Key Sales and Marketing Alignment Trends for 2018 by LinkedIn [Sales]


Editor's note: This article was originally published by LinkedIn Sales Solutions Blog and curated by Closer Spot. Please subscribe to get actionable news and advice delivered to your inbox each week.

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What does the future hold for sales and marketing alignment? In a new infographic, InsideView incorporated insights from more than 500 innovators to forge five predictions for this critical frontier.
The trendlines laid out in this forecast are ones that every B2B seller and executive should keep in mind moving forward. The term “future-proof” has become hackneyed from overuse, but adhering to these principles, which will assuredly drive business forward in 2018 and beyond, can ensure you are a step ahead in a rapidly changing environment.

Let’s break down InsideView’s five sales and marketing alignment predictions, with a focus on key takeaways for today’s sales professionals.

5 Sales and Marketing Trends That B2B Sellers Must Recognize

1. The Rise of the Consultative Seller
Late last year, we released our Future of Sales eBook with the subtitle, “Rise of the Strategic Seller.” The first prediction from InsideView is a slight variation of the same basic assertion: salespeople who can address a customer’s acute needs and offer legitimate, meaningful value will outpace the pack.
In the Future of Sales, we broke down data showing a gradual shift in demand from the traditional, transactional sales style to a more consultative and strategic approach. As the purchasing cycle becomes more self-driven, buyers are looking for reps who can expertly assist and enlighten them along the way without being pushy or promotional.

This visualization from the infographic helps put the ongoing progression in perspective:
The following traits define a consultative seller, according to InsideView:
  • Emphatic partner
  • Digital adeptness
  • Operational mindset
  • Storytelling mastery
  • Advocacy focus
  • Flexible and adaptive behavior
Does this list reflect your skill set? Which of these attributes could you stand to develop further?

2. Focus on the Best Customers and Prospects
Quality over quantity. This should be the guiding mantra for B2B sales going forward. An overly wide prospecting scope leads to wasted time, energy, and money (plus a lot of rejection).
Who are your best existing customers? Which ones buy more, renew at a higher rate, and refer others? How can you make them even happier? More importantly, how can you turn them into a prototype for your ideal customer profile?

Account-based marketing is structured around these fundamentals, and requires an aligned sales and marketing strategy to succeed. Invest in the research and data analysis to narrow your prospect field, and then jointly determine the best methods for pursuing those high-value accounts.

3. AI and Machine Learning Fuel Decisions on Best Target Markets
Technology should play a significant role in the customer segmentation process. There is unmistakable value in gathering input from reps and marketers, whose experiences give them unique insight into the people and accounts they serve, but artificial intelligence and machine learning bring dimensions of efficiency and objectivity that humans cannot match.

According to Gartner, by the year 2020, 30% of all B2B companies will employ AI to augment at least one of their primary sales processes. The key word there is “augment.” In the Future of Sales eBook we used the same terminology in suggesting that “using technology to augment human effort” will be a cornerstone going forward.

Augment is defined as making something greater by adding to it. Sales technology is here to improve, not to replace. Those who shun its arrival will invariably fall behind.

4. Millenials Have a Major Impact in B2B Buying and Selling
This sort of goes without saying, but it’s definitely a trend that organizations everywhere need to account for. The millennial cohort continues to carve out a larger stake in buying committees everywhere, and the demographic carries its own set of preferences.

Among those called out in InsideView’s infographic: millennials tend to communicate with vendors through email, heavily weigh the opinions of friends or family before making purchase decisions, and will post positive feedback on social media when they are satisfied customers.

The takeaway? “Successful companies will start adapting to a digital, social, mobile-first sales and marketing approach to attract business from this generation’s best talent.” Hard to argue.

5. Marketing and Sales Operations Merge into One Revenue Operations Team
This lines up with another striking insight from the Future of Sales eBook: Over the past three years, we’ve seen a 73% increase in Chief Revenue Officer titles on LinkedIn. The emergence of this role speaks to an increasingly agnostic view that businesses are taking when it comes to generating revenue. As long as we’re making money, who cares about delineating its sources, or feeding into superficial divisions of the sales funnel?

The natural evolution of sales and marketing alignment has always pointed toward a convergence into one unified ops team. We’re now moving closer to that point, which raises its own set of questions. How will these departments be structured in a way that maintains autonomy for both disciplines? Should sales and marketing share a budget? How can business leaders encourage buy-in from skeptics on either side?

These aren’t necessarily easy questions to answer, but it is important for organizations and pros on both sides to be thinking about them — along with the other outcomes predicted by InsideView — as they plan ahead.

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