and provide feedback about which efforts have delivered the highest quality leads. Marketing can see which leads sales is having the most success closing and prioritize investments which are having the biggest impact. By allowing each department to see how the other functions it increases opportunities for collaboration and reduces animosity between the two.
The modern industrial sales cycle requires B2B sales and marketing departments to serve very specific functions. However, the need to work closely together has never been greater. Marketing automation breaks down the barriers between each department and ensures everyone is on the same page.
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About Fred Yee
Fred Yee is the founder and CEO of ActiveConversion, a company that makes online marketing work for industrial companies. Fred was voted as one of the 40 Most Inspiring Leaders in Sales Lead Management in 2017, and his work with ActiveConversion has helped hundreds of businesses succeed online. ActiveConversion is Fred’s third successful company, and he continues to explore the possibilities of technology in industrial sales and marketing.