Marketing Displaces Sales!

Customers are self educating, they don’t want to see sales people until they have completed the majority of their buying process! We all know this–much to the chagrin of sales.

Companies are responding, as they should with great content strategies. Marketing is providing rich content and relevant information for customers and prospects. Great organizations are leveraging social channels, complementing the content, responding to the continued customer need for information and education — the way they prefer to be informed and educated. Marketing becomes the primary channel to the customer for much of their buying process.

So we get confused, what’s the role of marketing, what’s the role of sales? Many of us still have the headset that marketing creates awareness, drives demand and leads, which sales qualifies and ultimately closes. It’s the classic vision of the marketing funnel feeding the sales funnel.

But the customer is really screwing things up. They don’t want to cooperate. They want to be engaged in a different way. They want meaningful information and content, without the annoying sales pitches and “buy my product” that accompany it. The customer doesn’t care who’s providing the information. Whether it’s marketing or sales is absolutely irrelevant to them!

As a result, marketing must stay engaged longer than our old models would tell us, taking a stronger role in the sales process.

What’s this mean for sales, a shorter, more compact funnel—go in give a proposal when the customer calls, try and close them? I’ve likened that to responding to the RFP that you didn’t write (or had little involvement in).

Actually, the implications are very different, and much more powerful!

Our traditional marketing and sales pipeline’s have to be thrown away–they’re legacies of the past, and anchors. We need to develop a new pipeline, a new process. The marketing and selling processes are deeply intertwined, with marketing leading some activities, sales leading others.

Challenger has brought an interesting possibility, perhaps a revelation—maybe sales initiates the process. Where marketing first created awareness, maybe in a targeted sense, that becomes a sales responsibility. Now, sales is charged with identifying and targeting appropriate customers, engaging them with provocative discussions about their future. Planting the seeds of change, inciting the customer to consider new possibilities. Then, perhaps marketing takes over, providing insightful and relevant content, to move the customer further through their learning curve, then sales steps in–translating the general concepts to specific impact to the customer. Marketing may then step in providing case studies, justification models, references and others, followed by sales with specific business cases, proposals and more.

In the new model, it’s not inconceivable, that marketing may even get the order!

The cycle has changed–driven by the way the customer wants to buy! Continuing to force fit our old models onto the way the customer wants to be engaged is a recipe for failure or at least protracted expensive sales cycles.

We have to change our marketing and sales processes into a single process. We need to redefine the engagement model, roles, and responsibilities through the entire process. Sales will need to get engaged much earlier than in the “old days,” marketing will need to stay engaged longer than they had in the past.

We have to be nimble in handing things off, between functions (but technology is an amazing help to this process), we need to be much more collaborative in the manner in which we work together. We need to be aligned in our priorities, goals, and metrics–not necessarily the same, but aligned and complementary.

This also puts pressure on sales and marketing alike to develop new skills–not redundant skills, but new skills. We have to know more about what each other does, and how everything fits together, creating the ideal customer buying experience.

Too often, in the past, marketing and sales haven’t played well together. But if we are successful, we have to learn that we are on the same team, working for the same goal, driving revenue generation. Rather than talking about collaboration, we need to practice real collaboration.

Are you realigning your marketing and sales processes to reflect the way customers want to be engaged?

Are you redefining roles, responsibilities, metrics?

Are you identifying the new skills that marketing and sales need to have, training, developing, and coaching people in those new skills?

Are you truly working together and collaborating, or still just giving it lip service?

Are you celebrating your joint success or individual successes?

The customer doesn’t care whether it’s sales or marketing, so why should we?

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