TLDR: Taking a data-driven approach to B2B selling and marketing will transform your go-to-market strategy. You don't need a major transformation overnight; instead, get started on the journey by putting the different elements in place at your own pace. Enabling it all will be an updated sales and marketing data ecosystem, which will be covered in an upcoming post. Let's focus for now on the key moves that will bring your go-to-market strategy into the 2020s.
It seems everybody wants to be data driven these days. And for good reason! As we covered last June, businesses that perform markedly better in terms of sales and revenue growth do certain things differently than businesses that see their sales and revenue stagnate. They follow an approach we call data-driven selling.
Through data-driven selling these businesses have managed to survive and thrive in trying times and get positioned for growth in an environment that is increasingly digital and virtual. So, what does it mean in practice? Let's look at 21 best practices across your customer-facing functions in terms of strategy, marketing tactics, sales tactics, and data management.
Tip #1: Engage customers in real time across channels
Time kills deals, we all know this. So what are you waiting for? A full 85% of top sales performers engage with customers in real-time across channels vs 55% for low performers. In addition, 79% of business leaders believe the ability to use real-time analytics to improve customer experience touch points and devices is extremely important. Bottom line? Have a plan for engaging with customers in real time and at scale - more on tactics below.
Tip #2: Keep innovating your marketing technology, tactics, strategies
Technology keeps evolving and with it the capabilities to better target prospects and customers. Top selling organizations are 62% more likely to be constantly innovating their marketing tactics, strategies, and technology. This requires not simply an updated technology stack, but more importantly a process by which you can innovate and refresh your tactics. What's your plan to test, trial, innovate?
Tip #3: Define your AI strategy
In a world where 1:1 conversations are becoming the norm for top performing sales and marketing organizations, how do you do so at scale? The answer is to leverage artificial intelligence technology to identify, target, engage, and retain your best customers. Use cases include enhanced lead scoring, sales coaching, conversational agents driving pre-sales engagement, cross-sell optimization and retention using next-best-action recommendations, and many others. No matter what use case is most relevant to you, the point is: 70% of top performing teams have an AI strategy to help their organization drive these 1:1 conversations at scale, and are 5x more likely to be implementing it. What about you?
Tip #4: Map your customer journey
Have you mapped your customer journey yet? A full 87% of top performers have. You can't be innovating tactics, delight prospects and customers, drive acquisition and retention effectively unless you understand the journey your buyers and customers are going through, so start mapping if you haven't done so already!
Tip #5: Measure the customer experience and make it a key pillar of your strategy
Now that you've mapped your customer journey, are you measuring your customer experience across the board? Do you understand your customer's pain points? Do you have a plan to track it and improve on it? 85% of businesses say customer experience is a key differentiator, but much like the children of Lake Wobegon, this can't be the case. Start genuinely measuring it and make it a pillar of your customer strategy.
Tip #6: Have a marketing automation solution in place
You can't drive personalized, targeted prospect and customer engagement at scale unless you have a marketing automation solution in place. Top performers are 3x more likely to be using marketing automation. Don't be the guy with a knife at a gun fight.
Tip #7: Automate your marketing measurement / attribution process
With the rise of omnichannel selling customer journeys have become increasingly more complex. How do you know which marketing tactic is working when a prospect generally goes through multiple touch points across multiple channels multiple times prior to purchasing? Doing a once-a-year attribution study, while better than not having a clue which marketing tactic works, is no longer enough. In a fast changing marketplace 67% of top performing teams are automating their attribution process and so should you.
Tip #8: Analyze your marketing performance in real time
You can't drive effective real-time engagement with your prospects and customers if you can't analyze in real-time what is working and what is not. Top performing teams are 1.5x more likely to analyze performance in real time. If you took tips #6 and #7 to heart, you should have the means to do so yourself. Can you track prospects and customer across your demand funnel? Are you continually disseminating actionable insights back to sales and marketing leaders so they can make better decisions? Make sure you put in place real-time reporting, use it in your review process to iterate and improve on your performance.
Tip #9: Ensure your customer engagement is data driven
While about 80% of businesses will claim they are data driven, our experience is that most are not, at least certainly not when it comes to customer engagement. Much like following a data-driven investment process ensures investors guard against their own biases and make objective decisions, following a data-driven customer engagement process ensure your best prospects and customers are consistently engaged in an effective, objective manner that leads to better conversion and better retention. As a side benefit you will also build up a valuable data asset.
Tip #10: Have a sales automation solution with CRM in place
Much like the case of marketing automation, you can't drive real-time sales engagement with customers at scale unless you have a sales automation solution with a CRM system in place. Top performers are 2x more likely to be using sales automation. Again, don't be the guy with a knife at a gun fight.
Tip #11: Integrate your email and CRM systems
That one had us scratching our heads. Most sales automation platforms come with a generally user-friendly email integration tool, and email integration is key to capturing sales activity data without which sales automation can't function effectively. Yet email integration stands at an embarrassing 51%. Please go ahead and integrate your email and sales automation systems. The functionality generally comes straight out of the box and it will make a world of difference to how effective automation can be.
Tip #12: Use a mobile sales app for your employees
Especially in the B2B world, most reps will generally not be in the office but on the move (with a temporary exception in our current COVID world). Using a mobile sales app will make them far more effective with respect to sale activity capture as well as field intelligence gathering. No wonder top performers are 1.5x more likely to use a mobile sales app.
Tip #13: Use a sales coaching and training tool
With the average sales team experiencing a turnover rate of 34% and one in ten seeing rates as high as 55%, coaching and training sales reps is more important than ever. How do you provide quality, actionable coaching in an environment where de-layering has become the norm and sales management is constantly stretched? 60% of top performing teams use individualized coaching and training tools to ensure team members perform at their best.
Tip #14: Use a sales forecasting tool
Here again, the theme is use a consistent and objective process to deliver a better sales forecast. The technology has evolved to the point where most metrics can now be forecast automatically (current course and speed view) across the board using the latest AI techniques. Top sales and marketing organizations are 1.5x more likely to use these tools. Some tools even allow you to include sales team input, but use unvalidated human input sparingly, as it is more likely to bias the forecast than to improve it.
Tip #15: Conduct your ABM program with automation
If you operate in the B2B realm, specifically in the mid-market to enterprise segments, and have not yet put in place an ABM strategy (account-based management), we recommend you do so immediately. There are many resources out there on how to implement account-based management and it's become a de facto standard for many top performing organizations, 73% of which use automation for this purpose. In a nutshell you will be targeting teams at strategic accounts rather than individuals. Modern ABM tools allow you to target and track buying teams at scale and in real-time. This is much more effective when the sales process is complex and involves multiple decision makers and influencers.
Tip #16: Staff up your inside sales / sales development reps
As virtual and online sales continue their relentless growth, top performing sales and marketing organizations have responded in an unambiguous manner: most have grown their inside sales teams and sales development (SDR) teams by about 7%, and are 2x to 3x more likely to have done so than under-performing teams. Don't be penny-wise and poind-foolish: move your resources where it matters and make sure you can support the growth of your virtual channels.
Tip #17: Put in place a partner relationship management (PRM) solution
A lot of our focus so far has been on direct sales, but the same lessons apply to indirect sales. Do you have a partner portal? Have you automated partner on-boarding, training, and settlement? Top performing teams are more than 2x more likely to use a PRM solution to do so.
Tip #18: Put in place a data ecosystem that enables data-driven selling
The benefits of being a data-driven organization can't be realized without a proper data ecosystem supporting your sales and marketing functions. According to Forrester 61% of businesses find that data quality is the biggest barrier to taking advantage of new technologies. Far from being the huge barrier it is sometimes made out to be, data quality can be readily improved through the gradual implementation of a proper data ecosystem, including basic but consistent and effective extract-transform-load (ETL) techniques and operations. We do this all the time for our clients; you owe it to yourself to clean up your data environment.
Tip #19: Stand up a data science & engineering environment
Likewise, you can't start realizing the benefits of being truly data-driven and analytics-oriented if you don't build up a basic level of internal capabilities. Think about how the web changed the way businesses go to market. Most businesses wouldn't imagine today not having at least some internal web capabilities and familiarity. Cloud, AI, and automation are now changing again how we go to market. You need to have some expertise internally in your data analytics or business analytics team, so you can better understand this new world.
Tip #20: Put customer privacy at the center of everything you do
As we become increasingly more data-driven and customer-led, it's become critical to establish and maintain the trust of our customers. Customers who trust a company are 92% more likely to buy more products and services. We earn customers' trust by putting them at the center of everything we do: 91% of customers say they're more likely to trust a company if it shows (credibly) its commitment to protecting customer information.
Tip #21: Make sure the Marketing, Sales, and Service teams align their systems and processes
Last but not least, the sales, marketing, and customer service teams need to be aligned on the same set of definitions and processes. While many businesses profess to have achieved this alignment, our experience is that the devil is in the details, and in many cases businesses that thought they were aligned are not. Functional leaders might have been aligned on strategic principles, but left implementation details up to silo'ed teams. As a result business rules are inconsistent, data definitions and metrics defined differently across the organization, creating a myriad inefficiencies and obstacles to being genuinely data driven. The answer is to establish a single source of truth early across every step of the customer journey and put the proper data management process in place.
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