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Sales/Marketing Mis-alignment: Why Engagement 2.0 Remains Elusive

by: Adam Needles (@IBMforMarketing)
09 July 2009

My last blog post explored the idea of Engagement 2.0 - an evolutionary idea I presented at the Online Marketing Summit (OMS) events in Portland and Seattle last week. The concept is two-fold: One, that the new era of B2B marketing requires a new mindset for the B2B marketing organization - active engagement as much with prospects/customers as with the sales organization. And two, that it suggests a new role for marketing both as the catalyst in dialogue with potential buyers and also as the critical link in the demand chain, "incubating" raw leads into mature opportunities and delivering them to sales.

In an interesting blog post I read recently, SiriusDecisions did a great job of characterizing this macro environment, discussing the related issue in B2B marketing as being that of the advent of Buyer 2.0 - which is the reason everything has changed.

The evidence of this new environment and of the need for Engagement 2.0 seems to be everywhere, but as with any new concept, it is important to make sure it's built on a solid foundation. So over the past week, I've begun doing research to further analyze why we as marketers still seem to be falling very short of the Engagement 2.0 aspiration. In fact, why is it that while sales collaboration is the stated goal, more often than not sales antagonism remains? And why is it that the relationship between most sales and marketing teams remains very static, even though Buyer 2.0 is such a complex, dynamic and iterative target?

Here are some interesting view points and data I've run across this week that help us further understand this phenomenon:

> We get things turned around; it's not just about making marketing/sales more efficient, it's also about better understanding and responding to the modern B2B buyer - i.e., being more "buyer centric" with our marketing strategy and systems: The revolution in B2B is not really in how we market or sell; it is really in how B2B buyers buy. And so the onus is on us as B2B marketers to respond to this evolution, but it requires recognizing this causal relationship. The changing buyer is changing how we market; not the other way around. SiriusDecisions addressed this in their recent post on Buyer 2.0, cited above:

Technology is the driver behind the shift in buyer/selling behaviors, but more so in terms of its impact on the buyer rather than the seller. Buying 2.0 amplifies the power technology has given buyers and further increases marketing's role throughout the buying process beyond demand creation. Buyers seek out knowledge in their education phase independent of a campaign or cold call. Content, collaboration and knowledge drives marketing's messaging impact into the opportunity. Pipeline acceleration initiatives and nurturing strategies further influence the buying dynamic. Measuring marketing's contribution and improving its ability to target their initiatives puts marketing in the cross-hairs of sales productivity. Sales and marketing integration is a requirement for success in the next "new" economy.

> Our process for lead management and for ultimate lead hand-off remains static, one-way and not collaborative: I was reading an excerpt of MarketingSherpa's recent B2B Benchmark Report, and noted that only 28% of marketing organizations "have a process for handing leads back to marketing." And this was the lowest priority among a number of factors MarketingSherpa surveyed B2B marketers about as they parsed the maturity of B2B marketers' marketing/sales processes. The implication? Marketing organizations remain in a "lead generation" mindset, but once leads are handed off to sales, too often there is not continuous tracking, "engagement" and collaboration (even though marketers on a separate question indicated by a 45% margin that they "collaborate with sales to define sales-ready leads"). So if a lead cools, it is more likely to be discarded, versus routing it back into a nurturing campaign. This is a static/one-way lead management mindset and does not indicate the type of collaboration required for Engagement 2.0 or to respond to Buyer 2.0.

> It's not just a marketing thing; sales is unprepared for its new role with this new buyer: Too often we focus on what marketing needs to do to fix the situation, but there are two sides to a relationship. One result of being engaged later and later in the traditional sales cycle is that sales teams have less ability to have real influence over the buying process. Most B2B buyers have already done their research, analysis and assessments by the time they engage a sales person. Where sales team members could at one time play a key catalyst role in the consultative selling process - with the ability to learn and get to know the buyer along the way - now they must come to the table ready to close the deal.

And as Michael Gerard, a research vice president with analyst firm IDC, pointed out in a recent blog piece, there is little room for error:

[B]uyers will tell you that, in this economy, they no longer have tolerance for uninformed vendor representatives who come through their doors. The sales rep must come to a meeting prepared to discuss the buyer's specific business - yet 31% of sales reps are not prepared with even a basic level of Web information available before taking a buyer's valuable time. Only 16% are extremely prepared - these are the reps positioned to take share for the companies they represent.

This requires a new posture for sales team members - who must be more prepared than ever. But it also requires a new posture for marketing team members - who must close the gap, who must manage the dialogue, and who must turn over to sales not only a marketing-qualified lead, but also the background and insight on that lead sales needs to successfully close the opportunity.

What do you think? What evidence have you seen that we are challenged as marketers in embracing an Engagement 2.0 mindset?




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