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There’s been a lot of buzz lately about adjusting sales and marketing techniques, tactics and alignment to meet the needs of the modern consumer. But what are the needs of the modern buyer as they search and move toward purchase?

Before the days of the internet, people shopped for products in the physical world – traveling to a store, engaging with a sales person to gather information and learn about a product or service. And if the sales person was knowledgeable, then they bought it. Obviously, those days are gone and now the internet gives people the opportunity to self-educate about products and services before communicating with a sales person – if ever. If we like a product online, we buy it or we go to a store and pick it up, without engaging with a sales person. The paradigm has shifted and now products are bought first – through digital content that proves you understand your buyers’ needs and pains—then “sold” by closers or sales reps who take orders, once buyers feel educated enough to engage in deeper discussions.

And the numbers prove this trend: CEB Global finds, 77% of B2B buyers say they don’t talk with a sales rep until after they perform independent research. Sirius Decisions says, 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally as today’s modern buyer self-evaluates the value of a product or service on websites, social networks, review boards and other digital resources of choice. And when buyers are ready to engage with a sales rep, they’re already more than half way through the traditional journey. So, businesses must now embrace the modern sales and marketing process – content marketing, marketing automation and lead follow-up to meet the demands of the modern consumer.

Aligned Sales and Marketing

Today, a company that wants to succeed in the modern marketplace, must demand its sales and marketing departments to get together, get along and partner for one goal – increase the bottom line. With the multiple moving parts involved in the modern sales and marketing machine, both entities must work together to bring in an audience, educate it and move it toward purchase, while removing the audience that’s not interested in purchasing. At first, it seems like an arduous task, but it’s not, and the rewards are worth it. Marketo finds that companies with an aligned sales and marketing strategy are 67% better at closing deals. Hubspot confirms this, finding sales and marketing teams that work together, companies see 36% higher customer retention and 38% higher sales win rates.

In order to align the two departments, sales must talk to marketing and convey the types of people/targets that are out in the market and breakdown the pains and demands they care to fix. Then, marketing must take those profiles and craft a strategy, produce content (both educational and transactional) and distribute it in an organized, timely manner.

Furthermore, marketing needs to educate sales on the inner workings and specifics of the products or services, so the sales team can be consultants and offer solutions to consumers rather than pushing products. In short, it’s marketing’s job to attract and nurture prospects with targeted content, so qualified prospects can be passed onto sales reps. It’s the job of sales reps to then convert those prospects into customers using the knowledge they’ve received from marketing materials.

At Gabriel Sales, we make it mandatory for the sales and marketing teams to meet weekly to review results and provide feedback regarding processes, content campaigns and other sales and marketing tactics. We often go through call verbatims, refusals and acceptances to adjust and fill gaps where needed. This type of open communication and collaboration ensures our content is customized to our target audience – which the sales team knows best – and is being utilized in the correct stage of the buyers’ journey.

In addition, this open communication and collaboration aligns our marketing and sales efforts, which helps generate inspirational and creative ideas for new content and sales and marketing tactics to attract qualified leads. Finally, it allows us to provide our target audience with incredible value and the understanding of our clients’ products or services, while accomplishing goals and generating the results they want.

Content Production, Curation and Distribution

DemandMetric finds that content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3-times as many leads. Content marketing works and if you aim to educate your buyer and lead them down a path to purchase, you’re on the right track. And again, the numbers prove it. A study by Mintel called, American Lifestyle 2015 reported, 69% of Americans seek advice and opinions on goods and services before making a purchase. Furthermore, a Demand Metric study reports, 60% of consumers are inspired to seek out a product after reading about it.

So, what content should you produce for the modern sales and marketing process? It’s important to create several pieces of targeted content for all phases of the new buyers’ journey, which is broken into three parts:

  1. Awareness phase: when consumers realize they have a need for a product or service to fix a problem.
  2. Consideration phase: when consumers research solutions for a problem and identify a solution, they’re interested in and consider a product and the various companies that offer it.
  3. Decision phase: when consumers evaluate the different options, they’ve identified as solutions to their problem, and they make a final choice.

Any content device is useful – blogs, videos, webcasts, product demos, case studies, white papers, checklist, etc. to cover all three phases of the journey. A Demand Gen report notes, 95% of customers choose solution providers that offer relevant content at every stage of the buying process. So, it’s good to use several pieces for each stage – educate in the awareness phase, exhibit solutions to different problems in the consideration phase, and show real results and outcomes for the decision phase. Blogging works, a Demand Metric study shows, companies that have a blog platform produce 67% more leads per month than those that do not have one. And video works: Hubspot finds 70% of B2B buyers watch a video sometime during their buying journey.
No matter what the content, the importance lies in aligning the pieces to your buyer’s journey, so you ensure each consumer interested in your solution is receiving the right message at the right time/stage. As content is pushed out, it creates inbound leads that either qualify as prospects or do not, according to your target identification within your strategy. Remember, unqualifying leads is just as important as qualifying them, as it mitigates time wasted on people who will eventually fall out of the buyers’ journey themselves. This further ensures you’re speaking to the right people and increases effectiveness and conversion rates, which, Aberdeen finds are nearly 6x higher for content marketing adopters than non-adopters – 2.9% vs 0.5%.

Marketing Automation and Lead Scoring

To churn out as much content as the modern market demands – and to take advantage of that demand – companies need to optimize and execute automation technology, including lead scoring. Marketing automation allows you to implement your buyers journey, roadmap, or whatever you want to call it, and load it into a system that automatically sends each message at a desired cadence. Lead scoring allows you to identify in what specific segment users are interested by assigning a score to a page based on its importance within the journey. Segmentation allows the right message to the right people because analytics allows us to identify and target people based on their searching history and website pages with which they have engaged. For example, form fills and pricing pages demand higher scores than educational blog posts and product demo pages. As a user self-educates, it continues to compile points and bubbles to the top, while the automation technology keeps a history of the pages the user visited, so marketing can alert sales of the pain and product the user is researching. Sales must then follow-up with the prospect as soon as possible.

Dedicated Sales Consultants and Engineers

Top performing modern sales and marketing systems optimize workflows to facilitate and demand immediate follow-up with leads, and they do so by mastering processes, dedicating resources and optimizing automation technology. As Velocify finds, organizations with the fastest lead follow-up have the highest inbound lead conversion. (Insert graph) In order to accomplish this, teams must dedicate sales consultants to qualify and contact high-scoring leads immediately, while understanding which “solution ballpark” the prospect is in from the analytics provided. Think of this as lead distribution – sending the right lead to the right sales rep to optimize the time spent on qualifying. As Hubspot’s analysis of more than 2,200 American companies finds, those that attempt to reach leads within an hour are nearly 7x likelier to have meaningful conversations with decision makers than those that waited even 60 minutes.

While this is a simplified synopsis of modern sales and marketing, there are key pieces here that SMBs can use to begin to build a process of making modern consumers aware of its products and solutions, while picking up some quick wins along the way. In essence, modern sales and marketing looks to bridge the gap between sales and marketing to align them with the same, contemporary buyer’s journey and all the stages within it. The keys are to target the right decision maker units through communication and collaboration, set a strategy that clearly outlines the buyer’s journey and automates message delivery for a certain, decided cadence. Top sales and marketing performers solidify a consistent process and leverage technology to help execute it, while simultaneously mitigating wasted time and effort through insightful analytics. The key is getting all teams on the same page for the same goal, to increase company revenue. Because when organizations achieve that, the results are astounding. Companies with good sales and marketing alignment practices, generate 208% more revenue from marketing efforts. (Hubspot) And that’s good for everyone.

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