We started out 2012 with a post asking this question, “Where Does the B2B Sales Model Go From Here?” More than halfway through the year, we continue finding and reporting evidence of what today’s B2B sales model must look like to achieve best-in-class results.   Here are two recent and very significant indicators.

Critical Trend #1.  Marketing’s New Role: Lead Generation Engine

Today, best-in-class B2B marketing is a demand generation engine for sales.  For most companies this is a massive change from marketing’s traditional role.  As Forrester principal analyst Jeff Ernst puts it in a recent blog post:

“B2B marketing is going through an essential transformation. Historically, our focus has been on events, PR, and collateral. Now, our CEOs and board are demanding that we’re directly driving revenue growth. This requires a whole new set of skills and activities across marketing and sales teams: content marketing, inbound marketing, lead-to-revenue management, revenue-cycle analytics, account-based marketing and selling, to name a few.” 

It’s a big change, but there is plenty of data that validates the importance.  Here are two significant success factors identified by leading market researchers in recent surveys of hundreds of B2B sales and marketing teams.

Best-in-Class create 50% of sales pipelinefrom marketing generated leads

Aberdeen Group

Optimizing the Marketing to Sales Lead Lifecycle, 2011
On average, organizations that nurture their leads experience a 45% lift in lead generation ROI over those organizations that do not

Marketing Sherpa

2012 Lead Generation Benchmark

Critical Trend #2. The Death of Solution Sales

Sales leaders with their finger on the pulse of sales team effectiveness have known for a while now that Solution Sales (aka Relationship Selling) died years ago. It may have worked well twenty years ago for companies that really built their process around it, but that was before Google came along and wiped out the need for the sales rep as a ‘trusted advisor’.

What has taken its place has been slow to be defined, but the Corporate Executive Board has now made it very clear in their definitive analysis on The Challenger Sale.   In three separate studies the CEB identified five unique rep ‘personalities’ and isolated what separates the Top 20% of B2B sales professionals from the rest of the pack.   As they say in their summary, The research revealed that sales reps fall into one of five profiles:

  1. The Hard Worker
  2. The Problem Solver
  3. The Challenger
  4. The Relationship Builder
  5. The Lone Wolf

Each profile can turn in average performance, but only one consistently outperforms – the Challenger.”

This emerging profile of The Challenger sales rep, and the Sales Process they follow, establishes a clear blueprint for CEOs and Sales Leaders ready to change the way they sell.

Real B2B Sales Change Requires a Two Phase Plan

What is also clear based on the research from organizations such as Forrester, Corporate Executive Board, the Harvard Business Review, CSO Insights and others is this.  Attempting to adopt just one facet of today’s best-in-class sales model won’t achieve the results you expect.

Here’s what the Marketing Leadership Council says about it in their blog post, Building an Automated Marketing Machine:

Here’s the thing, though, about the Challenger Sale: it’s impossible to scale without serious, serious investment in Marketing… In other words: market research, customer understanding and messaging – three key marketing activities. 

This statement points out how important it is for companies to recognize that there are many moving parts to today’s selling model.  It’s no longer about super star Rainmakers doing their own thing or traditional sales methodologies that have been rendered obsolete by technology.

It’s also about not standing still!   The companies achieving best-in-class sales results are those where the CEO and Chief Sales Officer jointly set the expectations and build the plan for getting there.