This interview with Lisa Shepherd is part of our Blogtober event, which features blog posts in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Lisa Shepherd can’t help herself: When she talks about the relationship between sales and marketing departments, she finds herself gesturing and weaving her fingers together.
“I’m doing it right now,” Shepherd admitted in a recent phone conversation. She describes it as a visual reminder that anyone contributing to the revenue of a company can’t afford to work in silos anymore. That’s the fundamental premise behind her recently published book, The Radical Sales Shift: 20 Lessons From 20 Leaders On How To Use Marketing To Grow Sales in B2B Companies.
Shepherd, the president of Toronto-based consulting firm The Mezzanine Group, said she believes business-to-business (B2B) organizations in particular need to recognize how empowered buyers have become. She stresses that the right combination of strategy and technology is vital to survive.
Why is marketing becoming so intertwined with the activities of sales professionals, and how can organizations create a more collaborative process for the two?
It comes down to the fact that a buyer has so much more control over the purchase process. They don’t want to talk to a sales person until they’re quite far along their purchasing journey. We can all agree that if you’re a buyer, you’re doing a lot more due diligence before you talk to a sales person. Sales is still absolutely essential to the last 30 or 40 per cent of that purchasing journey, but if your prospect doesn’t want to talk to a salesperson for some reason, the marketing function has to solve that problem. We actually hear about sales teams that say they’re “not getting invited to the party.” In other words, they’re not having the opportunity to get a proposal before a client about what they may need.
How does marketing automation help in this area, and when is the right moment for Canadian small- and medium-sized businesses to start using it?
We know how powerful marketing automation is for B2B companies. What we’re finding, though, is that some mid-sized companies in Canada haven’t set up a formal marketing department yet. They need to get that marketing function going—understand content marketing, digital marketing—and once they’ve started to build that marketing machine, that’s when marketing automation can be really beneficial.
How will mobile apps, wearable devices, and the Internet of Things continue to change the way B2B buyers research and make purchases?
In the book I talk about the seven ways that the buyer today is different than the buyer in the past. They’re more autonomous, for example, more risk-averse, and there are more of them in terms of numbers. None of us are very good at predicting at what the world will look like in 10 years, but there are little things that we are starting to hear.
For example, some experts have suggested search is not going to matter as much in 10 years because we’re going to live within apps and wearables. The only thing you can be sure of is that the marketing tools we’re using now to go after this new buyer will be different in a decade, and that the complexity of it will grow. It’s not just about a single tool. It is about an integration and interweaving of search with content, events, PR. This is where automation is so helpful.
What will happen to organizations that fail to empower marketing and make it a bigger part of sales?
I think the ultimate end state for businesses that do not do this is that they won’t survive. I don’t think it’s a two-year thing, but it might be a 10-year thing. What I’m hearing from a lot of company leaders is that they have the same sales force they’ve always had, and they want bigger commissions and so on. In other words, the sales team’s demands are going up, but the sales team’s results are flat or slightly negative. The savvy companies know that if they fail to start making changes, they may have a limited runway ahead of them.
What do you hope will be your readers’ biggest takeaway from The Radical Sales Shift?
In 10 years, I don’t think B2B companies will have a separate sales and marketing division. They will have revenue-generation division. The leader will be the chief revenue officer. We’re starting to see that in the biggest companies now. It’s really important for them to understand the reality of marketing—it’s not a three- to six-month journey to get a marketing function going effectively in a business. It’s a two- to five-year journey. This is about the transformation of how you create revenue.
Lisa Shepherd has been working with Business-to-Business companies for over 15 years. As the president and founder of The Mezzanine Group, a B2B marketing company for mid-market companies, she’s worked with over 200 B2B companies in over 30 industries. Lisa is also the author of Market Smart: How to Gain Customers and Increase Profits with B2B Marketing, was the youngest woman CEO to be named to the Profit 100, and is a nominee for the Top 40 Under 40 and Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.
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