No one wants to talk to sales anymore.

Customers say they want to spend just 5 percent of their time speaking to the person who will seal the deal.

What they want is to be educated on your solution with a seamless carousel of curated content, and if the product is a perfect fit, then, and only then, do they want their phone to ring. That means sales need to rely on marketing, a lot, to ensure those buyers complete their journey. If they disembark too soon, there goes that commission. 

Being a ‘lone wolf’ just won’t work anymore; the climate has changed. There’s too much competition, and buying groups, groups, not individuals, aren’t going to be swayed by a pitch when their entire team doesn’t know your product inside out and has eliminated all other options.

It’s called a buyers’ journey, after all, not a buyers’ jaunt.

So, put down the phone. Be patient. Jumping the gun is more likely to be fatal to the deal than sealing it in record time.

Marketing, meanwhile, needs to be more upfront with sales to ensure they’re always playing with a full hand. They’ve got all the insights, but unless they share them, they can’t be capitalised on.

Teamwork makes the deal work and shared insights help move buyers between stages.

It isn’t marketing and sales, or sales and marketing. It’s one team, working together to meet targets. And right now, with buying groups doing their own thing in increasing numbers, budgets continuing to take a battering, regulators closing loopholes, and the cookie era set to crumble there really is no room for in-house hostility or competition. It’s about doing more, with less. And about closing accounts, not claiming credit.

Align To Save Time And Better Serve B2B Buying Groups

Marketing and sales must align, on everything; work hand in glove to grow new business. Maybe even work to the same KPIs so there’s no wriggle room for individualism or glory hounds. When every job is everyone’s job they all get done and there’s no blame game.

Marketing doesn’t end with awareness and a bit of consideration and sales doesn’t start as soon as there are digits to dial. Only when both pursue the same accounts simultaneously — supporting and influencing buying groups through the stages — while sharing intel and perfecting the pipeline in real-time, is the nurture being properly nailed, and clients can be reeled in.

With planning already underway for 2024, it’s worth remembering that the SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall — the industry standard for mapping how a buyer’s journey flows through the funnel — came out before the iPhone — in 2006, so if you haven’t deviated from that blueprint yet — some 18 years-on — your chances of success are slim-to-none. It’s time to plan for the times we’re in. And the times are tough.

Timing Is Everything And Every Stage Counts in the Buyer’s Journey

One of the common mistakes still being made is leaning on leads too early in the process and expecting them to convert without passing through any of the processes purposely created to convince them to do so. It isn’t one-and-done, every account has a bus-load of buyers to convince.

And it’s here where marketing can help, by providing sales with a little nurture of their own to help them buy into the process and apply the brakes. Sales often complain that they don’t know what marketing is doing, and that’s perhaps why they bolt out of the gates sometimes. Well, show them. The stages. Specifics. Intel. Assets.

A recent LinkedIn study found enterprise deals now take 23 weeks — almost half a year to move from consideration to conversion. And they involve 23 different stakeholders. So, it doesn’t matter how good your sales pitch is. Even if you had the customer purring. It will be forgotten. And not enough people will hear it. We’re playing the long game now.

It’s a buyer’s journey, not a buyer’s jaunt.

Keep Leads Flowing By Keeping The Conversation Going

And, buyers, they’ve come to expect the personal touch. The B2C-experience. They’ve learned to do it all themselves, so if they’re going to continue opting-in to your offerings, you better make them feel special. That also means, giving them what they want. Where and when they want it.

And if you’ve met, or interacted, with them before, pick up where you left off. Don’t follow up with a generic email, or piece of content like it’s a cold call. Continue the conversation and put the customer at the heart of what you’re doing. Don’t forget to link all your channels, either, each should feed the other. That way no leads get lost and no opportunity goes unoptimised.

Converting accounts is about building relationships, and that starts with getting to know potential buyers, and everyone around them. The more you know, the more you can help, and the closer your solution gets to solving their problem. Building brand awareness and engagement across as many channels and experiences as you can will help filter out competition. Everywhere they look, your solution should be calling out to them. These tactics executed together fortify the pipeline and help new business flow.

With a lot of accounts in the funnel and a lot of channels at work, it's easy to lose track, and that’s where teamwork is so important. Sales and marketing need to meet regularly to ensure no one is slipping through the net and the best assets are in play.

Get In The Goldilocks Zone By Always Sharing Intel

At Pipeline360, this happens every week. Someone from sales, marketing and marketing operations goes over the target accounts to see what has come in, what’s moving, what’s working and what’s not. Each person is able to widen the perception and understanding for the other, and un-silo data, so you don’t miss that multiple people from a buying group are contacting you — but via different methodologies. Gaining that bird’s eye view of the funnel, will unlock the full-potential of the pipeline. It’s a 20-minute investment that will really pay off.

Getting buying groups in the Goldilocks zone requires teamwork. Knowing who is simply educating themselves, and who is in market, is just the start. It isn’t about the number of leads, it’s about activity within an account and account density. It’s ensuring as many members are on board as possible before you set off. Don’t think about making a beeline for the Queen Bee, think of the hive. You need to win the crowd to close.

Better and deeper data seals deals. It might start with a single person, but buying groups make decisions, so you need to build up a profile of everyone involved; their needs and wants and what role they’ll play in making the call. Each asset, each event, is a learning opportunity to help fill out that picture. The answer to what content to serve next may just be in the question someone asked at a webinar.

While the process used to see marketing effectively hand-over to sales, like a relay race, it’s now more like a game of football. The goal is to get to the other end of the pitch — conversion-town — and the ball — intel/account — will be passed back and forth between all the players until that happens. It’s not just booting the ball from one end to the other, hoping for the best. It’s a deal by a thousand passes.

Investigate. Learn. Co-ordinate. Target. Execute, with precision. Convert.

And when opportunities make it to Salesforce, that isn’t a reason for marketing to take a breather, nothing changes. Keep the content coming. Get the thought leadership papers into the accounts and start building up the brand with the decision-makers in the C-suite. Because, and sales, I’m sure you already know, every deal is going to the CFO. So your product is being scrutinised down to the last pound.

One Buying Journey Might End But Optimisation Never Should

While there’s pressure to show immediate results, buying groups work to their own timelines, not your deadlines. And time needs to be invested in getting the data right. On mapping content onto the nurture to ensure its most effective, ensuring each stage has a sting in its tail, and using analytics to always improve it. Marketing needs to focus on brand, and sales, on slowing down. But mostly, both need to work together to constantly improve the process.

Set mutual goals. Change the language. Set up recurring meetings to ensure nothing escapes the nurture and stick to them. Divide tasks up and make sure there are SLA’s (service level agreements) in place so no one is left waiting.

And this can, and should, start today. As you’re finalising plans and goals for 2024, get those joint meetings on the calendar — now. Start working together, and feeding back — often.

Then, this time next year, evaluate how it went. Learn from it. And do better next year.

New business won’t grow if you don’t.

Sales and marketing work better together.

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