B2B Articles - June 08, 2023
The movie “Groundhog Day” is fun to watch. It’s not so fun to live it, though.
Still, the movie’s premise is reenacted in real life by too many B2B buyers on too many occasions, where every new point of contact with sales or marketing means a reintroduction: “Here’s the problem I’m trying to solve, and here are my needs,” over and over and over again, from the top. It can be maddening for buyers.
Ending that scenario is why integrated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are a must-have and must-use for sales and marketing teams in today’s digital world: buyers demand better customer experiences enabled by a CRM and the data it catalogs. A single CRM shared by marketing and sales, or two integrated CRMs that share data between these teams, empowers marketers and salespeople to provide consistent, effective buyer experiences.
Implementing a new CRM may be the hardest part. Teams have been doing it their way for a long time, and that way works. So, why rock the boat?
Because buyers can (and will) abandon B2B brands that lead buyers through a process where they must continually explain themselves and reintroduce their company's needs. Buyers won’t put up with it and don’t have to anymore.
Changing buyer needs and demand for quick fulfillment are evolving the buyer experience. Thanks to digital marketplaces, B2B customers expect harmonious experiences that transcend just e-commerce and extend to all the buying they do:
Most buyers feel these needs aren’t met: Salesforce, Inc. research finds that four out of five B2B buyers say they expect consistent interactions across departments, but roughly two of every three say it feels like they’re communicating with separate departments, not one company.1
That’s a big deal when 85% of B2B buyers say the buying experience is as important as the products and services they want.
Both B2B salespeople and marketers need lead intelligence. A CRM makes that lead intelligence easily accessible and actionable, creating a better marketing-to-sales funnel.
CRMs track all the buyer touchpoints with a brand and what those touchpoints tell marketing and sales about buyer pain points/interests, such as:
Data tracked by a CRM gives marketers and salespeople background information they can leverage – equally, simultaneously, and in real-time. Integrated CRMs, where marketing and sales data flow bidirectionally, provide consistent buyer data across silos, allowing marketing and sales teams to avoid repeated and missed steps and enabling each touchpoint to build seamlessly upon the preceding one.
An integrated CRM can create a more consistent experience for current leads and buyers and provide big-picture data that can help marketers and salespeople revise their strategy throughout the funnel to target the right buyers and engage them with the right messaging and approach.
Teams have a real-time view of where leads are in the buying cycle. More importantly, they can see where leads tend to drop off. These drop-off points must be addressed to increase closed/won deals, and companies that don't have this information have no way to tackle this issue. With an integrated CRM, there’s no guessing; it’s all backed by data. A CRM used across marketing and sales also points to which marketing activities influence opportunities, allowing the marketing team to allocate resources toward revenue-generating activities.
Today, B2B buyers do as much as 70% of their research before ever contacting sales, says Worldwide Business Research.2 Meanwhile, 70% of B2B buyers are open to making new, fully self-serve, or remote purchases exceeding $50,000, according to McKinsey & Company.3
With a CRM, sellers and marketers can understand and control that 70%. And without a CRM, they are blind to it. A CRM lets them control the narrative/story that they are experiencing because they can send curated content that allows the prospect to self-educate easily. Without a CRM, brands have no idea what buyers experienced for that 70%, so how can brands not start over?
Now, raise that purchase price to more than $1 million, and McKinsey finds that 15% of B2B decision-makers would still hit the “buy” button without ever having talked to a human being!
Salespeople must provide value that a self-purchase experience can’t. By leveraging a CRM, salespeople can:
Having a CRM makes nurturing leads and closing deals more efficient. But maintaining and managing a CRM ensures optimal effectiveness. Here are some areas to consider:
Getting everybody on board can be challenging, but brands need all hands on deck for change to work.
While the way salespeople have been doing things may have worked for up to now, it may not work much longer. The world of B2B purchasing is changing rapidly; B2B buyers’ preferences shift quickly, and even brand competitors are gaining speed.
As a result, industry rivals are reaping the benefits. They have a lot of data about the buyer, so they’re going into buyer conversations much more well-equipped than other brands that lack CRM insights. And they know that B2B buyers value trust gained through knowledge. Many buyers may prefer speaking to a seller who already understands their company and needs, regardless of price.
CRMs work best with up-to-date inputs. Otherwise, it’s like a map with a section of town invisible or a closed road still marked as open. If one salesperson fails to put their deals in, the entire company misses data that can help marketers and salespeople improve lead generation and close rates. So companies should have a consistent methodology for inputting data and a standard cadence on when to input data before it gets cold.
Also needed are continual upkeep and training. That means:
A side benefit of the last point is regular training that includes both groups can help with sales/marketing alignment.
Finding new ways to get CRMs (or other digital tools) to work more efficiently and effectively can be as simple as assigning one team member to keep an eye open for the latest evolutions in digital marketing technology. Somebody on a sales or marketing team probably likes keeping up with the new tools and knowing what’s helpful and what’s not. That person’s passion can play a valuable role in keeping an entire organization up-to-date. Currently, many applications layer machine learning and artificial intelligence onto CRM data, creating opportunities for predictive analytics.
Additionally, as application programming interfaces (API) become routine, adding new data tools to your stack without disruption can be easy. APIs enable different applications to communicate with each other, helping businesses connect the many different apps they use and, in turn, saving employees’ time and breaking down silos hindering collaboration and innovation, according to IBM.4 But be careful not to add unnecessary or overcomplicated tech.
Central to a good customer experience is a consistent customer experience. Buyers can easily forget how nice that is until they get the opposite and see how jarring it can be. A robust CRM lets sellers pick up where the buyer left off, keeping things moving and eliminating buyer frustration. And it helps the sales process by building trust and rewriting “Groundhog Day” through quality CX that repeats.
1Salesforce, Inc., The State of the Connected Customer, 2022
2Worldwide Business Research, Here's How the Relationship Between B2B Buying, Content, and Sales Reps Has Changed, 2023.
3McKinsey & Company, These Eight Charts Show How COVID-19 Has Changed B2B Sales Forever, 2020.
4IBM, What Is An API? 2023
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