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Does the Digital World Mean the End for Sales?

The world of Sales & Marketing is shifting more and more to the marketing side. It has been like that for a while now in most B2C industries, where direct selling has not been nearly as efficient as marketing.

Now we are witnessing the same phenomenon in many B2B industries. Companies are increasing investments in content marketing, web-page design, targeted marketing, automated marketing, social media and content marketing, etc. - and with good reason.

Does the Digital World Mean the End of Sales

Here are some facts that should help us understand why B2B companies are emphasizing marketing and should send chills down your spine if you're a salesman:

  • 67% of buyer's journey is done digitally (Sirius Decisions)

  • 2% success rate cold-calling (Leap Job)

  • 90% value in-depth content

  • 73% consumers fed up with irrelevant content (Janrain & Harris Interactive)

  • 82% of buyers feel that sales reps are unprepared (Biznology)

  • 90% B2B buyers say online content has a moderate to major effect on purchasing decisions (CMO Council)

"B2B buyers are typically 57% of the way to a buying decision before actively engaging with sales." (CEB)

All of these stats underscore the importance of marketing. It is also worth noting that it is increasingly easy to create beautiful web-pages and do effective marketing campaigns. This, combined with the surging importance of marketing, is causing a couple of other things to happen:

  • The professional sales function is being neglected in B2B companies, causing it to become subordinated to marketing. As Peter Drucker said: "The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous" and "the right motto for business management should increasingly be 'from selling to marketing.'"However, unless we are talking about a plug-and-play commodity, your main differentiator is how you sell it. There is less focus on the development of new sales approaches and tools, salespeople are shifting towards order processors instead of hunters of new customers, and companies are getting fewer information from the market.

  • The gap between marketing and sales manifests in distrust and poor communication between the two departments in a company, inappropriate messaging for the customers, and overall sub-optimal sales results. Marketers get rewarded for producing leads, brochures, white papers, and similar – even if none of those results in a single sale. It is important to create a reward system that rewards an actual increase in sales results.

  • Marketing information overflow. It is incredibly simple for a layman to create the "perfect" web-site for a product or service that promises the world but only delivers an atlas. Distrust and insensitivity to marketing messaging is widespread in today's society.

One-way communication cannot replace the interactive communication of consultative sellers

B2B sales and marketing for global business development

The issues mentioned before need addressing if you are to increase your sales performance. Marketing is heavily one-sided and one-way communication cannot replace the interactive communication of consultative sellers. It is worth arguing why we should put more emphasis on professional sales by looking at some stats from before:

  • 67% buyer's journey is done digitally​ and 2% success rate of cold-calling.

These statistics make it look like selling (often misunderstood as cold-calling) is outdated and can only reach the customer in the final 33% of their journey, when we can hardly influence them. However, social selling is what companies should be turning to. In combination with marketing, salespeople can influence buyers during the digital part of their journey and they can do it through several different channels. We can engage them through emails, on social media (LinkedIn), by sharing relevant content via targeted videos or newspapers, personal branding, etc.

  • 90% value in-depth content and 73% consumers fed up with irrelevant content

Content marketing is incredibly important, but as we can see, irrelevant content can cause frustration and eventually lead to irrational dislike of the brand. It is generally a lot harder to feel the pulse of the market in B2B industries than in B2C industries. Therefore, it is vital for B2B companies to receive information from the market, not only by social listening on social media, but through salespeople's direct engagement with the market. That way we can group potential customers by their area of interest and provide in-depth content that will be relevant for that specific buyer.

  • 82% sales reps are unprepared

Sales reps tend to hammer out phone call after phone call (that's actually a sign of a good salesman because most are even afraid of picking up the phone) without an effective strategy for the call. This is a consequence of having to meet sales targets and quotas. Social selling lets them "warm up" the call and engage them by providing interesting and challenging information on the call.

  • 90% B2B buyers say online content has a moderate to major effect on purchasing decisions

As discussed before, with the over-saturation of marketing messages, every offer can seem "perfect" but how do you decide for one? I think we can all agree that it is a lot harder to trust marketing messages. Then you go around and check references, consult experts in the field, ask friends or even strangers on the internet for their opinion. Ultimately, someone will sell it to you and it's not going to be the ad.

To combat the distrust in marketing, B2B companies must reach a level of brand trust by knowing the customer's business, bringing them new ideas, and tailoring these new ideas and their capabilities to the customer's marketplace. Today, this can only be done through personal relationships and two-way communication with consultative sellers.

Moreover, marketing messaging relies on providing benefits to satisfy customers' needs. However, customers often have trouble defining what they need from their partners. For example, they might point to a specific problem they have or an opportunity they are trying to capitalize on, but they rely on the company to figure out the rest. Only a consultative salesperson can ask the right questions discover the roots of their issues and provide capabilities to cure them. This information is then further useful for the next marketing campaign.

There is an 'and' in Sales and Marketing for a reason

I feel like this is being repeated again and again but we are still hit by daily articles commenting on the latest marketing automation tool, on cold calling being dead, top 5 trends in content marketing, etc. I'm not saying these are worthless articles but there is a severe lack of emphasis on the value of good consultative selling. In the end, marketing is invaluable for generating awareness, piquing interest, and reaching wide audiences. Nonetheless, sales must not suffer for the sake of marketing. The value of having personal conversations with customers, understanding their business and issues, tailoring solutions to their specific situations, and creating a dialogue between you and the market is irreplaceable.


The Marketing Blender -

Gallup -

Biznology -

B2B PR Sense Blog -

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