At the beginning of each year, my team and I publish a report on significant trends in B2B sales and marketing. This report is based on our experience with our B2B clients as well as relevant industry research. The purpose or the report is to provide information that is timely and actionable. You can read the full report here.
Trend 1: Metrics are a major priority. We see many B2B companies adopting an end-to-end marketing and sales framework that:
- Attributes new revenue to specific lead sources. As Casey Szulc of Inc.com reported, “…89% of businesses who carry out any form of attribution say it had a positive impact on their business.”
- Tracks conversion rates at every step in the process, including response to marketing qualified leads (MQL), MQL to sales accepted leads (SAL), sales accepted leads to opportunities and opportunities to closed deals.
- Combines marketing and sales reporting in a dashboard view.
Trend 2: Social media is getting tougher. It’s getting tougher because it is getting more competitive and the battle for prospects’ eyeballs and ears is fierce. The social sites that used to be mostly promotion-free (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) are now inundated with paid promotion. Just as with past “hot media” like direct mail, email and online banner ads, when advertiser activity goes up, response rates go down. You can see a lot of the Global Web Index research here.
Trend 3: The buyer’s funnel is becoming more important than the sales funnel. There are many variations of sales funnels, but they all have one thing in common – they are focused on the methodology sellers use to find prospects, engage with them, and close business. And while having a systematized process for achieving revenue is important, it will fail unless you incorporate something more important than just the way you prefer to do business.
Prospects want to buy the way they want to buy and are not prone to being directed by a sales team. For instance, they may do their own competitive product research, read reviews and appear much deeper in the funnel, ready for a quote. Yet, the prospect is confronted with a sales rep that frustrates them because of the insistence of following a rigid process that may have little to do with the way they prefer to conduct business. Industry experts have referred to this trend in different ways, calling the new model a “blurry buyers funnel” or a “fuzzy sales funnel.”
Trend 4: Tighter alignment of the sales and marketing functions. We are seeing a greater emphasis on sales and marketing alignment, not only in industry buzz, but also among our clients and prospects. As a specific example of why this is important, you can read my June 2014 article, where I talked about two very different sales models, and how they were created to effectively support the sales function. When you include hybrids, there are dozens of possible sales models and each needs to be tightly aligned between marketing and sales.
Trend 5: Failure to follow-up remains a big revenue killer. My company, Fusion Marketing Partners, has conducted extensive research on short- and long-term B2B buying patterns. One of the most striking conclusions is that the number of qualified prospects that will buy short-term is matched by an equal number who will buy, either from you or a competitor, downstream. This is why nurturing your prospect database is such a valuable activity. This means that you must follow-up not only when the lead first comes in (even though our research shows that 51.4% of inbound inquiries are not contacted), but also on a regular basis until that individual/company is ready to engage with you and buy something.
I feel confident that taking advantage of one or more of these sales and marketing trends can have a large impact for your company. I hope you enjoy and benefit from reading about these trends. We feel strongly that 2015 can be a great year for B2B companies and trust that you will achieve your share of revenues and profits.