Are you ready for 2015? If you are a sales or marketing professional, it’s time to buckle your seatbelts. The moment that we’ve been waiting for in our industry for many years is about the happen: Smarketing is going mainstream.
For any company (especially startups!) thinking about how to grow revenues in 2015, sales and marketing are undoubtedly two of the top concerns. How will we generate leads? How will we sell to those leads in order to reach our growth goals? But most importantly, how will leads generated by marketing lead to sales-ready interactions for that the sales team can leverage?
In 2015, companies will have to address these two areas as one function within the organization. That is, the function of generating new business. While blending sales and marketing has begun to happen over the past few years, thanks to inbound marketing and a shift in the customer buying process, many companies are not leveraging smarketing (sales+marketing=true love) to the degree that they should.
The companies that will win in the New Year will fully embrace smarketing, managing sales and marketing as one cohesive unit.
To understand what the most effective smarketing tactics will be in 2015, we must first take a look at what has caused this shift away from the traditionally-siloed structure.
The blending of sales and marketing has come about because of the shift in informational power from sales reps and advertisements to the customer. Inbound marketing provides customers with the information that they are seeking before they desire to speak with a sales rep.
This is why the Harvard Business Review announced in 2012 that solution selling was over. Their study of B2B buyers found that, on average, customers completed 60% of the buying process before they even initiated a conversation with a potential vendor. Since the customer prefers self-directed research to sales conversations early in the buying journey, content marketing materials like informational eBooks, guides and white papers have become important selling tools. Marketing automation and social media help to nurture this relationship with the buyer in order to increase sales-readiness.
Why Old School Tactics are *Officially* Out
It used to be that company sales reps had access to the information that their customers needed to make buying decisions. Customers knew they had a problem, but weren’t sure how to solve it. Thanks to the rise of the Internet, however, customers can instantly price shop, find product specs, read reviews, or communicate with others who have purchased the product or service in order to see what they think. Almost any question about the way a product works can be answered online.
This widespread availability of information means that it is almost impossible for sales reps to use the same tactics that worked in the past to win business from customers. In his book, Sales Shift: How Inbound Marketing Has Turned Sales Upside Down Making it More Difficult and More Lucrative at the Same Time, Frank Belzer discusses this in detail. Belzer explains that while companies are generating record numbers of inbound leads due to a successful inbound marketing program, sales and revenue are not experiencing the same increase. The reason for this is a misalignment in tactics between sales and marketing. Old-school tactics like pitch presentations and product-centric selling conflict with the existing relationships created and nurtured by marketing. When sales and marketing are not in alignment, the relationship with buyers in at risk due to inconsistency in communication. Inconsistency jeopardizes trust. Trust is critical to sales.
How Smarketers Will Succeed in 2015
In order for organizations to successfully generate revenue in this new era, sales and marketing must operate in alignment, as one.
#1: Create a focus on the buyer.
Smarketing professionals need to have a strong understanding of their buyers so that they can legitimately help them. Forrester refers to this understanding as buyer empathy. In his keynote speech at HubSpot’s Inbound 2014, HubSpot co-founder and CEO Brian Halligan describes this change in the field of sales when he talks about the type of sales reps he now looks to hire as being “transparent [reps that] lean into the new realities of the buyer,” by providing them with a valuable solution, instead of simply relying on relationships as “back-slapping” sales reps of the past did. When both sales and marketing are relentlessly focused on helping the buyer solve its problem, an environment that lends itself towards alignment is created.
#2: Align efforts through process.
In other words, talk to each other. Work together. Sales and marketing are dependent on each other for revenue success, therefore they shouldn’t be working as it they aren’t. However, in many organizations sales and marketing fail to recognize and leverage the value of the other by working autonomously.
#3: Support success with technology.
Smarketing alignment is more than integrating your tools. However, integrating your CRM with your marketing automation creates a technological infrastructure that reflects your smarketing strategy.
Blending sales and marketing in the upcoming new year will require an understanding that sales and marketing now function as one singular entity focused on bringing in new revenue. It’s official, sales and marketing have become one.