It is reported by CEB Marketing Leadership Council that B2B customers are nearly 60% through the sales process before engaging with a salesperson and that 57% of the sales process has disappeared. What does this mean to the relationship between sales and marketing and most importantly, the customer buying process?

Without a doubt, in a world where information is readily at our fingertips and the first impulse is to “Google” anything, it’s easy to see how the customer buying process has changed. Consumers are spoilt with a wealth of product information, reviews, ratings and recommendations. This means that where once consumers would have to speak to a sales person relatively early on in their buying process, nowadays, they can gather far more intelligence and work their way through much of their decision making process without the need to engage with a sales person at all.

So what does this mean?

Firstly, the relationship between marketing and sales is more important than ever. We all know that at times this can be a love/hate relationship but communication, collaboration and co-operation are more important now than ever before. The marketing function needs to develop a full understanding of what the customer is looking for and to achieve that the marketing team needs to not only engage with the customer but also with the sales team. Furthermore, the entire customer journey must be seamless, and for that to happen, there needs to be synergy between marketing and sales. Whether it’s identifying the right keywords for SEO, writing compelling and engaging content, answering the phone to a sales enquiry, keeping in touch with regular social and email marketing, meeting the customer, or providing a quote and pricing, the tone, message and value proposition of the company needs to be inherently and consistently communicated throughout.

Marketing information needs to be easy to understand

Where there is a disconnect between sales and marketing, it’s often because the sales team say that the marketing team isn’t living in the real world. They need to meet customers, fully understand their needs, talk in their language and provide marketing materials that answer their queries and concerns. I echo this wholeheartedly. Customers have a problem, desire, challenge or need and in their quest to fulfil that, they need to be presented with marketing information that they can easily digest, understand and relate to. There’s no point bamboozling your target customers with jargon and technical speak. You’ll simply lose them at the first encounter.

Customer journey mapping is getting harder

It’s here that a well-mapped customer journey and customer personas come into play. Detailed customer insight and understanding how and when your business engages with the consumer, is absolutely critical to moving them through the customer buying process and ensuring you convert leads into customers – and retain them!

Mapping the customer journey is important whilst at the same time gets harder and harder as consumers are expecting marketing engagement to be more and more personalised. It is no longer acceptable for consumers to receive mass-market email marketing and generalised content. Moreover, consumers expect each time they receive marketing communications from a company that they have already engaged with to up the stakes and be targeted specifically to what they want, need or have been researching.

The rise of data-driven personalisation

There’s a growing school of thought that believes that cookie-cutter personas just do not cut the mustard and that personas have moved on to data-driven personalisation. This means that we have moved away from grouping customers into our own persona groups and towards enabling our customers to group themselves by explicit, self-profiled, opt-in preferences. Whilst this presents a whole host of challenges to the marketing function, you can also see the benefits it will bring in better engaging with and moving these consumers through the customer journey.

Companywide buy-in to the customer journey is essential. A typical customer journey touches on almost every department within a business and so it goes without saying that each department should contribute to and influence what that aspect of the customer journey looks like. Granted the journey needs to be owned by marketing with guidance on tone of voice, key messages and KPIs for each customer touchpoint.

What’s the final desired outcome?

Taking this right back to the figures quoted at the beginning of the post, with consumers taking themselves further and further through the decision-making process without ever engaging with a sales person, the marketing function within the business needs to think more and more like a sales person. Each customer touch point within the customer journey needs to be well planned, executed and measured, with a growing demand for a more personalised experience. Finally, people buy from people, so not matter how far a prospect gets through the customer buying process without engaging with a sales person, eventually and more often than, they will do. So when that time comes, the sales person needs to be poised and ready to close that deal!

Is your sales and marketing strategy out of touch with the real world? Contact Jo to discuss how you can understand your customer buying process and propel your company to new heights.

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