Building a Better B2B Buyer’s Journey
Four key takeaways from Sean Murray’s interview with Crownpeak CMO at the 2021 Gartner® Marketing Symposium/Xpo™
At the recent Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo™, Crownpeak CMO Lacey Ford interviewed Sean Murray, Chief Revenue Officer for Greenhouse, a recruiting software company to learn about the evolving role of the salesperson, and what CMOs need to learn from sales to succeed in new buy cycles. This lively discussion hit on several key points that are highly relevant for any B2B marketing organization that desires to remain agile, respond quickly to changing customer demands and win against the competition.
According to the Gartner for Sales eBook, The Future of Sales: Transformational Strategies for B2B Sales Organizations:
- “33% of all buyers desire a seller-free experience.
- Gartner expects that by 2025 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels.”
“The biggest change is buyer enablement,” said Murray. “Buyers today are more informed than they ever have been, and the information they’re absorbing is really good information.”
He says that CMOs are supplying buyers with good information. Yet having all of this great information at their fingertips is resulting in buyers spending a lot less time interacting with B2B sellers.
When asked for an example of this, Murray shared a recent experience from Greenhouse’s own B2B sales.
“This was a several hundred-thousand-dollar opportunity,” he explained. “The buyer contacted us and said ‘I have these five questions for you. I don’t need a demo, I need answers to those five questions, and I’ll let you know if we want to move forward.’”
Despite attempts to bring the buyer around to talking more, the buyer insisted on receiving answers to those five questions before they would even consider interacting with sales. Murray said this is the sense they’re feeling from other sales leaders all over the world – B2B buyers are not engaging with sales like they used to.
According to the Gartner for Sales report, 5 Ways the Future of B2B Buying Will Rewrite the Rules of Effective Selling:
“Relatedly, B2B buyers report spending exceedingly little time with sales reps. Only 17% of the total purchase journey is spent in such interactions (see Figure 2). Considering the average deal involves multiple suppliers, any given sales rep has roughly 5% of a customer’s total purchase time. Sales leaders lament decreased customer access, but it should come as little surprise considering the improved quality (not to mention quantity) of information available through more objective digital channels. Customers perceive little distinct value (beyond their own learning) from sales rep interactions, resulting in only necessary access being granted.”
“Perhaps most troubling is a pronounced generational shift in skepticism of sales reps. Our research finds millennial business customers over twice as skeptical as baby boomers (see Figure 3), with 44% of millennials preferring no sales rep interaction in a B2B purchase setting.”
What can be done?
Some fundamental shifts need to happen in order for marketing and sales to align and make the most of the trend toward digital B2B selling.
Forge tighter bonds between sales and marketing. For sales pros, that means the first meeting each week should be with the CMO to align on priorities for the week. Strategically, heads of sales need to think like marketers and heads of marketing need to think like sales.
Sales and marketing must continue to engage throughout the entire customer journey. Sales has always needed traditional branding and demand generation support from marketing. What’s different now is it’s no longer just a handoff from marketing to sales. When buyers go around sales people, seeking their information digitally, marketers need to follow the customer deeper into the funnel, providing engaging content that drives them toward the sale.
Follow the digital breadcrumbs. A silver lining: as buyers are shopping more online, they leave trails of digital data that helps organizations understand where and how they are shopping. This information can be crucial both in designing better buyer’s journeys and in helping sales to tee-up the right engagement at the right time.
“I need marketing to be deeper into the sales process,” said Murray. “If buyers are 70% through their own sales cycle before they engage a potential partner, as sales I need more help to engage.”
Four tips for CMOs to succeed in new buy cycles
Murray shared his top four tips to help B2B marketing organizations develop engaging digital experiences from a sales perspective.
- Personalize the buyer’s journey. This will help you differentiate from competitors who have a one-size-fits-all marketing approach.
- Create urgency at all times. Sometimes your biggest competitor is change management.
- Reframe the problem. Buyers may think they know what they’re looking for, but you always have an opportunity to reframe the problem the buyer needs to solve.
- Always be closing. Here’s where marketing needs to think like a sales pro – constantly re-evaluating how they can best support the digital buyer’s journey using data-driven personalization across multiple channels and leaning in when customers need additional support for making their case to their IT or legal departments.
“When we typically get toward the end of the sales process, marketers can lean in,” said Murray. “Messaging for those other parties can help close the deal.”
The digital buyer’s journey requires a multichannel approach, and sellers need to be where the buyers are, digitally speaking. That means looking at their digital experiences not only through the website, but also through social media, third party analysts like Gartner and online customer reviews.
What’s one thing CMOs should go and do today?
Murray’s advice: Put more money behind marketing.
According to Gartner in The State of Marketing Budgets 2021: Insights From Gartner’s Annual CMO Spend Survey
“Marketing budgets as a proportion of company revenue have fallen from 11% in 2020 to 6.4% in 2021, their lowest point in the history of Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey.”
Yet, enterprises need marketers now more than ever, because the digital buyer experience is more important than ever.
“We need the right people, the right platforms, and the right content for creating digital experiences,” said Murray. "If 80% are digital by 2025, we need more money for marketing, because buyer experience and enablement will win today and in the long term.”
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 Gartner, The Future of Sales: Transformational Strategies for B2B Sales Organizations, Gartner for Sales, Published 2020.[https://www.gartner.com/en/sales/trends/future-of-sales].
 Gartner, 5 Ways the Future of B2B Buying Will Rewrite the Rules of Effective Selling, Brent Adamson and Nick Toman, Published 04 August 2020.
 Gartner, The State of Marketing Budgets 2021: Insights From Gartner’s Annual CMO Spend Survey, Gartner for Marketers, Published 2021. [https://www.gartner.com/en/marketing/research/annual-cmo-spend-survey-research-sem-cmomarketing].