Chip Royce, Flywheel Advisors – September 6, 2022
With the continued growth of the internet as a research tool and evolving generational communication preferences, B2B companies have even less control of their marketing message. These changes require new methods and greater precision by the B2B marketer and sales organization. For B2B companies to execute and win in the marketplace, creating an integrated B2B Sales & Marketing organization under one umbrella is required to foster efficient data sharing, execution, and aligned incentives. This merger will create more nimble, effective, winning teams better able to succeed in this competitive and fragmented B2B marketplace.
Original Art, created by Dreamscape.ai
“Integrated B2B Sales & Marketing Organizations Are the Future of Success”
in the style of Fernand Léger
The B2B marketplace has become massively fragmented by digital media.
The internet is a fantastic research tool.
For products sold in volume or considered purchases, sources such as social media comments, product reviews, user ratings, and personal references can provide users with an understanding of the quality of a product and its fit to their particular needs.
This works well for high-volume consumer products; however, for B2B products, especially those sold at a higher cost and/or lower volume niches, customers may not realize that the volume of information provided is not statistically significant. An unscrupulous vendor may pay for the glowing review that extols the virtues of a product. Conversely, an overly negative Amazon review may be created by a competitor or by a customer who unsuccessfully requested a product return outside of company policies (ex: warranty period) and decided to penalize the company with a poor review and false information.
Generational Preferences Make Traditional B2B Sales & Marketing Processes More Challenging.
Younger generations have been raised with the internet and peer recommendations. I’ve seen firsthand, when attending trade shows, that many attendees under 35 treat interactions with those on the show floor as transactional as filling in a google form. They will shoot off 3-5 rapid-fire questions. Once the answers are obtained, they flee from any further interaction or contact, which impedes your company’s ability to provide additional value or engage in a consultative conversation.
After requesting information and opting in at the website, many younger customers may ‘ghost’ you unless they need help or choose your product. Your sales teams may be trained only to offer assistance and information and avoid the perception of being ‘salesy’. However, many younger customers may see any attempt at contact as overt selling. Emails sent are often not returned and are often flagged as spam. Forget leaving a phone message, as most voice mailboxes are never set up or left full to avoid interaction with callers.
When the customer does engage with a company-controlled touchpoint, such as your social media channels, paid media, or website, your actions and message will define your brand and their response. Your message must resonate with their needs. Otherwise, it will leave a poor impression and require additional effort for future sales. Any follow-up actions must meet their values or will do long-term damage to your brand.
An example of this is cold calling. I coach my companies to avoid this at all costs, as true ‘cold calling’ (calling without any indication of purchase intent) has a greater risk of damaging your brand than creating a new business opportunity.
What can companies do to best compete in this communication-challenged B2B marketing environment?
B2B companies MUST implement an integrated B2B sales & marketing function as one cohesive business unit with
joint management, information systems, and goals.
This new structure starts with organizational design.
No matter how large a company, envision your company with a General Manager accountable for the overall revenue success of the organization, division, product, etc. Under the GM are the two sales & marketing leaders running an integrated B2B sales & marketing organization.
This structure still ensures specialization for the sales & marketing functions; however, eliminates independent silos that traditionally exist when marketing goals and sales targets conflict (art vs. paying the bills).
The GM creates a shared culture of aligned goals and success that otherwise is difficult to achieve. This design has been proven to work in large, high-performance, Fortune 100 organizations. Dell Technologies has used this structure since the mid-1990s. The two sales & marketing leaders can matrix into a company-wide marketing or sales community that provides shared resources, common guidance (for example, company brand guidelines), and career progression without affecting the GM-oriented alignment.
Next is the requirement for transparency and measurement.
This is achieved via shared information systems across the entire marketing & sales process. All marketing and sales tools must be coordinated and freely available to leaders and analysts, starting with spend and ad placement through your CRM, sales reporting, and other analytics. This transparency allows the organization to better execute, assess the performance of marketing and sales activities, hold teams accountable, and adjust activities, staffing, and leadership honestly and objectively for the team’s benefit and success. This removes finger-pointing (‘it was a bad marketing campaign’ or ‘they haven’t been taught to sell’). The teams now work together to understand all steps of the engagement process and develop the tools to bring deals to closure.
Lastly, the GM and leadership team must define quarterly and annual objectives tied to sales & marketing team compensation.
There’s no better way to get everyone on the same page than to tie their compensation to the GM’s goals of revenue, sales wins, retention, etc. These goals will likely be short-term in nature. However, as the functions learn to work together, they can become more strategic, benefiting the sales team and stretching their competencies over time. While the sales organization tends to be more used to a variable, measured compensation structure, tying variable compensation has the best odds of fostering a team environment and alignment for shared outcomes.
You’ll notice that I haven’t discussed tactical marketing programs due to increased B2B marketing fragmentation due to the internet. The reason is that each company’s challenges will differ based on environmental variables, including industry, product type, competition, and available media.
The one constant we encounter in B2B organizations is the disconnect between sales & marketing functions.
Don’t hesitate to contact us at Flywheel Advisors to further discuss your organization’s unique market challenges and how we can help you address your management structure, organizational culture, and incentives to help you tackle and beat the competition.