Leaders of most B2B companies know the reality of fierce competition in this space. Customers are being blasted by vendors on a never-ending basis. Research shows that they are getting quite annoyed by it. No one probably feels the pressure of trying to make things happen more than B2B salespeople. In fact, a recent survey found that connecting with a prospect now takes 18 or more phone calls, callback rates are below 1%, and only 24% of outbound sales emails are ever opened. The Harvard Business Review posed the question - "Why are more and more buyers avoiding salespeople during the buying process?" Its response - "Sales reps, according to Forrester, tend to prioritize a sales agenda over solving a customer’s problem. If organizations don’t change their outdated thinking and create effective sales models for today’s digital era, Forrester warns that 1 million B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service e-commerce by 2020." It's evident in this type of reality that Sales and Marketing need to be more aligned and focused on getting new customers. Why? Survival.
Information is today's survival weapon
In today's hyper-connected world, information is everywhere. It doesn't just come from one source anymore. This fragmented landscape offers an opportunistic advantage to those companies that are able to synthesize this information and gain actionable insights. The only way to do this is to have everyone in customers facing roles focused on seeking new, relevant information and sharing it with the collective group. This will empower the organization to be able to iterate on its strategies and move faster than the competition. If your organization is not nimble, it will be taken out - and not on a date.
Watercooler talk might have been helpful at times, but it was not until the digital age that enterprise employees had the opportunity to leverage the enormous knowledge of the "hive". --Aberdeen Group
Leaders have to understand that the currency of business is information. In the current digital age, the value of that currency has exploded. We can no longer just have those at the top conduct strategic exercises with that information. We must give it to the troops on the ground that are actually going to battle every day. They need new weapons to compete. We must empower our people with something that differentiates them from everyone else asking - "Can I get five minutes of your time for a demo?". Market knowledge then becomes the new competitive advantage.
Customer and Market Insight
While salespeople gain a lot of customer insights in their daily activities, they don't have the same amount of time that Marketing has to truly gain market insight. What you have then is two groups that have two separate perspectives on reality. What would happen if they were able to combine this knowledge and together cultivate a clearer picture of how to not just react to the market but possibly shape it. One example would be the salesperson bringing the latest marketing knowledge to the customer proactively and helping them get in front of their competitors. What type of value would this bring to the customer? How could this help the salesperson secure more business for the future? A LinkedIn survey found that B2B buyers are five times more likely to engage with a sales rep who provides new insights about their business or industry. This is the information to demonstrates how salespeople can benefit from the market knowledge that their marketing colleagues may possess.
Allowing these two flows of information to converge really helps the organization in many ways to get in front of customer's change of appetite and be able to react in a way that doesn't cause the business to go into panic mode.
I don't think most would argue that the world of B2B is like a jungle. So leaders must decide if we are going to split up and make a run for it or stick together and leverage the skills of those in the group to survive the potential attacks in the future. I, for one, feel safer with a group that is committed to working together so that we all eat and survive.