A Common Sense Rosetta Stone for B2B Revenue Growth in Complex B2B Sales

Ed Marsh | Jun 13, 2018

Why John and I wrote this book

boxshot-free copyCommon Sense Revenue Growth is a book for CEOs, presidents, GMs and even independent directors. It’s a deep dive into revenue growth in a digital world which is characterized disruption and confusion.

We wrote this book for those of you who have recently:

  • Sensed in your gut that your revenue growth was unpredictable, if not on the precipice of decline
  • Received reasonable sounding reports and assurances from your sales and marketing teams, but somehow you aren’t convinced
  • Grown weary of adding yet another MarTech SaaS solution to your “stack” with no realistic ROI in sight
  • Wondered if your sales and marketing strategies are missing the boat, outdated and losing ground to competitors
  • Been frustrated with forecasts that may or may not hit the mark and pipeline reports that show more stagnant deals with no clear explanation why

Most importantly, we wrote it for those of you who have been looking for a resource that would help you make the connection between market forces and internal operations. Which operational gaps are we facing and what to do about them? 

There’s one simple underlying cause for all of these worries, frustrations, challenges and barriers.

Buyers

B2B buying has changed dramatically in the past 5-10 years. Driven largely by the way we buy consumer goods these days, so too have B2B buying habits changed. Now buyers become aware of issues via online resources and search engines, and they find solutions well before they ever reach out to a sales rep for answers. If your team isn’t in command of that online “buyer journey”, throughout its lifecycle, you stand to miss opportunities and lose competitive sales.

This kind of disruption isn’t simply about technology. Technology itself hasn’t changed the way companies buy and sell. It has enabled changes in buyer behaviors, however, and there’s no turning back.

No longer hostage to manipulative marketing campaigns and self-serving salespeople, buyers now conduct much of their research anonymously on the internet, and they choose whom to contact and when. Sales methodologies that rely on prospecting and direct outreach have become far less effective than they were even a few years ago.

Yet many companies treat these challenges as a simple communication problem. They see buyer reluctance as a saturation problem. The email inbox or the search engine result page is too full, so we must try even harder to push information through advertising campaigns and telemarketing. These tactics serve only to further alienate potential customers.


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Bridging the gap in current business thought and practice 

Companies obsess over how to make their current marketing and sales activities more effective. Managers with careers of experience cling to the status quo because change isn’t easy, and their livelihoods depend on reaching incremental goals that are hopelessly tied to minimizing risk. Executive teams nod and approve small variations of the way it’s always been done, because, after all, that’s the way it’s always been done. 

Technology is adopted as a means to scale up and render more efficient the same approaches that have been used for fifty years. Companies are all too happy to experiment with innovations, such as robotics, 3D printing and even AI, that promise faster product delivery and enhanced safety, but is that what their buyers want? Have they even asked them what they want?

Meanwhile, while Amazon, Netflix, and Uber conquer the world by delivering exactly what customers want, only a few B2B companies have awoken to the new reality in business.

Customers are driving all aspects of business today, and radical change is needed to align your company with their interests.

Therein lies the opportunity for companies that recognize and embrace the need for change. Rewards await those who shift their focus to empathetic understanding of buyers at all levels and in all ways.

A single experience

Buyers demand a relationship with your company. They want to easily find the best information to efficiently and accurately answer their questions that arise at any given time. The fact that you’ve determined some questions are best answered by sales, others by marketing, and still others by customer care or technical support is a fabrication of your own systems and processes that were never designed to solve for the customer.

These divisions of responsibility are irrelevant to the buyer. Worse, they antagonize people.

Certainly, some buyers will ask for sales or technical service when they call, because they’re used to being treated that way by other companies. More often though, they’ll reach out with a product question, or for troubleshooting help, questions that are more nuanced and may require several different levels of support. Yet no one takes responsibility as a customer concierge. Self-help resources are fine, but do customers understand them? Do they know how to navigate your maze to find the right one, and do they have the patience? Do you even know how they feel about your customer care services and resources?

Departmental silos are the remnants of organizations that were built for production and selling when access to information was limited. They’re commonly populated with certain skill areas now commonly associated with PR, marketing, sales or service, but critical skills and functions are missing in dealing with today’s digital customer.

Inside sales and business/sales development reps (BDRs/SDRs) for instance are increasingly common in technology sales but are rare in traditional industries. They reflect the evolution of the revenue growth functions into a continuum which mirrors the way buyers choose to engage with your company and are optimized for high levels of customer satisfaction. Beyond the blending of different roles and skills in the sales department, successful companies are now blending whole functions, like sales, marketing and customer service into one nimble, technology enabled team forged with SLAs and shared playbooks.

That trend should inform and underpin every staffing, technology and resource allocation decision that executive management teams make. Change runs contrary to the interests of departmental managers who cling to territory and the status quo. Resistance may be strong, but armed with known outcomes of building a customer centric organization, change can transform both careers and revenue growth.

Mind you, not everyone agrees. You will find business thought leaders who have written classic books on revenue growth and organizational change, and many of them will advise you to stay the course or offer you five ways to right the ship in thirty days.

Context and Strategy vs. Implementation Bullets

You will find no end of books, blogs and podcasts claiming to hold the key to improving sales and marketing results. We have read most of them.

Nearly all of them focus on topics that are tactical and actionable, some that offer miraculous change but, in reality, incremental tweaks to legacy structures. They offer sales processes that may deliver more value to a prospect and seek more trust, but at the end of the day, the customer goes back to being ignored, and the sales process moves on. Many offer more sales efficiency through technology, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s only a part of the customer experience. Sadly, many of these renowned resources perpetuate the current dysfunction.

This book was written not for formulaic commercial success built on a bulleted to-do list, but instead for executives of companies that aspire to thrive rather than just survive. We make bold recommendations which will be discounted by some, embraced by others, and certainly will take courage and strong change management skills to implement.

We are resolute in our observation, though, that these aren’t simply our ideas which can be casually dismissed. Rather they are the clear expectation of buyers in B2B complex sales environments today. We have seen this in our own work and through the lens of successful companies navigating the transformation to a customer-focused culture. The change has begun, and the momentum is building.

Common Sense Revenue Growth is the middleware that’s been missing in many books, consulting gigs and management courses. It’s a resource to which busy executives can turn for help understanding the dynamic market changes they’re seeing, visualizing the organizational adaptations that may be required, and placing the deluge of tactics, technology and buzz-du-jour into the context of where they should be moving. Our mission is to help you understand how we got here, not just where to go next.

We’ve tried to make it casual and easy to read – because the real work should be in digesting the insights and considering how they can be incorporated into your traditional revenue growth function. We hope you will enjoy this book and share your questions and comments. We hope to start a conversation with business leaders like you.

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