Every year HubSpot publishes a benchmark report on the state of inbound marketing. It is based on primary research from hundreds of marketing professionals. This year the report has widened the survey sample to include sales professionals and has been renamed The State of Inbound 2014 – note the dropping of the ‘of inbound marketing’.

It now contains useful benchmark data on inbound sales uptake and habits.

The four top takeaways are as follows:

  1. Buyers are more equipped than ever with more information about companies – but sales reps don’t have a similar level of insight into their prospects. Bridging this information gap will help close more leads, a top priority for Sales and Marketing alike
  2. Despite the lack of contextual information about prospects and the popularity of the term, only 7% of reps and executives are prioritizing “social selling.”
  3. Data integrity and availability has become the biggest challenge facing sales today
  4. CRM utility is low – executives struggle with its lack of integration with other tools, while reps struggle with manual data entry. The latter struggle is twice as pronounced in B2B companies compared to B2C companies.

Bridging the information gap between buyers and sellers

It is commonly accepted that buyer behaviour has changed. Certainly in the technology market buyers will spend time researching both the issues and the potential solutions before ever coming to a sales conversation. However the seller may not have access to the same level of informative content about the buyer that the buyer has about the seller. Until this information/insight level is on a par the seller will not be able to accelerate the deal easily.

Social Selling is still not popular with sales people

The problem is that most successful salespeople have done well without social media and so they do not see why it is now necessary. The only way that this perception will change is where sales people start losing deals on the feedback that the winner was more responsive and collaborative to the buyer’s signals online (social, email, website, campaigns etc).

The data integrity and availability challenge

Sellers are discovering that if the contact information in their databases is not earned and nurtured then it will be unresponsive and potentially counter productive. The answer to this challenge lies in an inbound marketing process that attracts and engages the type of people you can really help with your product or service. Building up a database of contacts like this and continuously adding value to them is the how you solve this.

CRM utility is low

The CRM system is not there for the benefit of the sales person nor is it designed to help them sell more quickly. In fact manual data entry into CRM systems eats into daily selling time significantly (HubSpot quotes almost 20% of their sales people’s time is spent on updating CRM). The answer to this problem is to integrate CRM into other systems which will intelligently auto populate it with relevant and accurate data.

For more detail on these points please feel free to download the full report and my thanks to Joe Chernov from HubSpot for putting this together.