B2B is a nuanced space.
So, yes, there are many places where great marketing + automation can lead to an environment where a salesperson is far less necessary in certain phases of the buying process than he was years ago. But what the Automators & Content Zealots would have us believe, is that their data is true for all segments of B2B. Not only is that wrong, it’s an incredibly harmful approach for business in that Marketing is often over-resourced and sales organizations under-resourced.
I have a suspicion that many Data-tificators (those who cite dubiously-sourced data), are rarely in actual selling situations: Negotiating new deals, wrangling contract negotiations, managing relationships with all the players in buying decisions.
There’s actually some great work happening in B2B that you likely don’t hear much about because it’s been suffocated by CONTENT & AUTOMATION noise. Here’s what I’ve been giddy about of late:
John Bottom: I’m a new fan girl of John Bottom via his post on Mark Schaefer’s blog: The 3 Social Media Secrets of B2B Buyers. John’s take on the newly released Buyersphere report:
“The findings revealed an interesting polarization in terms of social media usage. Half of B2B buyers are distributed normally in terms of their use of social media: some more, some less enthusiastic about its value. 47% of buyers, however, do not claim to use it at all:”
The report, and John’s analysis of it, aligns to what I’m seeing in my B2B sectors. Go. Read. This. For many of the clients I serve, a barely-there LinkedIn profile is bleeding edge for them. We don’t see much research on buyers who aren’t social and prospects who aren’t searching, but they’re out there in far greater numbers than you’d think. John also notes that the video craze may not be as big a payoff as many ponitificators are saying.
Julie Schwartz: I’ve been a big fan of Julie’s for some time now. Her robust research leads to data that makes sense, supported by sound scientific process. If you’re not already following her on twitter, do. All great stuff, zero nonsense. Here’s a preview of a study she’s presenting at ITSMA’s Annual Conference in November:
“ITSMA has documented the waning influence of peers and the rising credibility of solution provider websites, SMEs, and even salespeople. ITSMA’s 2013 How Buyers Consume Information Study (in partnership with CFO Magazine) is designed to illuminate emerging trends and help solution providers rethink the ways they reach and engage with decision makers and influencers throughout the buying process.”
(Wow – Salespeople credible? Whatever could she mean?) Connect with Julie and the folks at ITSMA. You’ll be glad you did.
Reg van Steen: Reg is a strategic advisor to financial and B2B organizations with TNS NIPO. Netherlands. WIth a couple decades of market research under his belt, one of his recent, robust studies explains:
“One of the myths around here has to do with the gospel of content marketing. My study has shown that in most B2B categories, very few buyers make use of blogs, online video and even LinkedIn during their buyer journey. This does not mean that one should not touch upon CM, but that you should invest just a very small part of your budget in it. There is no point in running way ahead of your buyers, spending too much money on a marketing instrument that has little reach so far.”
Reg and his team advise their clients “Always tailor your Marketing & Sales strategy to the buyer’s process within your specific category, not to any general B2B ‘truths.’” I couldn’t agree more. He tweets in both English & Dutch (usually easily translatable). Follow him.
Dave Stein: I’ve been a fan girl of this selling expert extraordinaire for quite some time. And I’m jazzed that marketers will get to hear from him directly at ITSMA’s Annual Conference in November. Here’s a preview:
“The vision of salespeople as thought-leaders has been around for decades. Senior executives want their companies’ salespeople commanding their customers’ interest, respect, and as a direct result, their ongoing business. But for many companies, that’s an elusive goal. And not achieving that goal has a big price—commoditization of your products and services, lower margins, stalled sales opportunities, and business lost to less-qualified competitors.”
Subscribe to his blog, follow him on twitter. He’s always spot on regarding B2B Sales.
Finally, I’ll leave you with this telling snippet from Jim Ninivaggi, from Sirius Decisions:
Jim: “…more than 90% of attendees at a recent #sdforum admitted they have no consistent sales call process.”
We continue to have serious, serious challenges in selling today. And the thing that kills me, is that many of these challenges are relatively easy to fix, if we had the resources to do so.
But it’s challenging for our broader community to remember nuance, when we are being slathered by CONTENT & AUTOMATION messages EVERYWHERE. And I get that the Automators and Content folks are sexy and have sexy key-noters, and also actually have some good, relevant messages amongst all the muck. Remember though, the Automators are selling Automation – and they’re damn good at it. But their audience is likely not your audience. So how you execute via Automation should be tailored to your targets.
We’re grownups, y’all, and we’re better than this. Analyze your own space and then strategize the most efficacious revenue generation path possible. One size does not fit all.