We just published a new eBook entitled “B2B Selling in the Age of the Customer.” I wrote this eBook as an in-depth answer to a lot of questions I hear about where we are going in B2B Sales in 2014 and beyond. In short, we are in the midst of a sea of changes in Sales across all markets. It’s no longer about brands and products. We’ve handed the reins of the entire sales process over to the customer, and Sales and Marketing teams must adapt or perish. Here are some of the key facts and findings in the eBook.
You hear this a lot in the social media forums, groups and hangouts, but it’s not just hearsay. In B2C, it’s pretty obvious the entire buy cycle is online these days, but in B2B, the Internet and mobile are also driving a rapidly increasing proportion of sales. In a recent study by the Corporate Executive Board Company (CEB) and Google, a key finding was that nearly 60 percent of the B2B buying process is complete before any sales rep is contacted. According to Ian Michaels, “It is estimated that about 90 percent of prospects never respond to a cold call or email. We are no longer in an age of information scarcity, we are in an age of information abundance.”
Buyers today use the Internet to research solutions to their problems and needs and are well into the sales funnel before reaching out to specific vendors. If you aren’t at the top of their list at the end of this “research phase,” you don’t have a prayer. That’s what inbound and content marketing are all about—getting you in front of buyers before the first sales call is ever made.
Once you get that contact request, somewhere in the middle of the sales funnel (or lower), you had better be on your “A” game in the first few minutes of the first sales call. This means breaking the mold of traditional consultative sales and providing real insights that capture the attention of your prospect and add value.
Remember, they have already done their homework on you, including checking out your website, searching your brand and products in Google and looking for online reviews. Chances are, the next vendor on your buyer’s list is scheduled for a call immediately before or after yours, so you can’t afford to regurgitate the same old “here’s who we are and what we do” stuff. Instead, leverage your lead intelligence, gathered through inbound marketing and your own online research, to offer some new ideas that specifically address their short-term and long-term problems.
The new sales rep must be informed and insightful before the first call. Getting a little background from a LinkedIn profile isn’t enough though. You need to know exactly how and when your prospect has engaged with your brand in order to reach them with the right message at the right time.
Isn’t that Marketing’s job? In fact, it’s hard to draw the line between Sales and Marketing roles in the new customer-centric marketplace and compressed sales funnel. Because buyers are so well informed and close to a decision when you finally receive a contact request or you see an opportunity develop from buyer behavior, there’s no time for internal sales and marketing meetings prior to first contact. By the time Marketing throws the prospect over the wall to Sales, it’s too late.
Sales and Marketing need to operate together in real-time. They must share information and immediate notification when buyers are ready. Sales reps must know what the Marketing Team knows, and vice versa. We’re not talking about Sales and Marketing alignment here, we’re talking about merging them into a coherent unit.
I know, I’m throwing out some ideas that challenge traditional Sales and Marketing processes here, but I have a lot more data and ideas from some of the best known thought leaders in B2B Selling in the eBook. I hope you will download and read the eBook, then return here or in your favorite social media forum to discuss these ideas with me. I apologize in advance if it’s a little long for your average eBook, but there’s a lot of ground to cover. I hope you enjoy “B2B Selling in the Age of the Customer.”
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