April 19, 2021
By Shawn Smajstrla, Content Strategist
Life during the COVID-19 pandemic was marked by separation and isolation. Shutdowns, stay-at-home orders, and social distancing kept us from family, friends, and workplaces. Personal interactions were replaced with digital, online versions. In essence, we spent time in silos.
Of course, it wasn’t just our personal lives impacted. These physical separations also altered the way we conduct business. B2B buyers were forced to lean on digital channels. This shift from tradition helped magnify the need for organizations to break down existing silos that have long limited their opportunities for growth. Perhaps there’s no better example than the silos that separate sales and marketing teams.
The pandemic alone did not spark this conviction toward interdepartmental alignment. It’s a trend that was already being heralded in many circles as best practice, though not as commonly incorporated into actual execution. But with the B2B buying journey forever digitized, rhetoric about sales and marketing unity can no longer be reduced to theory or idealism. To thrive in the post-pandemic environment, sales teams must depend on their marketing counterparts to develop and provide cohesive online experiences for buyers. And for that, the teams cannot exist in separation and isolation. Alignment is essential.
Through the early months of the pandemic, we were forced to guess and predict the long-term impacts. Now more than a year into it, some of those impacts are coming into focus. McKinsey conducted research that unearthed some remarkable insights:
This new decision-maker behavior doesn’t sync with traditional sales and marketing silos. Importantly, McKinsey also noted the preference for digital and self-serve engagement intensified after lockdowns had ended, contradicting a common notion that things would simply revert to how they were before.
In fact, only about one in five B2B buyers said they hoped to return to in-person sales, including in verticals traditionally dominated by field sales models (think pharma and medical). The subhead on McKinsey’s report summarized it well: “New analysis makes it clear: For B2B sales, digital is the wave of the future.”
To succeed in this future (which realistically is the present), your sales teams must be digitally enabled, and they can turn to marketing for support. B2B sales enablement is a major component of sales and marketing alignment, but true unity extends beyond just an online twist to collateral. The departments ultimately share business goals, so they also need shared metrics that directly tie to those goals.
According to the traditional, linear buying journey, marketing teams generate leads and hand them off to sales. Within this conventional structure, marketers often measure success by engagement, such as open and click-through rates – vanity metrics that provide little tangible value to sales teams.
Meanwhile, members of the sales teams are typically judged by a singular metric – signed deals. Therefore, vanity metrics fail to move the needle for them. They need marketing to provide leads. Not just cold leads, but qualified leads with authentic potential value.
But today’s buyers, who increasingly prefer digital and self-education, don’t often take a linear path to purchase. Thus, the status of a prospect or lead isn’t always so black and white. It’s in this grey area your sales and marketing teams must collaborate to align both goals and efforts – to define what qualifies a lead and who is responsible for nurturing these leads along their buying journey, and to define metrics that move the entire business forward, not just one department.
This need for clarity and alignment also means you should demand more from your marketing agency. Functional alignment of B2B sales enablement and marketing teams requires a technical infrastructure that supports the efforts. It’s one thing to say the teams will work together, but another to build the structure in which it can happen. Database architecture and management become as important as web design and content creation. Your business should be able to lean on your marketing agency to help frame this departmental alignment in a way that directly impacts lead and sales growth.
Read More: 5 Ways Content Can Aid the B2B Sales Process
As our post-pandemic environments start to take shape, data confirms that both buyers and sellers realize digital selling is not only here to stay but is the preferred way to move forward. As such, fundamental changes to how sales and marketing teams collaborate must take place.
It may not be easy to replace internal structures and habits that decades of experience have built, but charm, steak dinners, and handshakes are giving way to personalized content and tailored solutions. Sales teams must meet buyers where they are today, and marketing teams must support B2B sales enablement in their abilities to do that.
Business icon Henry Ford may not have foreseen this particular challenge coming, but one of his famous sayings could apply all the same: “Coming together is a beginning. Staying together is progress, and working together is success.”
McKinsey, These eight charts show how COVID-19 has changed B2B sales forever, October 2020.
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