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 B2B 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 B2B 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:
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.
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.
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 B2B 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.