Marketing Leadership

3 Sales And Marketing Challenges With Today’s B2B Buyer

The modern B2B buyer is an elusive creature, worthy of its own documentary narrated by David Attenborough that features their fascinating habits and perplexing rituals.  Sir Attenborough would not return our calls though, so we did the next best thing.

Our respective teams, Sigstr and PathFactory, both worked with Heinz Marketing to help understand what’s going on with the B2B buyer how to overcome common sales and marketing challenges associated with not knowing them well enough. We published separate research (the “State of Relationship Marketing” and “Inside the Head of a Marketing Leader”) that had some pretty compelling and complementary results. Out of these studies, we found 3 common sales and marketing challenges posed by the modern B2B buyer and have recommended a few possible solutions based on our research.

Sales and Marketing Challenge #1: Developing relationships with buying committees and key stakeholders

“The modern buyer is a lot savvier today, so it’s more difficult to start and develop relationships with them (especially at scale). But at the end of the day, the only thing our sales and marketing teams are trying to do is develop relationships.” Justin Keller

The average B2B buying committee now has 6.8 people in it. While that’s intimidating, take solace in the fact that 62.3% of B2B buying committees have somewhere between 1 and 5 committee members. And please don’t freak out when I tell you that over 10% of them have between 21 and 75 members.

96% of sales and marketing professionals agree that developing strong relationships with key stakeholders plays a critical role in the outcome of the sale. So almost invariably, your sales and marketing teams now HAVE to engage multiple disparate personas and personalities in every sale. The scary part? 66% of selling teams today do not feel confident about developing relationships with these committees and personas.

This is a critical intersection. Every year more and more humans are added to buying committees, meaning more relationships need to be developed. However, our sales team overwhelmingly feels inadequate at developing those relationships. I think there are 2 main reasons why this is the case:

People are doing more business online than ever before. And buyers are completing more of their research before ever making themselves known to a vendor. So, by the time they’re ready to talk, most of their buyer’s journey has been completed without you.

Selling teams are experiencing the inability to measure something as squishy as relationships, even though 96% of us agree that relationships are a critical factor in the outcome of a sale. Regardless of how much research a buyer has done, they’re most likely going to have to engage with a human. If we can’t measure it, we can’t improve it. So we’re left with measuring opportunity stages instead.

In a time where relationship marketing is more important and more difficult than ever, content becomes the bridge between marketing, sales, and the buyer that helps us move the deal forward. Which brings us to challenge #2…

Sales and Marketing Challenge #2: Having the right information to deliver content at the right time

“If you think about the last expensive thing you bought in your personal life, you probably consumed a lot of information before a decision was made. In B2B, content is about risk mitigation for the buyer.” – Elle Woulfe

Your buyers are incredibly good at Googling. If they have a question about a product feature, customer experience, or ROI, they’ll find it. And if they can’t find it, there’s an abundance of ways for them to ask someone for the answer. With that said, we have some good news for you content marketers! 92% of buyers say that content plays an important role in their buying decision. But there’s also bad news. 1 in 2 buyers report that they usually receive content irrelevant to their pain points, challenges, and responsibilities. This puts us at another uncomfortable intersection. Buyers overwhelmingly rely on content to inform their buying decision, but half of them aren’t getting what they need for their evaluation. Here are a couple of ways to combat that:

  1. Don’t build a “one size fits all” content program. All too often, content marketers put their own needs (traffic, downloads, etc.) before their customers’ needs (use-case specific content, persona oriented content, etc.).
  2. Consider your buying committees. Take a deep dive into your CRM and talk to your sales team to truly understand
    • WHO is in the buying committee
    • WHAT questions or pain points do they seek to answer
    • WHEN in the customer journey do these questions or pain points occur

Chances are disparate people in a buying committee are going to need different information at different times. Equipping your sales team with a content guide, or better yet a guided content journey, will not only make their lives easier, it will make your content exponentially more valuable. Content can help make your sales team look like they truly understand their buyer. Aligning content to personas and stages will build trust and make relationship building easier than ever.

After your content is lined up, it’s time to get your team lined up. This brings us to challenge #3…

Sales and Marketing Challenge #3: Sales and marketing alignment is way easier said than done

By now we’ve established that the link between the marketing team (and the content they produce) and the sales team is the key to enabling your buyers. But only 33% of revenue teams report a strong alignment between each team. Not only that, 75% of salespeople say that marketing is not effective at helping them move deals forward. This disconnect from sales to their buyers is precisely why you’re hearing the words “sales and marketing alignment!” on every floor of every office building. While saying it is nice, tactically aligning both teams is much easier said than done.

“We talk about strategic sales and marketing alignment as in, ‘we all agree we have the same objectives, goals and approach’, but strategic alignment at the sales kickoff is a lot different from alignment on a Tuesday. What does that look like tactically? How can you ensure sales and marketing is aligned throughout every stage of the buying process?” – Matt Heinz

The answer du jour has been, “well, let’s do ABM!” If sales and marketing are both focusing on the same account list, surely alignment will emerge right? Once again, that’s much easier said than done. 57% of revenue teams indicate that they are running an account-based program, but only 30% of those teams say that it’s been effective in helping them hit their revenue goals. While the cause for this underperformance could be several things, maybe we can boil it down to this simple fact? Too often we’re treating leads, contacts and accounts like numbers and not groups of living, breathing humans.

Sales teams are developing relationships with humans, not numbers. Humans are consuming your content, not numbers. And humans, not accounts, are buying your solutions. If scaling relationships with humans was easy, we’d all be doing it, but the simple fact is that it’s incredibly difficult. Creating and personalizing content for multiple personas in various industries and stages is tough, but it’s absolutely critical for revenue teams today.

If you’d like even more on this subject, check out our recent “How Sales and Marketing Can Work Together To Better Understand the B2B Buyer” webinar recording.

Written By
Justin Keller
Justin is a bold, data-driven marketer with 13+ years of leadership experience in digital media and B2B marketing. As VP of Marketing at Sigstr, Justin leads all areas of marketing, including brand, demand generation, and overall strategy. An industry influencer and expert B2B marketer, Justin speaks regularly across the country about the power of personalization, relationship development, Account Based Marketing, and content marketing strategy.

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