This is the first piece in a series of six articles that will guide your own sales and marketing transformation. This article explains the market trends and changing customer demands that contribute to the need for transformation, and shares five solutions to consider adopting in your own business. Stay tuned for five future pieces that will help steer your transformation journey.
Why do businesses need to change the way they market and sell?
People have changed the way they choose what to buy
Consumers are becoming much more comfortable conducting research and buying online. Studies show that most today’s buyers making large/complex buying decisions are 60-80% of the way through their decision-making process before they engage a sales person. This means that businesses that start their sales process at the first engagement with a customer are late to influence decision-making and are rarely able to run their full “preferred” sales process.
Customers have high expectations for seamless, personalised experiences on any channel
In response to customers’ growing preference to engage online, businesses are increasing their use of webchat, video chat and social media. More importantly, digital engagement across these channels is exploding in B2C sales channels, which is setting a new benchmark for customer expectations in every channel, including B2B. Now, regardless of the channel, customers expect simple, consistent and personalised engagement. This is a big shift for traditional sales teams and presents a challenge as each digital channel requires a unique and nuanced approach.
Customers demand a strong reputation and online presence
Consumers are comfortable researching and communicating online, so it is no surprise they have become confident purchasing online. This was once only the case for simple purchases (e.g. low-cost items, repeat purchases), however the trend is shifting to complex purchases. Let’s take Slack as an example. Businesses used to require multiple demonstrations and negotiations before choosing an enterprise communication platform. Now they can rely on market reputation, online reviews, freemium versions and free trials to make an informed decision before signing up online. No interactions with a sales team are required whatsoever.
Businesses wanting to grow must prepare to rewrite their sales and marketing approach
There are two options for businesses to continue to grow after they have captured most customers within a particular industry or segment.
Explore new industries or customer segments while remaining in the same market.
Expand into new markets (i.e. overseas) and continue selling to the same industries or customer segments.
The second is often a preferred option as it is generally considered less risk and more efficient. However, it does require an overhaul of the sales and marketing approach. There can be significant differences in customer behaviours and preferences between markets – even when dealing with identical industries and segments. Growing businesses are also finding themselves revisiting the scalability of their direct sales models as they expand or enter new markets; will adopting or growing face-to-face sales teams deliver greater scalability than digitally enabled inside sales teams?
There are a number of solutions to consider
Key options available to businesses adapting their sales and marketing approaches in response to the changing landscape include:
adopting digital tools to gain clear visibility of customers’ early engagement with digital content and websites, their advertising click behaviour, engagement on social media, etc.
drawing on insights gained through digital tools to shape and influence engagement with customers early in their decision-making process
ensuring the sales team is equiped to respond, engage and sell through whichever channel the customer initiates
breaking down siloes between sales and marketing so these functions work cohesively to develop a strong online presence and reputation
investing in local sales and marketing capabilities for each new market entered, while fully leveraging existing sales resources in other geographic regions
There’s big upside after you’ve pulled off your transformation
Happier, more loyal and engaged customers
A transformation should aim to deliver better experiences for customers in the near future. Importantly, it should also set up mechanisms to collect data that can be used to better understand customers. This allows businesses to continue to improve the experiences they deliver for customers as they learn more about them. A benefit of delivering great customer experiences is customer loyalty, referrals, improved brand reputation and greater customer motivation to buy more or more regularly. These benefits culminate in an increase in revenue**.**
The right tools for the right problems
In the first stage of a transformation it is important to critically consider the details. Businesses need a deep understanding of the real problems that are holding them back, and the root cause of these problems. This understanding is crucial to the success of a transformation and to avoid spending unnecessary time, cost and effort on tools for problems that do not exist.
Optimised sales and marketing efforts
The role and function of sales and marketing teams change will significantly post-transformation. In most cases, sales and marketing functions are reorganised so they can seamlessly work together. In addition, the adoption of advanced technology will mean these functions complete their tasks more efficiently, or that they do not need to perform them at all due to automation.
Digital tools track consumer behaviour data and ascertain how close a customer is to making a purchase. Digital automation tools allow businesses to predetermine how they want to engage with a customer and align the distribution of sales and marketing materials with the completion of certain actions by potential buyers.
The economies of scale and technology delivered by a transformation will release capacity within sales and marketing teams. Businesses can use the improved data intelligence to determine where to focus their sales and marketing efforts to optimise customer engagement.
Internal capability to support continuous improvement
Employees must be involved throughout a transformation to ensure it is viable for employees to deliver the expected results. Employee involvement also promotes buy-in and encourages employees to adopt and utilise the new technology, processes and behaviours that are introduced. However, the most important outcome of engaging employees is to ensure that they develop the capabilities required to support future transformations.
Businesses need to continuously evolve to keep at pace with changes in technology and customer expectations. Introducing employees to the transformation process will develop their knowledge, skills and ability to adapt to change, and even drive future change initiatives.
So where do you start – sales or marketing?
Speaking from experience, one cannot come before the other; sales and marketing transformations are best delivered collaboratively. Sales and marketing must work cohesively for a business to perform at its best. It’s also important that customers receive a consistently high experience during every interaction. If only one part of the organisation is enhanced, the full benefits of a transformation cannot be realised.
No transformation is completely linear, and many often fail to deliver what they set out to achieve. Our collective experiences have afforded us with a comprehensive understanding of how to set up and progress through a transformation to avoid common, painful mistakes, as well as how to quickly correct when a transformation does not go to plan.
We have compiled our transformation learnings in series of six articles that will guide your own transformation.
Contact us for more information on how we can support your sales and marketing transformation.
Our next piece is on understanding the current state of your business, where you want it to be, and the size of the gap between these two factors.