Until recently, a successful B2B sale happened when a sales rep delivered the right message at the right time to the right customer. Today, a new factor has been added: a sale has to happen in the right channel, too. Not only that, but all the messaging across each channel has to be integrated. That’s omnichannel strategy.
The problem is that channels are being added faster than companies can keep up with them. One McKinsey report shows that B2B customers report using 10 or more channels, which is twice as many as five years ago. Companies are understandably scrambling to add channels to their marketing strategy – social media, SEO, PPC and affiliate marketing – but are still struggling to keep them all connected and talking to each other.
Today B2B buyers expect a highly tailored, ultra-personalized journey. They expect that if they speak to a chatbot on your website, the salient details of the conversation will follow them when they speak to a sales rep. Yet a 2022 report shows more than 50% of B2B e-commerce sites failed to fully satisfy buyers. Companies aren’t meeting customer expectations.
Buyers Hold the Reins
The most common mistake organizations make is assuming that customers move through the marketing and sales touchpoints exactly the way the seller wants and expects them to. There was a time when that was true: customers progressed through a linear, prearranged funnel at the seller’s convenience.
Today, however, B2B buyers have less time and more information. They engage with your channels at their leisure and decide when they’re ready to make the purchase. And every buyer’s path to purchase is slightly different. They expect you to keep up with them despite this added complexity. Sales organizations must be able to effectively engage customers everywhere and every time they decide to engage with a supplier.
What happens if you don’t? Imagine this scenario: a buyer researches your website. They download a whitepaper. They attend one of your webinars. They follow you on one of your socials. Then they schedule a call with your rep to discuss a question raised by the webinar.
The sales rep thinks this is one of their first touchpoints, and so they engage with the buyer as though they’re very early on in their buying process. That’s frustrating, it wastes time, and might be enough to convince the buyer to go with one of your competitors.
Empower Your Sales Reps
The scenario I just described isn’t the rep’s fault. Sales reps today have been set a Herculean set of tasks: keep up with each prospect, track where they are in the sales process, and give them customized content to help them on their journey. On top of that, they also have to manage all the technology and tools around each channel. It’s a lot.
Forrester’s Jennifer Bullock writes that effective sales enablement “isn’t about tools – it’s not even about delivering content, training, or processes. It’s about orchestrating all these things.” That orchestration is the hard part of the task, and sales reps need the tools to help them do that.
Part of the problem is that different teams under an organization are frequently siloed, which causes friction. For instance, the marketing team may have the data about a prospect’s online activity, but they may not have the ability to easily communicate that data to the sales rep. Meanwhile, a sales rep will know which prospects convert and which don’t, but have no method of feeding that back to the marketing team.
In an ideal world, sales reps would have the tools and knowledge at hand to let them do what they do best: sell. Sales enablement delivers the right context at the correct cadence to each sales rep, so they’re able to have an effective conversation with a prospect no matter where they land in the sales funnel.
Many organizations aren’t there yet, but it’s possible to align your omnichannel marketing and sales enablement to get there. Here’s how.
How to Meet the Expectations
Buyers expect sales reps to read their minds. The best way to do that is to deliver the information to sales reps at the correct point in time to help move the conversation on to the next step. Sounds simple, but it’s a tough ask.
First, you need to build a system to help sellers get the information they need. Your systems should have a way to ensure sellers have a full understanding of the customer journey up until the point where the reps enter the picture.
Imagine your sales rep is at a conference. A prospect comes up to them. They don’t have time to go into five different marketing systems to see what blogs they’ve read, if they’ve spoken at previous conferences, or if they’ve subscribed to the newsletter. Instead, the sales rep should be able to type the prospect’s name into the system and have that information appear.
Second, your marketing teams, sales teams and product teams need to fully collaborate. For example, when a sale goes through, ask your sales reps to share what content they provided to the prospect. Was a particular case study effective? Maybe a webinar was extra persuasive.
You should also ask your sales teams and product teams to examine particular trends. For instance, if you sell books in bulk to businesses, the marketing team might notice that prospects in the education vertical who ask about your referral program often wind up making a purchase, while those in other sectors don’t.
The sales and product teams could then hypothesize that it’s because teachers might be more likely to make a referral, so this is a good selling point for them. The marketing team can build teacher-specific referral resources. The sales team can mention the referral program to teachers who don’t ask about it, since they’re likely to be interested. The product team knows the referral program was helpful, even if it doesn’t lead to a sale every time.
Finally, involve your buyers. Ensure you’re meeting their expectations, and if not, determine where you’re falling short. Ask for feedback on both successful and unsuccessful prospect conversions. Your buyers will see gaps in your pipeline that you don’t, inefficiencies that you never even imagined.
Sales enablement means helping your sales team deal with the avalanche of data generated by the omnichannel approach. That data is a boon when meeting customer expectations, but only if you use it wisely. Get all your teams onboard and give them the tools and information they need to meet buyer expectations.