The B2B Road Is Long & Winding: Sales & Marketing Must Be Equipped

"How has B2B sales and marketing changed?"  – that was my first of many questions during a dinner debate I hosted at the Hoxton Holborn in London, England this week.

In a room full of journalists, influencers, customers and fellow colleagues, we traversed the tricky road of data, the tactics of sales and marketing teams and how well aligned they are. Who knew two and a half hours would barely be enough to scratch the surface?

To my first question, B2B sales and marketing professionals have shifted from a ‘spray and pray’ approach to a much more targeted system. They’ve had to! It’s no longer enough nowadays to simply cold call and hope for the best. As we head towards targeting demand units, you need the right data and analytics to help you achieve your business goals. But it’s how companies identify these demand units within their prioritised accounts to target their sales and marketing efforts which will no doubt be one of the biggest challenges.

It’s a very competitive world out there, and actually, there’s quite a small pool to target. Speaking to that prospect before your competitor and making sure you’re offering something relevant is the way to differentiate yourself and make that sale. Needless to say, you need a strong product too.

“And what of the buyer; how have they changed?” The truth is, they expect so much more nowadays. They still want to be approached, but in the right way. The expectation in today’s buyer and seller’s market is that the sales and marketing professionals have all the correct insights about a prospect before even picking up the phone or sending an email. There’s little doubt that enough companies have this best practice system in place…

And companies can’t just afford to make the sale and leave. You need strong alignment between product, sales, customer support and marketing, if you’re to make the most of a prospect or customer. Start with the product, sort your messaging, refine your targeting, surface that information (using programmatic, digital or other means) to the right systems and people who can personalise the experience in an integrated way, reach out to a lead and make the deal, support that lead post-sale and then start the ecosystem again.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” – and making sure that first step in your sales and marketing chain is vital. It really all comes down to what data you have and how you use it.

Organisations shouldn’t be using a ‘data later’ approach. Data should be an enabler not a barrier, the lifeblood of any organisation serious about accelerating their sales and marketing activities and growing. We’re seeing companies starting to use data to their full advantage – but there’s a long way to go, and we’re very much in a transitional period.

Never underestimate relationships either. It’s so easy to look past the importance of building a rapport with a customer or a prospect in a data-first, data-led, data-rich world. You can have all the real-time information on a lead, but actually, is your sales professional the right person to seal the deal? Do they have the right approach? Do they have the right blend of information on the prospect and personality? Sales and marketing is not a simple process; it’s a complex machine of moving parts that must work in tandem.

The businesses that are agile – the ones that are thinking, learning, testing and failing – are the ones that are succeeding and will succeed. And as one of the final statements made at the dinner, this cultural approach “starts from the CEO and must trickle down.