In the early 90s and up to early 2000s, it was enough if a sales person just landed up at the door of a prospect. Many large companies were accelerating their IT implementation and projects were handed out to people who showed up (of course, not that simple–but you get the message.) Today, this isn’t the case. Most companies have largely matured in their IT infrastructure and applications leading to shrinking deal sizes, and customers are laying in gateways like Vendor Management Systems and Procurement to operationalize IT processes.
I was speaking with the head of sales for the insurance vertical at one of the largest IT outsourcing firms, who runs a $1B book of business driven by 18 of the top 20 insurance companies worldwide. As we were discussing the challenges in landing deals, she revealed a dilemma: my customers don’t want to know about my capabilities, my past success stories, or even how big we are.
“The only thing question they have for us is: tell us something new.”
As we continued our conversation, it became very apparent that her marketing department–while supportive and fully capable–was woefully disconnected with her problems. This set me thinking about the classic problem: Sales doesn’t respect Marketing, and Marketing feels Sales doesn’t get it. Finally, I asked her: so where do you think is this disconnect? And her brilliant answer: “I think I am in Sales, my CMO thinks he is in Marketing. But you know what? We both should be working on opportunities.”
More discussions followed, and we came up with this outline:
The future of B2B Customer Engagement is all about Opportunity Management.
What does this mean? Here are our thoughts, and I would welcome your inputs as well.
- Collaborative Discovery: The large consulting firms sell to the upstream business potential and opportunities, where they invite their clients to be a part of the journey. The marketing in such firms are always discovering their buyers’ decision and organizational journeys, and become evangelists of possible opportunities. The sales, on the other hand, are guides and leaders in helping their clients along the execution path, leading to new outcomes. I have worked with some small IT firms that have scaled rapidly when they embraced this model of collaborative discovery with their clients. Through collaboration, both client and partner share thought leadership, build trust in embarking on uncharted paths together, and share the risks in the journey to success.
- Contextual Communication: In a recent Forrester report, Steven Casey calls out how Self-service Search is going to transform B2B marketing. This brings another dimension to the concept of Opportunity Management. B2B Marketers have a great role to play here, and those that build content as a constantly transforming contextual engine will shine. They will not gate content, follow up on downloading prospects ruthlessly, or pass on leads to their sales counterparts only to find them trashed. They will work in close collaboration with their sales teams to understand their buyers’ evolving journeys, dig deep within their company for knowledge and information wealth, or access external and competitive data that they will then transform into insightful information for their prospects.
- Customer-centric Focus: Even as service providers preach digital transformation to their clients (social, sentiment, and signal driven business models), they should be eating their own dog food. Sales cannot be all about deal sizes and margins, and marketing all about pushing traditional services through digital channels. They should show and risk being an innovation partner for their customers. Even a recruiting firm can be transformative. One of my clients is disrupting this business by asking different questions. Where most recruiting business is reactive, this client is proactive in their discovery and are leveraging it to find the most relevant candidates out of nowhere, and much ahead of other vendors in the list.
I would love to hear your feedback and experience in how your sales and marketing are aligning to the evolving ways in your buyers’ decision journeys.