Much has been written about the evolution of the self-directed B2B buyer. The migration of B2C buying behaviors into the B2B world changed sales forever. At SBI, we have seen four eras emerge. It is important you know which era your buyers are in so you can respond correctly. Let’s explore the four.
Era 0 – Buyer Behavior Change (2009–2010)
Buyers started discovering information on their problems and potential solutions independently. They began to de-value the relationship with the salesperson. Sales teams did not yet recognize the change in buyer behavior and did not adjust their approach.
Era 1 – Frantic Experimentation (2010–2011)
Sales forces responded to the changes in buyer behavior with various tactics. Companies started to experiment with things such as inbound marketing and marketing automation. New, gimmicky sales methodologies hit the street, such as The Challenger Sale and Social Selling. Lots and lots of activity occurred but with little results.
Era 2 — Sales Strategies (2012–2013)
Documented sales strategies were more the norm. Executives learned the difference between tactics and strategy. Yet many sales and marketing leaders did not understand how to be a strategist. They grew up in a time where they could make the number on effort and charisma. This learning curve whipped out many well-intentioned leaders. For example, the sales leader began to realize he/she needed to integrate the sales strategy with the marketing strategy but did not know how. The marketing leader needed to integrate the marketing strategy with the product strategy but had never been trained how to do this. CEOs realized that despite having functional strategies, the revenue growth problem remained unsolved.
Era 3 — Strategic Alignment (2014–Present)
Strategies designed in isolation don’t grow revenues. The alignment between revenue-facing functions is called Strategic Alignment. You know you are strategically aligned when product, marketing, sales, and talent strategies are connected. This is strategic alignment in a nutshell. You are internally aligned functionally and externally aligned with the market. Revenue growth is no longer a sales goal. All the functions understand their roles, and they play them in a coordinated fashion.
How it Feels to Make Your Number
It has never been more important for the product team, marketing department, and the sales organization to work together, but it’s easier said than done. Turn to page 46 to learn the prescription for developing your 2016 sales strategy, with critical inputs from product management and marketing.