In a January 2017 Harvard Business School article on corporate alignment, there was a statement that made me pause.
Companies are spending $12 billion on Sales Enablement annually, not counting the billions spent on CRM systems.
The article then when on to mention that:
On-line research has totally changed the Buying Process and thus the “Sales Tasks” for success have changed.
There is a lot buried in those two sentences. First, a mind boggling investment by companies trying to accelerate revenue. Second, a statement that the formula for sales actions for success have changed.
In the past 18 months, there have been numerous different purchasing studies where the data was publicly shared. These include work by such thought leaders as Sirius, Hubspot, IDC and Gartner. All four of these Buyers’ Journey Surveys are showing a dramatic shift in what Buyers value at every step of the Buying Process. This leads to questions like:
- Why have things changed?
- What is the key change in Buyer Behavior?
- How do we “enable” the new Sales Tasks needed to meet Buyers with what they value in 2017?
Why have things changed?
I believe two major factors are driving the change: Content Overload and Corporate Alignment.
- Content Overload. This is an obvious one. We all live it every day. There are 2 million new blog posts daily. Every B2B marketing department in the world is trying to influence the markets thinking on why they deserve your attention and are the silver bullet answer to your problems. It is like walking into a library with no Dewey Decimal system and being told your answer is in here. Buyers are partially frozen due to information overload. Too much data disables decision making.
- Corporate Alignment. This one is slightly less obvious, but anyone selling is feeling its impact. Cross functional teams are forming Buying Committees for all major purchases. These committees are growing from 3 -4 people a few years ago to 8-12 people today. (This has been heavily documented by both IDC and CEB.) This unleashes new group purchasing dynamics, which lead to risk aversion and thought polarization. (These phenomenon are well documented through scientific articles on group decision making.)
What is the key change in Buyers Behavior?
The most significant change is in what information sources buyer’s value at every stage of the sales cycle. By far the most significant change is the validation of information by “Trusted Peers” at every stage of buying cycle. Trusted Peers are third parties, not affiliated directly with the selling entity, who can articulate the quality of their experiences with the vendor. Prospects can access the voice of these trusted peers through both indirect and direct means. Prospects are utilizing numerous methodologies to try and capture this peer data.
- At the initial stages of the Buyers Journey, this includes internet research including review sites, professional communities and referrals.
- In the middle of the Buyers Journey, prospects are turning to trade conferences, video testimonials, analyst reports, case studies that are clear on outcomes achieved
- When making final recommendation and selection, references are heavily utilized across all studies and increasing in value weighting versus several years ago.
How do we “enable” the new sales tasks needed to meet buyers with what they value in 2017?
Companies need to re-think their go-to-market priorities. An efficacy review is critical across both sales and marketing. Traditional resource allocation and investment dollars must be challenged. Happy customers are now arguably your most critical sales enablement component. Companies must first have a database of happy customers to enable. Once in place, this can be leveraged by Sales for referrals to establish highly qualified leads and references in context to close opportunities. Marketing can also leverage the database for customer stories, review site advocacy and building a library of video testimonials.
The database should also be tied directly with the Marketing Automation platform and the CRM being utilized by Sales. Connecting these systems creates a go-to-market tech stack as opposed to just a Sales or Marketing tech stack! Analytics on lead efficacy, content efficacy and reference efficacy will all be highly visible on dashboards. Efficacy data leads to easier trade off discussions so this Peer to Peer Selling program does not become cost additive, but rather cost neutral, yet drives growth. In addition, such a program aligns sales and marketing in a truly cohesive manner.
So, where is the return on the $12 billion investment?
It is right at your fingertips if you commit to aligning resources and capital to enable the voice of your customer, the buyers trusted source of information.