Once upon a time, in a kingdom far away, Marketers were solely responsible for creating, disseminating, and tracking the content that prospective B2B buyers consumed. Today’s Best-in-Class sales teams, however, enable their front-line sellers with a duplicate set of keys to the castle.
With the “buyer’s journey” now replacing the “sales cycle,” B2B marketers need to empower their sales counterparts with more robust content management capabilities.
Plenty of current thought leadership on the sea change in how buyers do their pre-sales homework is a click away for all of us. Plenty of prognosticators and analysts today claim that a majority of the typical B2B buying cycle is conducted by potential procurers of goods and services, before one-to-one human interactions with living, breathing sales reps take place. If this is true, and Aberdeen’s research supports this trend, the conversations that sellers hold with their prospects need to adapt to such a brave new world, and the insights that marketers have into these interactions require a significant upgrade.
Creating a Marketing / Sales Circle of Life
New Aberdeen research published in Why Have ANY Hands Tied Behind Your Back? And Other Rhetorical Sales Enablement Questions highlights a survey question for respondents to indicate whether or not “Marketing has extensive visibility into the sales team’s utilization of content / assets.” The top-performing, Best-in-Class sub-set of companies validate this protocol at a 60% rate, while Industry Average and Laggard firms report only 31% and 28% adoption, respectively. Furthermore, when the data is re-calculated to compare the performance of companies that do and don’t support this competency, “high-visibility” organizations lead all others in current KPI metrics such as total team attainment of sales quota, percentage of reps achieving quota, lead acceptance and conversion rates, and marketing’s contribution to the sales pipeline. Another comparison is seen in Figure 1, which analyzes year-over year metrics:
Figure 1: Annualized Performance Advantages Favor Content-Informed Businesses
Growing revenue and deal size at accelerated rates are superb results for sales leaders, sales operations practitioners, and individual contributors alike. Even Figure 1’s relatively small delta around “marketing contribution to sales pipeline” takes on significance, considering the average survey respondent’s annual revenue of $792 million: a difference of $2.38M in additional marketing-generated opportunities. There is no marketer alive today who wouldn’t jump at the chance to provide this added value to their employer – and set the table for a larger annual marketing budget as a result. Let’s now take a look at how these high-visibility firms, and Best-in-Class companies, manage their customer acquisition-oriented content to achieve these enticing performance advantages.
Why Isn’t Marketing Content as Simple to Manage as a Tweet?
Think about the ubiquitous nature of today’s social media platform: for no cost, anyone on the planet can find the content they need, embed shared messaging into consumer and enterprise applications, securely distribute selected material to their inner circles, and democratically elect the most impactful assets to noble status. Yet many B2B enterprises expend tremendous resources on marketing and selling, without following this example and fully integrating the two functions. The traditional way of doing business holds that marketing departments create one-to-many communications assets and messages to turn unknown prospects into leads, and then provide sales personnel with “closing” content to use in their one-to-one direct interactions with prospective buyers. What this standard operating procedure doesn’t account for is the evolution of the new, educated buyer’s journey, which means that by the time a B2B seller is face-to-face with their prospective customer, the old closing content may very well be too generic to help seal the deal. Best-in-Class organizations, however, empower sellers to personalize their live conversation content, and marketers to gain insight into which of their creations are deployed and consumed. These top performers embrace the social media metaphor above more than other companies, and so do high-visibility firms – Figure 2.
Figure 2: 21st Century Content Management Best Practices You Need to Adopt
It doesn’t seem like brain surgery to empower sales employees with functions such as search, copy, link, and rank, but in each of the core competencies in Figure 2, a minority of Industry Average and Laggard companies succeeds in providing such sales enablement capabilities to their teams. As a related result, only 50% of their full-time reps reach their annual quota, compared with 84% among the Best-in-Class.
Putting Science into Play
These opportunities for better visibility into marketing content utilization by sales, and consumption by buyers, can be further augmented by the deployment of modern analytics tools that tell us not only what content is consumed, but how, why, and what it all means. As indicated in Sales Analytics: Data-Driven Forecasting for Better Quota Attainment (April 2014), a new breed of sales leaders are deploying “big data” functionalities and predictive analytics to achieve better forecasts around established opportunities in their pipeline. But even before deals are entered into the CRM system, they are often identified first as early-stage marketing leads.
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