When the flow of wins coming out of your sales department begins to slow down, the natural thing to do is to reexamine your sales strategy—and even your sales personnel. But before you dive into more sales training, more sales hiring, or new sales leadership, stop and consider whether you're taking the right approach. It's likely that your sales department isn't the root of your demand generation problem at all.
Demand generation was once the responsibility of Sales. Sales reps sought out potential buyers, convinced them that they had a need for a particular product or service, and proceeded to sell to them. Today, however, demand generation begins online, and the buying process is directed by the buyer. DemandGen Report found that 90% of B2B buyers prefer to seek out a sales rep when they're ready to buy, rather than being approached by one before that point.1
This "Don't call us; we'll call you" sentiment is reflected in the rise of content marketing. If buyers want to research and decide on their own terms, sellers must get themselves on buyers' radar more subtly: by publishing and promoting content that a prospect would want to consume.
While it may be tempting to point the finger at sales for low close rates, it would be more effective to examine demand generation activities that are occurring (or should be occurring) farther up the funnel. In a survey of B2B buyers, 64% reported that content had a "significant impact" on their decision to purchase, and 34% said that the sellers they chose provided a diverse mix of nurturing content.2
The majority of B2B marketers have caught onto their leads' hunger for content. 93% of these marketers use content marketing, and of those that do, 74% cite lead generation as their top content marketing goal.3
Because content consumption is voluntary and buyer-directed, it is a superb method for vetting and qualifying leads. Content marketing does the work that multiple sales touches used to do: when you create content your leads want to engage with, promote and distribute it effectively, and use each engagement to foster another, you warm your leads and prime them to interact with a sales rep.
With content engagement, that interaction can be significantly more fruitful. Remember the 90% of B2B buyers who want to talk to a sales rep on their own terms, when they're ready to buy? You (or rather, your content) will have been holding their hand the whole way. After consuming all the great infographics, articles, videos, and other content vehicles that you produced, your prospects will have your brand on their short list of contenders.
If the vast majority of B2B buyers don't want the hard sell, and the majority of B2B marketers are at least trying to use content and other inbound strategies to build brand awareness and generate leads, where on the spectrum does your organization fall? Are you still expecting your sales department to own demand generation, or have you passed the torch to marketing?
2 DemandGen Report, 2013 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey
3 Content Marketing Institute, B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks , Budgets & Trends – North America