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Death of the Salesman: Why Customer Insights from Sales Must Drive Marketing

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ShoreTel CMO Mark Roberts

An estimated 1 million U.S. B2B salespeople will lose their jobs by the year 2020 due to self-service eCommerce says Forrester Research. So will salespeople become obsolete in the near future? Not even.

Internet and search technologies have disrupted the sales process, the thinking goes, and research points to an astonishing conclusion: Anywhere from 40 to 70 percent of a business transaction is completed before a salesperson even speaks to a customer.

But I think this is misleading. Consider: 61 percent of B2B marketers say they send all leads directly to sales, yet just 27 percent of those leads are qualified, according to a study by MarketingSherpa. That’s not a particularly impressive percentage, and it implies a significant missed opportunity.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, today’s Marketing and Sales teams suffer from a disconnect. When Marketing relies on third-party research and metrics rather than critical customer insights from sales, the effectiveness of its campaigns will almost certainly be reduced.

On top of that, today’s relentless focus on inbound marketing presents real problems. The pressure to create increasing amounts of content to serve customers at every stage of the buying journey, for example, has led to an emphasis on quantity over quality.

It’s no surprise, then, that the two biggest challenges B2B marketers face in developing content are producing enough of it, and making sure it all engages the right audience. While this type of “inbound marketing” definitely drives traffic, more content doesn’t necessarily drive quality leads into the pipeline.

Perhaps one of the biggest disservices we’ve done to the Sales/Marketing relationship is to draw a distinction between “inbound” and “outbound” campaigns. HubSpot defines inbound marketing as “a methodology that focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product.” As such, it’s seen as the main driver for filling the top of the sales funnel.

That’s all well and good, but it’s impossible to create effective and engaging inbound marketing without first talking directly to the prospect. Potential buyers need content that solves their real-world problems. That is what will drive them forward on their buying journey.

Salespeople are uniquely positioned to gather the information marketers need to build effective inbound programs. They can do this by talking to potential customers directly, whether it be through traditional outbound tactics like cold calling, working the phones among current contacts or talking face to face. The sales process has changed – it’s no longer linear. Instead, it’s a continuous feedback loop.

By capturing customer pain points directly, and regularly sharing what they’ve learned with their Marketing colleagues, salespeople can help define appropriate and engaging content for each stage of the buying process.

Put simply, Sales and Marketing need to be aligned and campaign efforts more closely integrated. For inbound marketing to be both effective and efficient, Sales and Marketing must collaborate at every stage.

In fact, organizations with shared marketing and sales responsibilities experience clear improvements in their lead acquisition costs, HubSpot reports. It found that companies with more than 200 employees who adopt a marketing-sales agreement save an average of $195.84 total cost per customer.

This is all fine in theory, but how does it happen practically? In my next post, I’ll look at some of the ways Sales and Marketing can collaborate and share information in ways they may not have been able to before.

In the meantime, please share your opinions on this topic. I’d love to hear them. Follow me on Twitter - @MarkRobertsCMO