Organizations Must Commit to Sales and Marketing Alignment

The role of the traditional salesperson will continue to morph as customers become even more empowered with information, suggested industry experts at the first day of Forrester's Forum For Sales Enablement Professionals yesterday in Scottsdale, AZ. “The challenge for all of us and our companies now is to align all our different sales channels to the behavior of our new buyers in the age of the customer,” Peter O'Neill, vice president and research director at Forrester Research, said in his opening remarks.

O’Neill’s words were echoed in various forms throughout the day by speakers who highlighted the ways in which buyers are becoming more independent, and thus harder to pinpoint in the buying process. “Our customers are well on their way to digital self-sufficiency,” Rowena Track, vice president of digital strategy and solutions at TE Connectivity stated in her keynote. For TE Connectivity, a B2B company that provides sensors and semiconductors to engineers, Track said the eye-opener came when someone from Google, who was working on a product that wouldn’t come out for several years, searched for a product and couldn’t find it on the company’s Web site. Caught unprepared with the appropriate information, Track realized that her company would now need to be a few steps ahead to lodge the company in customers’ minds well ahead of the purchase.

Customers are now doing more research, and making up their minds about a purchase well before even interacting with companies. “[Most people] don’t want to talk to a sales rep,” Andy Hoar, principal analyst at Forrester Research stated in his keynote, during which he presented findings from a new study. “People feel that they can pretty much self-serve nowadays….The days of [cold] calling are over.” To demonstrate his point, he asked members of the audience to raise their hands if they’d interacted with a salesperson when buying business-related products over the past year. Few did.

Instead, buyers are turning to salespeople when they are in dire need of assistance with a purchase. By 2020, Hoar says, salespeople in the B2B market will take on more elaborate roles as consultants who advise their customers throughout complicated buying processes. Hoar outlined several shifts to be anticipated in a salesperson’s responsibilities that would reflect this consumer trend. Customers will turn to representatives when they are negotiating prices, when a buying process is complex or expensive, and when it requires installation or additional service, Hoar maintains.

The importance of cooperation between sales and marketing departments was given heavy emphasis as one of the solutions to such problems. Track and others suggested focusing on aligning the goals of sales and marketing. “If marketing and sales are competing on what is a win,” Track said, “you’re wasting your time and losing the customer.”

“It’s the age of the customer [and] organizations will be most successful [if they] serve their customer,” Sheryl Pattek vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research said. If companies are to succeed, they must agree on a consistent message that can be shared by the various departments so can they collaborate and win the customer’s trust

And trust is a key differentiator, according to Brian Goonan, principal at Ernst & Young, who pointed out in his talk that a trusted relationship is one of the most important things a company can focus on. ”Trusted relationships lead to [the kind of] customer intimacy that establishes a foundation for sustained competitive advantage,” Goonan said.

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