"Drop your business card in our fishbowl for a chance to win an iPad"Have you seen one of those signs at a trade show recently? I can't think of any more explicit manifestation of what's so completely sideways in B2B Sales & Marketing. I mean seriously.
But let's back up. There once was a time when the T-Rex of the biz dev world was the rainmaker direct sales pro. Strutting his/her stuff with a massive rolodex and easy demeanor they knew that everyone else knew they were the force that sustained a business. And marketing....marketing was the red-headed kid brother that was tolerated, every once in a while got picked for a team of pickup ball, and was expected to offer quiet admiration most of the time. In other words marketing had the easy task of generating leads - leads which then the big dawgs would massage and either dismiss or convert to revenue.
And in that world, B2B buying processes relied on the direct sales folks. This reliance was so ingrained in the system that normally direct sales became involved in the buying process when it was less than 30% complete. So T-Rex had plenty of opportunity to thrash its tail and gnash its teeth - controlling much of the dynamic of the B2B purchase because ultimately they controlled the required information on solutions.
Meteor strike or the internet?But along the way T-Rex became extinct. Everyone realizes that except for those direct sales folks who still think they are the T-Rexes of the business world...and some traditional business owners who haven't looked up from running their companies.
Today direct sales is an afterthought. The coveted information which they used to control is now available anytime, anywhere. Buyers no longer need them, and therefore (surprise here for anyone?) they'd rather not deal with them. The typical B2B purchasing process now doesn't involve direct sales until it is more than 70% complete. The folks at Square2Marketing have distilled this evolution down into a simple graphic.
The glory days of direct sales are over.
So how do we sell now?Obviously this evolution begs this critical question. If you can't send your warriors forth to battle for sales (now they may be negotiating terms of transactions based on decisions made before they were even aware of the project) then you must sell using other methods.
The answer lies in how buyers buy...and it's all about the web. 92% of all B2B purchases begin with an internet search. It stands to reason, therefore, that the fundamental objective of your marketing must be to present as compelling a presence as possible when folks search for solutions which you can provide.
But more than that, you must replicate the direct sales engagement virtually. Your on-line presence must fulfill all the functions your direct sales T-Rex did in the past. Building credibility, forming bonds of trust, educating prospects on your solutions, distinguishing your offering from competitors', supporting justification analysis and preempting concerns and hesitation must all now be largely achieved through a virtual dialog with prospects.
There's an app for that!The good news is that you someone's already thought through this for you. Inbound marketing is the solution that you haven't hear of but have been desperately seeking.
The premise of inbound marketing is simple. Market and sell to folks they way they want to buy. The execution (at least if you are interested in doing it right for maximum effect) is complex - not because of any particularly complex element but because success takes an artfully integrated effort across a multitude of tools, disciplines and channels.
The easy, hard and 'I'm not sure you're up for it' stepsDeciding to change is easy. And when your banker or accountant keeps banging on you about slowing growth you'll be thrilled to have an answer.
Implementing the change is much harder. Again, not because any piece is terribly complicated, but because there are many moving pieces and lots of work to be done.
But the real impediment? The one I'm not sure you can overcome? Your departmental structure and mindset are so ossified into Sales and Marketing silos that I am not convinced you can change. But now that marketing must do most of the selling and controls 70% of the buying process, you don't have a choice.
Are you up to it?
Learn more about the evolving roles of Sales and Marketing.
About the Author: Ed Marsh is co-founder of Consilium Global Business Advisors, an international marketing consulting agency focused on developing strategic global business development and channel programs.