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Gartner Experts Discuss Top B2B Sales Trends

August 29, 2018

Contributor: Jordan Bryan

We share important trends impacting sales and marketing leaders in todays complex buying environment.

Many sales leaders believe the sales process will be easier and shorter when buyers first have access to information, reviews and/or product trials. This may be the case in some industries or for transactional purchases, but is not the case for complex purchases.

Gartner research shows that the number of individuals involved in the buying process, whether as decision makers or influencers, remains large, priorities shift and sellers compete to ensure their project doesn’t get canceled. Despite complexity, sales and marketing leaders often fall back on tried and true methods and repeatable processes. Unfortunately, this spells trouble in a more complex selling environment.

Ahead of Gartner CSO & Sales Leader Conference, October 9 – 11, 2018, in Las Vegas, NV, we asked Gartner experts to share the most important trends impacting sales and marketing leaders in today’s complex buying environment.

Adamson Brent PR_498063

Sales and marketing leaders currently underestimate the disruptive implications of recent shifts in B2B buying behavior. Typically marketing owns early buying stages, while sales owns the later stages. This division of ownership often means the commercial model is built around the hand-off from marketing, predominantly digitally, to sales, which takes over in person as customers move through a purchase. However, our research indicates buying does not happen this way.  

Instead, it indicates customers must complete a set of six specific jobs or tasks in order to successfully complete a complex B2B purchase. However, those six jobs rarely, if ever, occur in a predictable or sequential order. Our research also found that customers give no clear channel preference for any given job.  

The result is a picture of buying dramatically different from suppliers’ current approach to selling and marketing. B2B buying jobs occur simultaneously, not sequentially. From a customer’s perspective, there is no “hand-off” from marketing to sales or digital to in-person. And companies will need to rapidly adapt to better align to customers’ channel-agnostic, nonlinear buying behavior.  

See Brent Adamson at his Sales & Marketing Conference sessions:

  • Gartner Keynote: A New Model for Customer Engagement
  • Gartner Keynote: Building a System for Buyer Enablement
  • Gartner Keynote: The Path Ahead

  Berkowitz Todd PR_498063

Despite the buzz around account-based marketing (ABM), many leaders fail to understand the full implications of how it impacts go-to-market strategy. ABM isn’t just a more-focused demand generation or prospecting program. It requires a cultural shift, especially among sales and marketing staff.

Often, sales leaders aren’t clear about what’s expected from their sellers and how a shift to ABM represents a change in behavior. Sales leaders need to work very closely with marketing leaders so that both sides are in complete harmony and lock-step around what ABM means, how the programs will be run, what the roles and responsibilities are, and how success will be measured.

See Todd Berkowitz at his Sales & Marketing Conference sessions:

  • The Evolution of Sales Development Reps to Support B2B Demand Generation
  • Understand the Account-Based Marketing Vendor Landscape

Williams Jessica PR_498063

Organizations are shifting from demonstrating knowledge of a customer’s industry context, to demonstrating an ability to help customers through a messy buying process.

Instead of delivering industry insights and segment-level solution offerings, leading organizations build marketing assets that act as preparation guides for buyers to confidently lead internal discussions behind closed doors. Similarly, sellers must use limited customer face time to help them navigate around decision stall points and coach them to build buying group consensus. This has called for different-in-kind effort to understand customers views’ that reflect the complex realities of B2B buying.

See Jessica Williams at her Sales & Marketing Conference session:

  • Differentiated Competencies of High-Performing Sellers

Hilbert Melissa PR_498063

Sales leaders must focus on increasing sales productivity through acquiring new technologies and leveraging opportunities with artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities within their existing technology stacks.

Advanced machine learning algorithms find predictive insights and help to provide prescriptive guidance to sales. Sales leaders must actively direct and support the use by sales for successful business outcomes.

Technology endeavors should aid sales reps without forcing them to change their processes. From a management perspective, technology can provide better insight to increase sales manager effectiveness. Gartner research found that when done effectively, coaching can lead to a 19% increase in overall sales team success in attaining their goals.

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