We continue to organize our sales and marketing initiatives around what makes us more efficient or old views of how customers buy.
Classically, marketing’s focus is on creating interest and awareness, then driving demand. The work toward MQLs, turning them over to sales, hopefully as SALs, saying “Good luck and godspeed!, we caught ’em, you skin ’em.”
Sales picks up the process, SDRs call to qualify the opportunity, they hand the lead to an account manager who gets more information, the customer is handed over to a pre-sales person for a demo, then someone else try to close them.
The overall marketing/sales assembly line takes customers through this linear process, all oriented to moving the customer through a buying decision.
Of course there are variants to this, there may be an account focus or orientation, there may be some sort of nurturing loop for customers that are not ready to buy, but as soon as we can we want to drop them into our marketing and sales assembly line.
Except our assembly line/linear customer engagement model doesn’t reflect how our customers buy. Our customers aren’t engaged in a linear buying process, in fact, when we start mapping it, the process is very complex. It’s a series of starts, stops, changes, reassessment, abandonment, restarting, stopping, going backwards, restarting, changing scope, adding new buying team members, more changes………
But we aren’t structured to be able to respond to the customer’s chaotic buying process.
How do we rethink things to have half a chance of intersecting the customer wherever they are at and trying to move them forward?
- We know the customer will leverage multiple channels, simultaneously, for information at they go through the buying process. Marketing needs to start thinking about their role through the entire process–not just creating awareness and driving demand. What content, programs, systems, tools can they provide to intersect the customer in impactful ways through the entire process (perhaps even into implementation).
- Likewise, sales shouldn’t be waiting for marketing to create awareness and demand. Sales may be the first point of contact as a customer is beginning or restarting, a buying process.
- Sales and marketing must both mirror and complement each other, in engaging the customer through their buying process.
- Helping the customer simplify their process—trying to put order to what the customer is trying to achieve, removing the complexity–becomes one of the greatest areas of value we can create in helping the customer more effectively navigate their buying journey. The chaotic buying process is not something customer do by design, it’s a reflection of the reality customers face in trying drive change in their organizations. This presents a huge opportunity for vendors, whatever can be done to help customer understand what they need to understand, helping them simplify the buying process, navigating the journey far more easily.
- Simplifying and helping customers more effectively navigate the process requires new selling skills.
- Curiosity, the drive to understand what the customer faces–from a business point of view, from a personal point of view, seeing what they face as they try to navigate the buying journey.
- Project management, helping the customer better structure what they are doing, establishing a work plan, goals, a process, helping guide the customer through that structured approach.
- Resource management, knowing how to most effectively leverage the right resources, in the right way, at the right time through the buying journey. Whether it is the customer resource, your own company resource, or even external resources–all must be leveraged effectively to simplify the process.
- Critical thinking/problem solving skills, the ability to analyze the complex dynamics impacting the customer buying process. The ability to understand the complexity the customer faces, the ability to simplify the process, teaching the customer how to better structure what they are trying to do and how to more effectively achieve their goals.
- Empathy/EQ, these have always been important sales skills, but they become more important in understanding what the customer is going through in the chaotic buying process.
- Patience. Most sales people are in a rush to close. The chaotic buying journey changes everything. Whatever we can do to simplify the process and help customers more effectively navigate that process. In the rush to close, sales impatience will have a greater adverse impact on the overall process and the outcomes of the process.
What’s this mean for sales and marketing organizational structure? I’m not sure I know, but I suspect we will require must closer integration of the functions–possibly bringing the organizations together. Complexity within our own organizations will increasingly become a factor impacting our ability to work with customers in their own complex journey. I suspect we will have to dramatically simplify our own organizational structures, more clearly define roles/responsibilities, and reduce the fragmentation/handoffs in the process. Anything else and we get paralyzed by the complexity of our own operations, incapable of dealing with the chaotic buying process.
For very complex buying decisions, chaos will be the biggest factor impacting our customers. Helping our customers effectively navigate this, reducing the complexity means we will have to rethink everything we do as sales and marketing professionals.