Going into 2022 and beyond, one of the key business landscape shifts that will impact the business-to-business (B2B) marketing is the whole restructuring of how sales and marketing functions collaborate. If we take a step back and look at the broader business landscape, inflationary pressures across the global economy will see brands being forced to restructure and adapt to become leaner in terms of how they operate. We’ll likely see forced realignments across the functions, and the marketing function is not likely to be spared.
Aside from corporate restructuring, there’s another key driving factor behind this trend. COVID-19 has acted as a forcing function to shift B2B buying over the last two years to digital channels. As the world slowly reopens and attempts to settle into a new equilibrium, McKinsey’s latest B2B Pulse Survey states that customers want buying to be a completely omnichannel experience. Whilst the last two years have seen buying shift heavily into the digital and online space, the survey results show that customers want more channels, more convenience, and a more personalised experience.
These findings – conducted with over 3,500 decision makers across key buying markets – are consistent across every market and every industry regardless of organisation size or customer relationship stage. This shows that customers have settled into using an evenly divided mix of sales channels – covering traditional face-to-face interactions, remote human interactions and digital self-serve – across the entire sales funnel, from identifying and researching new vendors to the purchase and post-purchase stage.
The coalescence of these two factors means that sales and marketing functions will in due time, become less delineated. This article by Harvard Business Review opines that in the future, B2B brands will start creating what is called a unified commercial engine, where both sales and marketing teams work in an almost tech / software development like manner to support the new world of B2B buying.
This model already exists today in some advanced B2B sales and marketing teams, who have an integrated pipeline management model, which is a step ahead of the typical marketing-to-sales handoff model that most organisations adopt to clearly define the responsibilities of marketing and sales. In such models, the aim is to close the gap between sales and marketing by creating a shared understanding, such as in creating a common interpretation of funnel stages and definitions of leads, as well as how they are and should be scored.
In the years to come, I believe that more organisations will wise up to the importance of creating a unified commercial engine with sales and marketing almost functioning like one team, with shared KPIs and clear responsibilities on how they are to work together to achieve those. Whilst the timeline may look different for different sectors and organisations, those who take this approach will and should see growth in pipeline and revenue.
There will be change, and the following three areas are ones that marketers need to anticipate. The first would be much closer collaboration between marketing and sales in terms of pipeline management – this could mean the involvement, participation and contribution of marketing-to-sales meetings. Second, the marketing and sales team will need to build out their funnel model and lead scoring model across the entire funnel together, and use that as a point of alignment. The next step beyond that would be to work and collaboratively define integrated sales actions based on lead scores. Third, we may see a retirement of the marketing-to-sales handoff, which typically happens today around the sales qualified lead (SQL) stage. This means that marketing may – in the future – be required to support sales activities all the way from the top-to-the-bottom of the funnel, which means that marketing teams could be required to buy into helping with the development of sales enablement materials as well as participating in lower-funnel activities as a key support function.
All in all, with the pandemic accelerating buyers’ readiness to digital channels, and the need to make organisations more efficient, taking a unified approach to pipeline management and revenue generation proves far more effective than a divided house.