The tides are shifting in the executive suite. As consumers lean into nontraditional purchasing models post-covid, the responsibilities of the chief marketing officer and the chief sales officer are becoming less distinguishable. In the near future, the roles could become one.
Before Covid-19, the customer acquisition process began and ended with the sales team. From lead generation to close, sales teams delivered – with customer relationships being supported by analytics and furthered by interpersonal relationships between salespeople and their clients. Post-covid, marketing teams are focused on digital channels and leveraging the power of analytics to provide sales teams with quality leads that are based on consumer behavior research.
The pandemic forced sales teams to forgo in-person meetings and turn to phone calls and emails for customer outreach. Teams that were likely already optimizing other digital processes within their organizations quickly realized the sales process could be simplified, too — increasing the potential for a higher ROI.
The Sales Process is Getting Simpler
By embracing a sales structure more similar to that of e-commerce for your product or service, you eliminate much of the leg work for your sales team. A landing page that hosts all of your product information allows potential customers to research at their own pace. By creating a digital presence, prospective buyers have a detailed look at your product before they speak with a member of your sales team, effectively bypassing the first two steps of the marketing funnel.
The utilization of AI in CRM software continues to grow as chatbots and other technologies are
effectively managing customer relationships that previously needed manual intervention. Eric Quanstrom, CMO at Cience, predicts that the sales function will be based completely on AI-derived information in the coming years. For now, AI is automating the processes at the top of the funnel. Further, new technology is helping companies reduce the volume of incoming requests to call centers, effectively saving between $4-5 per call.
These technologies are not meant to replace your sales associates. They’re meant to make your teams more efficient and allow them to focus on relationship building with serious leads. The ball is no longer in the seller’s court. To make headway with potential customers, you must sell the way they are buying and hone in on a digitally centered experience.
More than ever it is important for marketing and sales leaders to work in tandem to create a personalized, data-driven approach to sales. According to Gartner research, 48% of organizations that implemented an account-based strategy (ABS) experienced a higher average win rate. Gartner defines ABS as the coordination of valuable, relevant experiences delivered across all functions that impact the customer to drive engagement and conversation at a targeted set of accounts.
“Leading B2B organizations have adopted a coordinated, cross-functional account-based strategy, leveraging real-time data and technology, in order to be more timely and scalable in their go-to market,” said Craig Rosenberg, distinguished vice president analyst in the Gartner Sales practice in a release.
Millennial Decision Makers are Driving Buyer Trends
The next point for CMOs and CSOs to consider is purchasing behavior of millennials as they swiftly move into leadership roles. By and large, millennials have higher expectations than previous generations. They bring much of their consumer behavior tendencies into their decision-making roles, according to Inc Magazine. For millennials seeking to purchase big-ticket items, a sales representative must provide insight that they could not find elsewhere.
This generation of leaders is uninspired by traditional connection-based sales relationships. They want to know how your product directly addresses their organization’s problem and collaborate with you to solve it. As you adjust your sales strategy to reach millennial leaders, consider how to make the buying process as seamless as possible for the customer from first browse through implementation and even return. The resources saved by automating top-of-the-funnel processes and eliminating call centers can be reallocated to training a new generation of sales experts.
The Value Threshold for Online Purchases Is Changing
Part of a seamless sales process is the ability to complete transactions entirely online. As opposed to legacy models, a digital system gives all the power to the consumer, so it is vital that your digital interface is a well-thought-out collaboration between your marketing and sales teams.
Ultimately, the highest-value purchasing decisions will still be made in person with a sales associate. Such purchases in the B2B space can be equated to the world’s most exclusive designer bags in the consumer goods industry – highly coveted, elite purchases that few people (or organizations) can realistically make.
The threshold for what is considered high-value is rising. Purchases that were once made face-to-face with a sales representative, like computers and cars, can now be done at the click of a button. The pandemic made it possible for virtually anything to be browsed and researched online, delivered, tested and returned if need be, including items like cars that were traditionally facilitated by a salesperson on a car lot. Consumers are unlikely to move backward, instead expecting even more variety of goods and services to be available instantaneously.
The Way Forward
As the traditional sales funnel continues to flatten and the value threshold of on-demand goods and services continues to increase in the consumer space, B2B technology will likely follow. It will become increasingly important that marketing and sales teams act as one entity and lean into data and digital platforms to provide the most seamless experiences for consumers.
For example, say your company publishes a white paper that is distributed through your organization’s email marketing list, after signing up for a free trial of your service, the customer schedules a meeting with your sales team to set up an enterprise account. Those successful conversations and conversions are a prime example of marketing and cross-selling efforts wrapped up into a single function and are driven by data and analytics. Those marketing and sales professionals that prepare now for this new reality will be best positioned to lead their organizations (and themselves) to a competitive advantage.