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Do changes in B2B marketing and the buying cycle mean the end of the sales team?

Posted by Kenneth Connolly on 30-Oct-2013 11:39:00

The role of the B2B salesperson has dramatically changed. Since the beginning of time, outbound and push selling meant the salesperson was the automatic go-to source for information. It was simple, a prospect had a problem they weren’t sure how to solve and the salesperson offered a solution. But this is no longer the case. Inbound marketing now has a large part to play as a means of communicating with prospects in the B2B world and it is digital content (such as ebooks, blogs and whitepapers) that inform and address their problems. The buying process is drastically changing and according to SiriusDecisions ‘67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally’. The role of sales is being pushed gradually further towards the bottom of the sales funnel, and as B2B marketers learn to measure the ROI of their activities more effectively, I wonder… is the B2B sales team on the road to becoming redundant?

Do changes in marketing and the buying cycle mean the end of the sales team?

As the pressure on sales to hit targets remains high, the ability of prospects to conduct their own research online means sales reps have lost the traditional power to guide them through the buying cycle to the point of sale. These days, buyers have usually reached the sales tipping-point before they are open to receiving a phone call and an attempt at conversion by the sales team. In the meantime, marketing efforts are replacing the active sales role by using content to provide answers to the prospects’ pain points, establish a digital relationship and build trust. Of course, marketing have their own targets and worth to prove to the board and do so by showing how their activity was responsible for generating sales and ROI.

The problem we have here is that, as usual, sales and marketing are viewed as two separate entities with their own agenda to fulfil and their own clearly defined roles to play. This shouldn’t be the case. Modern B2B marketing is hugely transparent, in that all employees in a company could be seen as marketers through online activities such as social media and blogging. Marketing is no longer restricted to a department in an organisation but involves the digital collective of all those representing the company. Sales should be using changes in B2B marketing and the buying cycle to their advantage by actively using their own online profiles to share and discuss the same content that marketing are distributing. The traditional sales role may have changed but there is still conversation and engagement to be had. By actively participating in industry forums and offering advice and guidance, as opposed to selling at any opportunity, the B2B salesperson can integrate into the marketing process and fulfil a newly adapted version of the salesperson – the advisor.

Let’s not forget that those prospects that are searching for information online may actively demonstrate an interest in a product/service/solution; but what about the percentage that is unaware they have a problem? There is still a responsibility of sales to expose these opportunities using existing customer relationships, referrals and the knowledge gained from being the person to meet with leads first-hand.

Is the B2B sales team becoming redundant? No. The traditional role of sales is now a newly adapted and ever-vigilant sales team that can be most productive by using new marketing activity to their advantage. By working closer with marketing, sales are still actively communicating with prospects and participating in the buying process, while having insight into their pain points and thoughts on the information currently available to them. The method may have changed but sales still have a huge part to play in offering a solution to their prospects and leads. Although they can now be found further down the sales funnel, the B2B sales team will always be needed as the personal contact point and closers of business. Their ability to do this is now highly reliant on not just aligning with marketing for reporting purposes but by being an actively involved participant in the digital buying process.

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Topics: B2B Inbound marketing, B2B marketing, B2B Sales, B2B Buyers, B2B Sales and Marketing, B2B Sales team, B2B Buying cycle