What Will Sales and Marketing Look Like in 2021?

Sales and marketing have certainly been at the forefront of business disruption this year, largely due to the steep turn in consumer habits. Yet despite this change, alignment between the two departments is, as always, vital to understanding customer needs, and creating a message that cuts-through.

However, this alignment has been threatened by the physical distance that’s been wedged in between the two departments. And as a result, many have had to change their operations in order to retain the same levels of communication.

A big part of making this change successful, as we’ve seen from our own research, is data, which has helped retain the strong purview of the customer, as well as influencing sales and marketing trends for 2021.

The pandemic and data consumption

Being able to position sales and marketing around a single source of complete data has always been a challenge for businesses. If foundational data is patchy or sales and marketing are working from different sources of data, the view of the customer can become easily distorted.

The pressure of the pandemic has highlighted the importance of precise customer targeting, and in turn sales and marketing have had no choice but to get their house in order. For companies who have experienced a decline in business, this year has been the opportune time to align and clean their foundational data.

Many now understand that technology is useless if it doesn’t have accurate customer information to work from. Therefore, going forward we’re likely to see more sales and marketing teams striving for clean, accurate, and aligned data.

Integrating martech and data sources

Marketing technology can promise a lot, but many have found that once implemented, it doesn’t generate the ROI they need it to.

One of the main reasons for this is a lack of data flow due to poor integration. As part of creating sales and marketing alignment during the pandemic, teams have had to dedicate time to integrating technology and data sources – ensuring each tool talks to one another. This helps to ground teams around the same data, rather than working from separate and differing insights.

This is vital because if marketing has created a pipeline of prospects but sales isn’t contacting them, for example; the result will be wasted resource. This isn’t ideal when 70% of senior marketers we surveyed said they’ve have had their budgets reduced this year.

As next year progresses, and teams continue to operate on skeletal budgets, ensuring tech and data is fully integrated will still be important to remaining efficient.

Digital transformation and the customer journey

Much of the customer journey is completed before a consumer directly approaches a business with their requests. As competition has become tighter due to the current harsh economy, more sales and marketing teams are beginning to use data to understand what happens before a customer gets in touch.

By obtaining data that plots the course of the customer journey, sales and marketing have found it easier to align their activities with each stage of the process. For example, if the data shows they’re at the research stage of the process, it may indicate the customer is looking for product information. If the marketing team know this they can send the right information, which means they’re more likely to generate a lead. Some 78% of CMOs we surveyed say their sales teams have become more reliant on marketing activity and collateral since the pandemic broke out.

Going forward we’re likely to see businesses increasingly adopt strategies that prioritise close targeting, such as account-based marketing.

B2B with a B2C service

Customers’ desire for on-demand services will continue to grow, and marketing and sales teams will need to adapt their operations for this. The dependency on online services during lockdown have only accelerated online spending, and in doing so, increased the appetite for quick and efficient services.

B2B organisations will have to work particularly hard to catch up with the quick sales and marketing platforms being used in the consumer world. Many customers want to be able to complete their purchase on screen without having to talk to a sales representative, and they want their questions answered in real-time.

For this to happen, businesses will have to continue finding faster ways to integrate customer information and requests into their database. By having this data at their fingertips almost instantly, sales and marketing will be able have fast response rates and improve communication.

Data at the heart of everything

In the past, data collection had a reputation for being complex and time-consuming. This was usually due to the issues thrown up by the lack of integration and foundational data. It’s these challenges that have prevented sales and marketing from being as close as they could be.

However, I think the pandemic has evoked a sense of awareness around the benefits of data that many teams weren’t able to see before. And now sales and marketing have developed this new outlook, I hope they use it to first master their data, and then scale.

In 2021, expect businesses to use data more to scrutinise their processes, and as a result better understand the customer in their sales and marketing.