Sales to Marketing: “I Need Help With the Buyer’s Journey”

For the past few years, you have seen analysis from SiriusDecisions on how the buyer’s journey is changing. We have demonstrated this by examining the practices of the most successful b-to-b sales and marketing organizations and by surveying buyers on their preferences. Each time, the results show the buyer more in control of the process.

Now we bring you the view of the b-to-b salesperson. As part of a recent global study, we asked 300 senior salespeople how they see the buyer’s journey impacting their ability to sell. Here are a few nuggets of insight we gathered from their answers:

  1. The top third of the sales cycle has gone away. Salespeople believe that the beginning of the traditional sales process has evaporated and that buyers are self-servicing their needs instead of engaging with salespeople. The result: Salespeople are relying more on marketing generated leads, want marketing to provide them more programs they can launch themselves and use provocative thought leadership to get the attention of the buyer. Meanwhile, buyers agree that they navigate at least the top third and, at most, the first two-thirds of the sales cycle without sales. The result? Marketing, in most instances, is making the first sales call.
  2. Buyers are more informed than ever before. Buyers’ ability to access content, data and peer networks has been a game changer for salespeople. While they used to be able to craft the view of their market category and solution, they now walk into their first meeting with prospective buyers who have already positioned the product for themselves. The majority of salespeople say that, before the meeting, the buyer has read relevant content provided by a peer network and discussed the vendor with internal colleagues.
  3. It’s not just leads. When asked what sales needs from marketing, participants clearly indicated a need for something beyond just “more leads” – the response we would have expected not so long ago. In fact, the top three requests are: better leads, programs that salespeople can launch themselves, and programs to accelerate their pipeline. In other words, “Provide me a campaign-in-a-box with awesome thought leadership to get me in the door” or “Help me speed up the sales cycle with pipeline acceleration programs.” This highlights the progress many organizations have made in sales and marketing alignment, with sales relying more on marketing for lead generation and fueling the next generation of marketing programs.

Today’s b-to-b salesperson enters into a compressed sales cycle with intense enablement requirements. Salespeople face an enormous challenge to get into the buyer’s journey earlier, yet it is obvious that this is unrealistic without marketing. With salespeople talking about how much their sales cycle has changed, marketing has an incredible opportunity. If ever there was a time for solid collaboration between sales and marketing, it is now.

About the Author

John Neeson is Managing Director and Co-Founder of SiriusDecisions. He is a well-recognized thought leader in business-to-business marketing, with more than 25 years of experience focused on marketing, product development, sales management, communications and general management. Follow John on Twitter @jneeson


4 Comments

  • Owen Ashby, 10th June 2013 at 9:43 am

    Reply

    I agree. I think what we’re seeing here is a maturation of the B2B sales engagement process and a far better understanding of the importance of the customers’ “buying cycle/process”. It’s been tough to date, shifting organisations away from the notion of a “sales cycle” but I guess this evidence shows the transition is becoming mainstream. Now then it’s a case of ensuring that the “Campaigns in a Box” are constructed around well researched and defined offers and value propositions that are consistently and accurately mapped to a known and well defined customer need that the company can address consistently and profitably better than anyone else…..I guess now that we have the attention of the sales team and less of a drive for volume “leads” we can collectively deliver a better B2B Sales & Marketing function all round..

  • Jason Wesbecher, 10th June 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Reply

    Thanks both to the ubiquity and transparency of information available, customers today possess detailed knowledge about the product under consideration before they ever speak with a salesperson. This has had the effect of creating an economy of hyper-informed, opinionated, and frugal buyers who can accomplish much of their due diligence outside of the presence of the salesperson. Any yet, the vast majority of sales teams cling at their peril to the dated sales processes and tools that have worked for them in the past…

  • Paul Everett, 4th July 2013 at 7:05 am

    Reply

    It’s really interesting to contrast this research with ITSMA’s study here: https://www.itsma.com/ezine/value-in-every-stage-of-the-purchase-process/

    “According to ITSMA’s How Buyers Consume Information Survey, 70% of customers want to talk to sales during the epiphany, awareness, and interest stages: when they’re information-grazing, when they first learn what you can do, and when they put you on the shortlist. In fact, buyers perceive value in interacting with sales at every stage of the buying process—even the early stages.”

    I don’t see the two viewpoints as mutually exclusive.

    Of course buyers are sourcing more of their own information and that’s taking away the ‘gatekeeper’ role for sales early on in the buying cycle.

    But that doesn’t mean to say buyers don’t want to meet well-informed, consultative representatives from a supplier early in the process – particularly if the meeting will add some specific value/help them work through a challenge. Some people like to research; some people like to meet.

    Many buyers want to meet sales early on – they just don’t want to be sold to.

    This is leading to an even more integrated setup for marketing and sales – it’s not only a case of marketing working the lead through to a highly qualified opportunity and then handing off to sales. It can also be a case of joint working early in the funnel – so marketing ‘own’ the contact, but can use sales (or often business development) to take some early meetings that help progress the lead.

  • Kurt Shaver, 8th July 2013 at 7:19 pm

    Reply

    I agree with all three points. One way to address this is via improved social selling skills wherein each salesperson becomes a micro-marketer. Corporate salespeople are not used to creating or even sharing content but social technology like LinkedIn and Twitter make it possible now. Smart companies are realizing that the sales teams’ social networks are the highest trust content delivery channel available to distribute the Marketing content that engages buyers early in the sales cycle.


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