That’s the key message from Tuesday’s LinkedIn State of Sales 2018 report.
The platform commissioned research panel Market Cube to survey about 500 B2B sales professionals and 500 business decision makers to find out how buyers and sellers are working together and apart.
Here’s what you need to know.
Sales people rely on tech, but may be too siloed in the type of data they collect. A majority of sales professionals (73 percent) use sales technology to close deals. Top sales performers — defined as pros who exceed sales targets by at least 25 percent — see networking platforms (such as LinkedIn) as “very important” to help close deals at a 51 percent higher rate than their peers.
Nearly all (97 percent) consider sales technology “very important” or “important,” and 93 percent are using sales tech just as much or more in 2018 than in 2017, according to the study.
Sales professionals rely on their customer relationship management (CRM) systems to manage customers and leads. CRM adoption has grown 113 percent since 2016, with 64 percent of sales professionals reporting that they use CRM tools. But could sales pros’ enthusiasm for CRMs to drive sales, keep them from reaching other potential targets for a sale?
Justin Shriber, LinkedIn’s VP of marketing for sales and marketing solutions, says that the silos between sales and marketing — and the use of different data tools between them — can leave a gap in identifying potential buyers.
“Sales teams use a CRM to define their sales territories and build their plan, and marketers use a data management platform (DMP) in order to do the same, and in many cases there are different individuals that live in both of those platforms,” Schriber said. “And in addition to that, even when you have the same individual, you have different information about each of those individuals. So until you can merge the underlying data so that everybody’s working at the same underlying data set, it’s really hard to coordinate efforts.”
The report says that only 20 percent of sales professionals say they see significant overlap in the data used by marketing and sales to target prospects. Meanwhile, 89 percent of decision makers say consistent marketing and sales language about a product is “very important” (50 percent) or “important” (39 percent), and nearly half (48 percent) say they often or always experience different messaging from sales and marketing.
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The concept of merging teams of different disciplines was a major theme at our MarTech conference earlier this month in Boston.
Getting it together. But despite the divide, things are looking up. Nearly half (44 percent) of sales executives say they work more closely with marketing than in past years. Overall, those who say they work “very closely” or “closely” with marketing has grown 35 percent since 2016.
Shriber said that this trend can be attributed to more younger professionals who more intuitively see the benefit of collaboration, and that by adopting this strategy are emerging as the top performers in their field.
The report shows that millennials (ages 21-38) are quicker than other age groups to implement new strategies like marketing and sales orchestration, as well as other new strategies and technologies. A majority (62 percent) of millennials say they will spend more time this year using sales technology, as opposed to 56 percent of Generation X and Baby Boomers.
So, what tools are sales pros using? Fueled by sales pro’s affinity for martech and other tools, planned investment in sales technology has grown by 53 percent since 2016. Over half (fifty-five percent) of sales professionals expect this trend to continue next year.
From the report, technology usage is up across the board:
- More than half of sales professionals (64 percent) use CRM tools like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics — up 28 percent from 2017
- 62 percent use collaboration tools like Box, Google Docs, Microsoft Office and Dropbox – up 6 percent from 2017
- 59 percent use networking platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook – up 5 percent since 2017
- 40 percent use enterprise communication platforms – up 8 percent since 2017
In humans we trust. The report also found, as in other areas of marketing, trust continues to be an issue. Specifically, it found that sales tech needs a human touch to be successful. As discussed earlier, though most use the CRM to manage their leads, they found that buyers prefer the kind of personalization that can be enabled through a CDP.
Decision makers are more likely to consider a brand’s products or services when the experience is personalized. Overwhelmingly, buyers said they would consider they would consider a purchase if they perceived the seller to have a clear understanding of their business needs (96 percent) or their role (94 percent). Buyers were also responsive to sellers who share content relevant to their role (93 percent), provide personalized communications (93 percent) and target the appropriate people at their company for initial discussions (92 percent).
The opposite is also true with 79 percent of decision makers less likely to engage with sales professionals who lack knowledge about their company (79 percent) and whose products or services are irrelevant to their company (76 percent).
What you should know. The message here seems pretty straightforward: slice down the siloes and collaborate to reach more potential customers.
Shriber said that in addition to a common data set, savvy marketers will implement a “series of processes that put sales and marketing in the same room and forces them to coordinate it; to create one integrated customer buying experience.”
“In most cases, what happens today is marketing says, okay, I’ll take (the customer) from awareness to consideration and once they hit a certain trigger point, I’m going to flip them over to sales and they can take it from there.” Shriber says that marketers and salespeople should have conversations on how to take the customer from its first touchpoint to the consummation of a sale.
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