Marketing Will Help Save the B2B Sales Rep

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b2b sales rep Sales_Marketing_InteractionsEarlier this month, we covered the SiriusDecisions Summit, a convergence of sales and marketing that introduced new research on the buying process. Whether you focus on Sales or Marketing, the renewed importance of the rep was center stage, with new research by SiriusDecisions dispelling the myth that digital buying behaviors have taken full control of the buying process.

So how does marketing fit in?

Mainstream data holds that buyers are “67% through the buying process” by the time that they come to a rep. Yet, the newest SiriusDecisions research suggests that this figure may be misleading. The team found that the rep remains the single most important factor in influencing a sale (saving the B2B sales rep). In fact, 11-17 human and non-human interactions are required to win a deal depending on the selling scenario, with the bulk of them still controlled by the rep. The implications of this finding have widespread effects on the role of marketing in the sales conversation.

If the product marketer, often times the entire marketing effort, is the 2nd most important player in driving a sale, then the Marketing team should adapt to thinking about the entire buyer’s journey – not just the digital buying behaviors. They need a detailed awareness of the set of non-human and human interactions, including the almighty sales conversation, that drives toward the sale. This means a renewed importance on getting the right messages in front of and adopted by the sales team.

Reps must be able to carry effective messaging in more scenarios than we previously estimated. Simply opening the door for the educated buyer is not able to reliably lead to a sale, because there are numerous conversations needed to interact deeply with their prospects to create consensus or executive buy-in. Tim Riesterer, CMO from Corporate Visions who attended the Summit, would say there are three conversations or “moments of truth” in every sale:

  1. Create Value – defeat the status quo;
  2. Elevate Value – demonstrate business impact;
  3. Capture Value – negotiate to preserve margins and maintain deal size.

The findings have even deeper implications for marketing when you measure what SiriusDecisions considers to be the three new types of buying scenarios: Individual, Consensus, and Committee. The buyer’s journey is no longer a linear process, where a certain number of interactions leads to a sale. Instead, it becomes episodic, where the right balance of digital assets and rep interactions can advance a deal. Reps have to be prepared at any moment to engage in any number of outcomes, and the only way they can prepare for this is to gain comprehensive mastery of the messaging.

Back to marketing – this data means a renewed pressure to align teams behind the right messaging, and to drive mastery that allows reps to effectively steer a sales path that can take over 15 interactions to close. Marketing needs to not only develop messaging but must also ensure that reps gain multiple chances to deliberately practice. All of the “non-human” sales interactions are marketing-related activities that make or break the sale. If the sales and marketing funnels are not aligned to deliver these interactions in symphony, the chance of selling declines.

Reps will continue to deliver the sales message, and no amount of collateral nor website work will change that your sales team is saying something today in these situations. Marketing, however, can greatly influence the conversation by creating the resources that sales can use to navigate the buyer’s journey. That means not only creating presentations and materials but also carrying them over the fence and guaranteeing that they are part of a cohesive online and offline strategy.

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3 Ways That Graduation Looks Like Sales Training

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First and foremost, congratulations to all May graduates. By the time you put on your cap and gown, the work has been completed, which, in my opinion, makes the actual ceremony a great time for reflection.

As I watched one of my good friends walk across the stage this weekend, I couldn’t help but reflect a bit on how the learning styles we have adopted in the school system have created the structure of our graduation ceremonies. I took note of a few examples:

It’s unenjoyable to watch an entire ceremony

There’s just too many graduates. Hundreds of students received their diploma and by the end of the event, two hours had passed. Just like the diploma, each graduate became, for better or worse, the same in my eyes. It was monotonous, and as the event progressed, I all too quickly lost sight of what was required of each student to make it to this point.

If you asked each of them individually to describe their learning journey, not a single story would sound the same. Some would speak to their profuse reliance on coffee or Red Bull. Others might make mention of a particular class that truly shaped their development. Perhaps a few would speak very little of their schooling altogether. They all took different steps to make it to the stage, yet I never got a sense of their individual journey.

Recognition is small

As a crowd member, I could appreciate the effort to speed up the ceremony. In particular, the one I attended decided to have two people call names from both entrances to the stage. If you weren’t quick enough, you might miss your opportunity to congratulate your grad. Something seemed to be missing: recognition.

I personally believe that recognition is one way that we push an individual onto their next endeavor. It’s why at the beginning of nearly every MVP, Championship, or award acceptance speech that we watch on TV, the recipient’s first inclination is to thank their mom. As an Oklahoma City Thunder fan, I can’t help but be reminded of Kevin Durant’s MVP acceptance speech from last year.

I think that, if the ceremony was structured differently, and my friend was given the opportunity, he would have paused to thank the people that helped him to this achievement. And upon exiting the stage, we as members of the audience would have had a better opportunity to push him toward his next goal. Although I am confident in my friend’s ability move forward, after all the work over multiple years, his recognition seemed too short.

Not all graduates are the same

90 percent of the graduates this weekend graduated without honors. When a name was called for someone who did, it was followed with the designation of Magna or Summa Cum Laude — in quite a boisterous and baritone voice, I might add. I’m not here to say that this designation ensures the student developed mastery in his or her field, but it’s certainly a good indicator. So how do we continue the education for both the 90 and 10 percent groups? Hopefully, this graduation ceremony doesn’t mark the end of their learning. How should the curriculum/learning styles look different for both groups as they move forward? It obviously shouldn’t look the same.

I started at CommercialTribe in May of last year. I would tell you that my sales experience has been a product of my time here: I’ve learned to cold call, articulate CommercialTribe’s value proposition, diagnose key issues, and more, but I’ve yet to graduate. As a matter of fact, I don’t see that day coming. This upcoming year I’ll continue to learn, refine and evolve, a journey toward mastery.

The Rep Strikes Back – The 2015 SiriusDecisions Summit

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The sales rep has taken it on the chin as of late. Conventional wisdom suggests that the role of the rep isn’t quite as important as it used to be.

In this digital age of social media, catchy sound bites like these get amplified. But at the 2015 Summit on Thursday, SiriusDecisions said, “not so fast.” Of course, digital buying behaviors are changing the buyer journey, but maybe not in the way you’ve thought.

According to research released at the Summit, B2B buyers interact with reps at every stage of the buyer’s journey. In fact, more than half the time, rep involvement starts at the beginning of the buyer’s journey. And in complex buying scenarios, sales rep involvement starts at the beginning of the journey two-thirds of the time.

Buyers all ask the same fundamental questions as they decide whether to make a purchase…

…but what happens from there isn’t as straightforward. There are three distinct scenarios organizations find themselves in relation to the buyer journey.

There’s nothing that revolutionary in suggesting that as price goes up, the sales process typically moves from transactional to complex – the latter typically characterized as longer sales cycles, with more key decision makers. But what should make you stop and think is the number and frequency of human and non-human interactions required to close a sale in the Independent, Consensus and Committee buyer journeys?

It turns out that the buyer journey is more episodic than linear, despite how much we’d like to bring order from chaos. The key takeaway from this finding is that a certain number of interactions need to happen in aggregate to close a deal, with a majority led by the sales rep (human) and supported by digital assets (non-human). If organizations actually track the number and type of interactions and match it up against these benchmarks, they may have a better sense of how far a buyer actually is on their journey.

And before we declare the rep dead, there’s one more piece of evidence that SiriusDecisions shared that should give us pause: of all the content assets absorbed by the buyer, it is the sales presentation that’s most important.

And who delivers the sales presentation? Last I checked, it was still the sales rep.

Perhaps in this new world of digital possibility, we’ve lost sight of what was most important, and what will always be most important. What’s more critical to influencing B2B buying behavior than ensuring your sales team has a compelling message and they are equipped to deliver it? It’s what I call the moment of truth. According to SiriusDecisions, “the number one reason reps fail to hit quota is their inability to articulate the value proposition.”

Buyers need trust, confidence, and validation to see their journey to a purchase – things non-human interactions will never be able to replace.

Turns out the sales rep is alive and well. #savetheb2bsalesrep

Four Can’t-Miss Sessions from the SiriusDecisions Summit 2015

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The SiriusDecisions Summit 2015 is rapidly approaching, and thousands of sales and marketing leaders are preparing for a week in Nashville. While many conferences explore the future of sales or marketing, few combine these perspectives into one cohesive event. Over the past ten years of the Summit, SiriusDecisions has evolved the topics, arriving on an age-old but still thought-provoking theme: aligning sales and marketing in the B2B space.

This year’s Summit is specifically designed to get more sales leaders and enablers involved in the decisions that affect growth, from the top of the funnel down to the customer relationship. This robust perspective, broken apart into keynote sessions from speakers like John Neeson, Steve Silver, Jennifer Ross, Mark Levinson, and Jim Ninivaggi, allows for a more comprehensive approach on the impact of integrated sales and marketing.

As we surveyed the landscape of high-impact sessions, several stood out:

1. SiriusDecisions Keynote: The Economics of Sales/Marketing/Product Alignment, with Jim Neeson – Wednesday, 9:40-10:20 AM, Ryman Hall C

One of the highlight keynotes, Jim Neeson’s session, will look at one of the core challenges that the event hopes to solve: how do we drive alignment between all sales and marketing functions, and what is the ROI? Without data-driven insights into the benefits of close alignment, the plan can be lost. With a target on “growth” and “alignment,” Jim’s presentation will take a quantitative approach to getting sales, finance, and marketing at the same table.

2. Track Session: Sales Generated Demand: Balance and Execution, with Jim Ninivaggi – Thursday, 9:30-10:10 AM, Canal ABC

While marketing may be tasked with pulling in new leads through their efforts, sales still holds onto prospecting and lead generation. However, the two can work together, pairing to create the right content and messaging to take any lead and convert them into a qualified prospect. Jim Nanivaggi’s insights as a Director in Sales Enablement Strategies at SiriusDecisions can provide clarity into driving rep and marketing alignment that helps cross the last mile.

3. SiriusDecisions Keynote: Demystifying B-to-B Buying for 2015 and Beyond, with Marisa Kopec and Jennifer Ross, Thursday, 8:35-9:15 AM, Delta Ballroom

Are B2B buyers really knowledgeable about the products they buy? How much of the selling process can be self-service or marketing directed? For sales leaders, the session can offer valuable data into where buyers most often leave effective marketing – the point when sales can take over and drive understanding. Tied with consultative, insight-driven sales, understanding this process can help guide prospects toward an informed decision.

4. Track Session: The SiriusDecisions Sales Technology Adoption Framework, with Steve Silver, Thursday, 1:30-2:10 PM, Canal ABC

Selecting and adopting a sales technology can appear to be a gateway to increased sales, growth, and ROI. Yet, without the right framework for selecting and using the best system, the investment can become a drain on your organization. Steve Silver has spent years dissecting the sales tool buying process and clarifying the process, based on hundreds of conversations with top vendors.