It may be true that up to two-thirds of the buying process is completed before sales gets actively involved (based on research from Forrester and others), but it’s important to keep in mind that this statistic is an average. It’s reflective of what everyone is doing melded together, on the buyer and seller side, vs. what the best companies are executing on to exceed quota again and again.
New research published last week from SiriusDecisions seems to reflect a more realistic and optimistic scenario, demonstrating that sales professionals are providing value at every stage of the buying process. And, in fact, buyers still request and appreciate a value-added sales professional to help facilitate the right decision.
Yes, buyers are more educated. Yes, they’re self-navigating more of the early stages of the buyer’s journey on their own. Yes, this means that marketing’s role in the buyer’s journey and, hence, the sales process is far more important than ever before.
Lost in this entire discussion and debate, however, is the fact that successful, scalable growth organizations cannot and will not exist entirely with sales or entirely with marketing. The best organizations blend those roles together into a single buying experience, a central and powerful buying story.
There was additional, compelling evidence last week at the SiriusDecisions Summit that sales-driven demand is four times more likely to close than marketing-driven demand. This is often more true, and more material, for larger-sized deals than SMB sales opportunities.
But that statistic only tells part of the story. Although sales-driven demand might be more efficient on a conversion basis, those deals (according to SiriusDecisions research) can cost up to five times more to acquire when marketing isn’t involved.
Great marketing makes the sales job more efficient, more predictable. Great sales programs capitalize and convert on great marketing.
I don’t see a scenario anytime soon when seven-figure enterprise purchases will happen as a direct result of a white paper download. I also don’t see a scenario where serious companies focused on growth will stop investing in marketing to make their pipelines more efficient, today and into the future.
To say that sales & marketing are in this together is an understatement. One or the other isn’t at all sufficient. Coordinating efforts is a great start.
But the market-leading companies today and into the near future will continue to treat sales & marketing as a unified, coordinated, tightly-blended effort.
It’s not about holding off sales until the end of the buying process. It’s not about placing blame, or even about precisely identifying attribution.
Market leaders deploy every resource across the sales & marketing organizations to deliver and reinforce the right message, the right value, at the right time to prospective, current and future customers. Period.