Cost reduction, optimization, takeout. No matter how it’s framed, leaders are increasingly concerned with economic conditions restricting growth opportunities. These can inevitably lead to a reduction in operating budgets, headcount and marketing or travel budgets, not to mention escalating pressure on sales teams to do more with less.
While there is always value in evaluating and optimizing spend, there comes a point where reductions start to cut too deep, jeopardizing market traction. It’s an incredibly fine line to walk, and one small overstep can crush sales growth and customer retention.
But does it have to be that way?
What if there was a way to optimize the cost associated with sales teams without impacting headcount or their ability to generate revenue? Going a step further, what if there was a way to re-imagine sales and marketing to make the business more efficient and increase total sales and margin without increasing budget?
Maintaining growth while optimizing cost is not only feasible, it’s a pragmatic way to take action now and see near-term sustainable results.
Rethinking the relationship between sales and marketing
Business-to-business (B2B) sales have always been about relationships. As the child of a salesman, I remember my father traveling all over the country to meet with customers and prospects. Those face-to-face conversations and relationships were the gears in a well-oiled sales machine. He told me once that there was power when looking someone in the eye and delving deep into their problems, using deep product knowledge and a healthy dose of intuition.
While B2B revenue generation strategies and related tactics were already evolving, they leaped light-years ahead due to the pandemic. We were forced to adapt across all functions, and large-scale sales were hit the hardest due to the dependence on face-to-face meetings. In-person meetings and hallway conversations shifted to phone, web calls, emails and texts.
Buyers and sellers who had just started to deploy digital selling tools were forced to adapt overnight, rushing to introduce digital commerce and content that could meet the buyer anytime, anywhere. And while the world has started to return to what might be seen as normal operations, face-to-face intuition selling is not returning to the way it once was.
A renewed need for sales insights
Customers and prospects, now comfortable transacting remotely, have shifted expectations and manage the bulk of their discovery without ever talking to a sales rep. Instead of relationship-driven sales supported by sharp intuition, companies must evolve, leveraging data, customer insights and digital tools to provide on-demand information to buyers, all while connecting insights to sales teams for actionable change that drive value in their interactions.
This shift in buyer behavior brings increasing pressure on revenue-producing functions such as sales and marketing to collaborate more than ever before. To stand out from the competition, chief revenue officers and chief marketing officers must ensure their organizations have a robust view of the customer journey and enablers. This means taking the time to understand the buyer and all other stakeholders and influencers along the buyer journey, and mapping those needs to content, tools, awareness initiatives and even demand generation efforts.
The result: precision awareness and demand generation that provides the buyer with all the information necessary to choose your product, even if that means never talking to a salesperson. In fact, by fully embracing shifts in buying preferences and creating more self-serve functions earlier in the sales and marketing process, one recent fintech client improved their top-of-funnel lead conversion by 53% by creating a fully autonomous purchasing process for savvier clients. This shift not only shortened the time to close, but it also allowed the existing sales team to shift their focus to more complex sales requiring human intervention. Overall sales increased by 18% without any increase in headcount.
Allow sales to do what it does best
Consider this an opportunity to rethink your sales and go-to-market strategy that is digitally driven, backed by data and responsive to customer needs, while empowering sales to apply their unique skills at key inflection points to close the deal.
While it might feel counterintuitive to correlate this with cost optimization, it shouldn’t be. Most of the data and insights required to establish the journey already exist within your marketing and sales tech stacks. Augmenting those insights with qualitative perspectives from sales teams and engagement surveys can help refine buyer journeys and personas. Cross-functional teams that span sales, marketing, enablement and operations are then armed to evaluate top-of-funnel demand strategies and resources, and then to optimize content to align with the buyer's needs.
As we enter the back half of the calendar year and commence planning for what comes next, take a beat to analyze customer performance and behavior. Segment customers by buyer type and potential and evaluate how they engage to develop a blend of automation, digital platforms and human engagement. This unique blend of push and pull, self-serve and one-to-one touch will lighten the load on your teams without compromising quality or responsiveness.
Ultimately, you will find that this revaluation of awareness and engagement efforts will drive savings. More informed and empowered customers and prospects who can find the information they need and engage in the way they desire will have shorter sales cycles. Internally, you should experience reductions in cost by eliminating lower-performing campaigns, outdated content or tools and other efforts that increase the cost of sales and erode margin.
Automation and personalization will allow your marketing and sales teams to focus on higher-impact efforts, allowing you to do more without additional headcount.
This is pragmatic, sustainable and efficient. Rethinking how you support customers throughout their buying journey is more than smart—it’s just good business.
To learn more about sales digitization and go-to-market strategies, join our upcoming live session featuring digital leaders on November 7.