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In 2022, The Insiders co-hosts Richard Lane and Simon Hazeldine sat down with sales and marketing leaders from some of the world’s most successful global businesses in The Insiders podcast studio to discuss all things business-to-business sales, marketing, and everything in-between.
In this blog post, we’ll piece together the key highlights of these insightful conversations and give you the pulse of the situation in the B2B space, from growing trends in sales to new marketing approaches and the necessary adjustments to drive growth in 2023.
The world of sales is constantly changing. Yet, understanding precisely how it is changing and adjusting your processes accordingly might be challenging. Indeed, today more than ever, buyers educate themselves online before even considering talking to a salesperson.
Graham Hawkins, Founder & CEO of SalesTribe, explained that: “We need to learn to sell smarter in a world of smarter buyers with access to information. Our role is no longer the information giver, it’s the sense-maker.”
Indeed, in today’s information-heavy world, it’s easy to get lost among irrelevant content or potentially damaging tips, and feel disheartened when it comes to finding solutions to business challenges. It is for this reason that Sascha Rahman, Head of Strategic Marketing & Sales Excellence at ifm, stresses that “With too much information, customers can feel uncertain about a purchasing decision.”
Graham states that the way to win over buyers in today’s competitive market is to “be willing to personalise to their context. Teach them something, and if you can – anticipate their future needs as well.” Today, B2B sales require the adoption of a well-articulated consultative approach, a clear understanding of prospects’ most common challenges and how your products or solutions can help.
Yet, the sales profession has not only evolved when it comes to how we sell, but also with regards to where we sell. Already during his previous role in sales and business consulting, guest Franklin Williams, Director of Global Commercial Excellence at Thermo Fisher Scientific, had the chance to witness first-hand the power of social media for business: “95% of our inbound leads came from social selling – the amount that we spent on outbound efforts was infinitesimal.”
Peter Schopf, Head of Sales MindSphere for EMEA at Siemens, has shared with us his own insights when it comes to the most interesting medium through which social selling can be performed, that is, video selling. He is passionate about the use of this medium and has set up short video snippets about different solutions. These videos are beneficial to the sales force, as they expand the reach of solutions without taking up time. “It’s definitely not bringing you to the final closing… but it can be a very good initial stage of addressing things, making people aware.”
Besides being a great place to develop one’s network, in fact, platforms like LinkedIn are a great channel for the dissemination of relevant and informative content. Dirk Gauwberg, Global Operational Marketing Director at AXA Partners, highlights the importance of content in today’s information-heavy online environments, but stresses that not all content is valuable for buyers. Indeed, Dirk highlights that, to stand out and catch their attention at this stage, “You have to have content that triggers the interest of the buyer, and it needs to add value. Buyers are looking for meaningful content when making their decision to purchase. There is a need for marketing to be closer to the buyer, because accelerating growth requires a combination of content marketing and good sales reps.”
But what is the best way to craft your message? Ivy Petit, Global Marketing Director at Veolia Water Technologies, has highlighted that the best way to do it is by listening to the market: “All value of our offer is coming from the market: what are the current challenges of our ideal customers, their drivers, their pain points… and also moving on to the business model definition: what is the willingness to pay for this solution and associated services? What is the competitive advantage that we have from their point of view?”
Yet, this information is not readily available to marketers, and salespeople must be ready to source and provide it for them to craft their campaign messaging. For Ricky Sevta, Chief Revenue Officer at simPRO, this information is crucial to make data-driven business decisions: “You want to take guesswork out of the business as much as you can. Business should be about calculated risk, as opposed to thoughtless risk.”
For Nick McClelland and Aine Bryn, Chief Growth Officer and Chief Marketing Officer at Mercer UK, this approach must be fuelled by Marketers distinctive curiosity: “A genuine interest in the market trends that are affecting our clients, and our clients are radically affected by everything going on in the world right now. So, we’re in a good position to solve lots of problems and engage with clients from that topic.”
Understanding the market is always a matter of perspective though. Often, our own experience allows us to spot new trends, yet, at the same time, our passion and focus on a specific business function can easily make us blind to important developments in the other ones. more than one of our guests have highlighted how important it is to build the right teams. For Miguel Avalos, Head of Ads Marketing, Commerce & Vertical Growth Programs EMEA at Google, the right team composition will unlock the capacity to approach the market from a more holistic point of view: “Early in our careers, we tend to hire people who look like us. That is already a bias. What you want to do is to bring people who actually make you feel the difference, with additional skills and perspectives… You are going to be pushed to think out of the box and understand things that probably you didn’t understand before.”
Adopting a consultative approach, crafting messaging that addresses every stage of the buyer’s journey and delivering it in a captivating way through social media are all elements that contribute to build a great customer experience.
On this topic, Ryan Bott, Global Vice President of Revenue at Sodexo, highlighted that the speed and ease of online B2C buying has created an expectation in purchasing in B2B. As everyone is used to buying online as a consumer, this shift shapes what we want from our B2B suppliers as well. As B2C consumers, for instance, we gravitate towards items with better reviews that will best meet our needs. Likewise, B2B buyers are willing to pay a higher price for a better customer experience. In fact, Ryan doesn’t accept price as a reason for losing a sale as he believes that if the customer experience is good enough then a customer can justify price.
Overall, however, the business that is more able to adapt to these changes will have an edge over its competition. Darren Cassidy, Managing Director UK&I at Xerox, has witnessed first-hand how the business world has evolved and how agile businesses are able to thrive despite these changes: “I think the most important thing about change is mindset: how you embrace change, how your teams embrace change. I also believe that part of our leadership role is about producing and driving energy into the business; energy through that change process.”
According to James Webb, Vice President Central Europe & EU Marketing at Fellowes Brands, this change process is already changing the skillset necessary to winning Sales teams: “The salesperson has had to evolve to be a bit of a sales and marketing hybrid… they’ve got to be able to liaise and work with a customer and talk their language.”
Despite this shift, in which Sales and Marketing are becoming hybrid professions, one of the most diffused problems in the B2B space is the misalignment between the two functions. In today’s fast changing environment, keeping the two functions working together is paramount. Darren Atkins, Marketing Director at Sabre, addressed this very issue on our podcast: “I don’t believe the alignment between marketing and sales to be a strict line. It’s more of trying to understand that there are different roles that change over time and in each opportunity”.
For Darren, Marketing must be able to support sales at every stage of the process. To be able to do that, Marketing needs access to the unique insights that Sales can gather from the market. Emma Roffey, VP of Marketing EMEAR at Cisco, has shared with us one of the key elements to achieve this: “I sit in all the sales meetings and forecast calls so that I’m heavily involved and understand the dynamics within the sales department. We have various sales leaders that I partner with – they’re my peers; I understand their issues, they understand mine, and then we can agree on plans together. You need that at leadership level.”
Misalignment occurs when sales and marketing get consumed by their tasks and don’t communicate with one another. Ivy Petit reinforces this point and shares her own process: “Before reaching [prospective] customers, we work with the sales team because they know them, but also have strong expertise in markets, projects and customer relationships… we do workshops together: we map together drivers and pain points, just to check that we are aligned on what we will ask the customer. And we define together a profile of the end user.”
Implementing this behaviour in Marketing and Sales’ monthly activities helps with the production and deployment of powerful sales enablement content. Dirk Gauwberg is a firm believer in the idea that marketing can and should support sales by creating ad-hoc content: “Sales aren’t struggling with pitches, but a lack of adequate content. There is a need for content marketing, as this will support them in the diverse stages of the sales funnel.”
Emma Botfield sums up the relationship between Marketing and sales with an effective metaphor: “I sometimes think of it when you think of a marriage, you have two sets of in-laws. When they first meet, they’re sussing each other out and one wants to be the better in-law than the other. If you can get them to focus on the couple rather than themselves then you’ve got a really powerful force.”
Bringing together the two departments will come with some tension. On this topic, Neil Ritchie, Head of Global Marketing & Sales of ABB’s Motion Services, has shared with us an important insight: “Sometimes tension is good: it challenges, it raises questions that (if everybody agrees) might not be raised. But it’s all about managing it. We don’t try to destroy the world of conflict, but what we try to do is give enough flexibility and trust to work in it, and also provide a platform for people to raise their hand if they think that there’s some serious issue that we need to address.”
While guaranteeing the right environment for the tension between Sales and Marketing to propel new ideas might be a smart idea, the alignment between the two functions would benefit, according to VP of EMEA Marketing at Pegasystems Catherine Dutton, also from sharing the same metrics: “Ultimately, sales are interested in the opportunities and how it helps them win more business. I think it’s really important that you use the same language [as Sales] and talk about those strong ROI metrics that you can prove and use examples of previous campaigns or activities you have done to drive that ROI.”
The B2B market is constantly changing and thinking about how to align your Sales and Marketing functions, while understanding the latest trends in your industry, shifts in buyers’ behaviour and new technologies can be challenging.
For us at durhamlane, the best way to keep on top of these things is to collect insights from other thought leaders around the world. It is for this reason that we produce The Insiders podcast.
With more episodes to come every other week, you’ll be able to learn from the best minds in Sales and Marketing, follow the development of the most recent ideas in your own industry and apply them to drive success in your own business.
Subscribe today and never miss an episode.