Improving sales and marketing alignment has been at or near the top of many CEO’s “to do” lists for years. But it’s sometimes been hard to prove the cost of not addressing the problem. Not any more. The latest research from IDC calculates that “companies’ inability to get their sales and marketing teams aligned around the right processes and technologies (or at least consistent ones) has cost them upwards of 10% or more of revenue per year.”
I’m grateful to Paul Krajewski for highlighting the findings in his Sales Enablement in a Sales 2.0 world blog. The issue of lack of alignment is certainly inextricably linked with failures in sales enablement, and the research highlights particular issues when it comes to equipping sales people with the information they need to have constructive interactions with their prospects.
B2B Buyers are Frustrated
Here’s what today’s B2B buyers identify as their most significant frustrations when trying to get the information they need from sales people:
- 33% say they are regularly presented with too much information that is not useful to their search for solutions
- 29% complain about a lack of relevance to their situation
- 24% observe that the information provided fails to address the needs of all the members of the buying team
- 23% feel that there simply isn’t enough educational content
- 23% believe that the information provided isn’t in a form they can share with others
- 22% complain that everything provided is too long and takes too much time…
…closely followed by complaints about the format in which content was provided, with a growing preference for video or audio rather than documents.
All in all, only 7% of today’s B2B buyers felt that nothing was lacking when it came to the information typically supplied by vendors.
It’s a pretty damning indictment. But what to do about it?
Put Your Sales People in the Buyer’s Shoes
The problem starts with the way in which far too much of today’s sales and marketing collateral is still being designed. It’s all too often mostly concerned with the vendor’s products or services, rather than with the prospect’s issues and concerns. Now that may be relevant in a simple transactional sale where the decision typically comes down to specification, delivery and price.
But it’s near-to-useless as the foundation for supporting a complex considered purchase with a lengthy and involved buying decision process that could well result in the prospect deciding to simply “do nothing”. It’s unlikely to stimulate the sort of conversations that are going to be required in order to bring the sale to a successful conclusion. So you need to equip your sales people to see things from the buyer’s perspective.
Build Campaigns Around Issues Rather Than Products
But the problem really starts from the first engagement with the prospect. That’s why – for high value considered B2B purchases – marketing messages and campaigns really ought to be designed around issues that are likely to arouse the prospect’s attention and stimulate them to want to learn more about how the vendor might be able to help.
Uncovering these issues can be a challenge, but I’ve found that conducting voice of the customer surveys with recent customers can help to uncover the issues that caused them to realize they had to take action. A pattern usually emerges of issues, trends and trigger events that can help to identify the most promising marketing themes.
Equip Sales People to Explore the Consequences
Once you’re aroused the prospect’s interest you then need to equip your sales people to accurately qualify the opportunity early on in the process – and to continue to requalify the deal as the buying decision progresses. At the same time, you’ll want to equip them to help the prospect to explore the consequences of the issues they have just acknowledged.
Structured sales conversation planners can be tremendously helpful in equipping your sales people to both qualify the opportunity and to help advance the buying decision process. They can help your sales people systematically explore the issues and their consequences and to identify who else is affected and who will be involved in the buying decision process.
Align Content to the Buying Decision Process
My penultimate recommendation is that you carefully map out your prospects’ typical buying decision process, paying particular regard to the key stages and milestones along the way. By anticipating who the key players are likely to be at each stage, and identifying their likely concerns and motivations, you can ensure that your content is designed to support their decision making at each step along the way.
Finally, make sure that the format of the content you create is appropriate to the prospect’s information needs, and can easily be shared with their colleagues. Do all this, and you’ll be well on your way to improving your sales win rates.
If you’re wondering where to start your sales and marketing alignment journey, I’d like to suggest that you download our latest guide to the D3ARE framework – a systematic, evidence based approach which encapsulates all we’ve learned over the years about improving B2B sales and marketing performance.