If you’ve been in a revenue-focused role at a company in the last number of years, you’ve realized first hand that outdated, canned sales outreach is dead – and personalized, tailored customer experiences are in.
The fact is, buyers have become more selective. We’re now operating in a referral-driven, community-based world. And when we think of the new generation of buyers (digital natives), relevancy is becoming more and more challenging. Every experience needs to be as tailored and seamless as possible.
You might argue that this has always been the job of a great salesperson, and you’d be right. But I think the driving force behind creating an awesome experience for your customers is tight alignment between sales and marketing. Without positioning the product or service in front of the right people with the right messaging, your sales efforts will suffer and become obsolete.
Why is Marketing/Sales Alignment Necessary?
The features of your product might be great, but that isn’t why prospects will buy. I believe the future of sales lies in creating an end-to-end experience for your customers. From the first time they visit your website to the post-transaction customer support, the experience needs to be 100% seamless.
Marketing can outline your brand messaging, but that isn’t effective if the rest of your team is using completely different language. It delivers a fragmented experience to your customers. The new demographic of customers expects the buying process to have a high level of consistency. It isn’t enough to have a great customer success team or a kick-ass marketing department – all teams need to be that stellar across the board. No one can be an island.
Scaling the Alignment
B2B companies range in size, and I like to think of them in the following three layers:
- Smaller B2B’s who deal more in transactions (credit card B2B’s). Think of companies who offer a more “self-serve” model, like Asana or Trello.
- Mid-market B2B’s (deals between 12k-50k per year), who operate in a more “inside sales” capacity. These companies will have teams that run an engine from inside the walls of the company. InsightSquared in Boston comes to mind here.
- Enterprise and field sales. These deals are much more complex, often involve partners or professional services, and are much higher in deal value. Companies like Box, Salesforce, Acquia – these are the big players.
In my opinion, these are B2B companies that have recognized the need for a reliable brand experience throughout the entire customer journey – not just leading up to the transaction. And they consistently deliver it throughout the entire buying process. They have both marketing operations and account development who work to create an excellent sales experience.
But the question as teams grow is scale. How do you keep that alignment tight?
One method that I think is highly effective for keeping this momentum intact is the pod structure. In addition to regular department meetings, pods are created with representatives from different departments to meet regularly. It’s a great way to make sure that any gaps in understanding are being filled before the teams become too siloed.
It’s scalable, and it’s a way to maintain the flow of knowledge within a business, all of which adds up to creating an unforgettable experience for your customers.
The key is to align everyone around the same goal. Cross-functional teams who are rallied around the same goals are what helps build a true community of customers.
The Future of B2B Sales
Sales and marketing alignment is just the first step of streamlining your customer experience, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the business is uninvolved.
It’s my belief that everyone is in sales. If you think you aren’t responsible for selling on behalf of your company, you’re fooling yourself. Some of us may be more customer-facing, but ultimately, everyone on the team should know the product well enough to speak about it, and more importantly, leave potential customers feeling like they want to interact with the brand even more.
Everyone should be a consultant willing to help prospects. The future of great selling comes from an eagerness to help customers – no matter which department you belong to. And there’s an element of design thinking here that helps craft that customer experience.
This, to me, is the ideal design-inspired process:
- Someone comes to your website, and it’s got a clean, functional design that’s easy to navigate. This is already a great first impression.
- They listen to a podcast, or they read a blog post of yours that helps them learn something new. Now your brand is seen as helpful (and not just self-promotional.)
- Someone on your team provides additional resources or knowledge that helps further identify their business needs and helps them solve a problem. The goal is to offer more of a consulting style relationship than to rush through the sales process.
- When this person is ready to buy, the transaction will be comfortable and seamless.
This is the type of relationship and experience that all world-class B2B’s should strive for. As digital transformation becomes a priority for enterprises, we’ll see the process blend even more.
The way I see B2B sales evolving looks like this:
Leveling of “Pre” and “Post” Sale Operations
Messaging and experience before the deal is processed should carry over after the contract is signed and all throughout the customer support cycle.
The pod structure is just the beginning of smart teams. I believe we’re going to see (and to some extent we already are seeing) teams built around the work that needs to get done, rather than strictly job titles. Product marketing is a perfect example – they have the skills of a marketer, but the technical knowledge of a developer. They can craft a customer experience from multiple angles.
The key to reaching this alignment is constant iteration.
Even if you have nearly perfect alignment between sales and marketing, this changes the second you stop collecting feedback. Smarter teams will enable a constant feedback loop from customers, which in turn gives way for re-positioning of the product offering when it’s relevant, not when you’ve already lost customers.
The Cost of Misalignment
Realistically, if this type of sales environment isn’t on your roadmap, you risk falling behind. Smart enterprises have already recognized the urgency to implement ideas from the future of work.
There are tons of great resources for business leaders looking to modernize their sales processes. I recommend checking out From Impossible to Inevitable by Jason Lemkin and Aaron Ross. They bring years of SaaS and B2B sales experience to the table, and they do an excellent job at tackling what hyper-growth truly entails.
I’ve also had the chance to chat with Future of Work advocate Jacob Morgan about trends in the future workplace for a Hunter & Craft podcast episode. It’s a topic that Jacob and I both feel very strongly about. The idea of fear-based management, top-down communication, siloed departments – all are outdated and harmful to your business. Give it a listen if you want to hear more of Jacob’s insight around this topic.
Lastly (if you haven’t already), I suggest reading To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink. Daniel examines the idea that absolutely everyone is a salesperson in some way. This mindset, I think, is what world-class enterprises should adopt when crafting their customer experience.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, too. What do you look for throughout the buying process? Are there any companies that you think are doing a stellar job? Let me know in the comments, or connect with me on Twitter.