Earlier 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:
- Create Value – defeat the status quo;
- Elevate Value – demonstrate business impact;
- 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.