Not too long ago, if potential buyers wanted to learn about your product, they would call a sales rep. (Yes, this was also a time when people actually answered their phones.) This initial call would begin the sales cycle, which would then continue with more conversations, many of which would be onsite and in person.
Today, this traditional sales cycle no longer exists.
The digital revolution, new technologies and accessibility through the internet have changed everything. It's no longer necessary for a sales rep to travel by car over vast territories to call on their network of customers, or to fly across the country for an initial meeting with an important prospect. It's perfectly acceptable now to do this online using video conferencing tools like GoToMeeting and Skype.
In many cases, 60-90 percent of the sales cycle has already taken place before your company ever even knows it, and long before the prospect has engaged in a single conversation with your sales rep. Buyers now do most of their research independently and online. They participate in webinars, download white papers, look at YouTube video presentations. When they finally do engage with your sales rep, what they want is competitive differentiation, deep product knowledge and responsiveness.
Demand generation has become absolutely key to sales, and it's more important than ever for marketing and sales to be in sync. Too often they're at odds. Part of the problem is that marketing and sales are measured very differently. The way they are compensated does not always create necessary incentives for them to work together towards a shared goal. They must be brought into alignment, with marketing responsible for generating qualified leads. Professional (and typically expensive) sales reps should not be spending the majority of their time generating their own leads.
The combination of digital marketing channels, your website, email, and a multitude of technologies like CRM and Marketing Automation, have made the marketing and sales process more complex and challenging. But the opportunities to out-execute your competition are also immense. Companies now have unprecedented power to communicate, educate, nurture and develop WQL's – well-qualified leads – to fill your pipeline for sales reps to harvest.
The new roles of marketing and sales are still evolving. But companies that want to succeed are likely to be more focused on how marketing generates demand, more expansive in their communications, and increasingly sophisticated in use of technology and their websites as lead acquisition tools.