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There are three trends in B2B marketing and sales that I have been following with great interest this past year.  I single out these trends because: 1) I think these are in the early stages of adoption, 2) I believe they can be of significant value in growing your company, and 3) they tie in nicely to my recent discussions on the 7 Elements.  There is some overlap between these 3 trends, but I think they are sufficiently distinct to discuss them individually.  I hope you find something of value here that can be usefully applied in your own work.

Note:  This is not intended to be a paper for an academic journal.  As such, I have not documented this blog with footnotes, references, etc.  My intention is this will spark a lively discussion around these topics between you and your colleagues.  If you are interested in further reading, google these trends and you can read much more in leading publications like HBR, Forbes, etc.

Here you go:

Trend #1:  Process Thinking Comes to Marketing & Sales

Trend #2: Uniting Marketing & Sales As One

Trend #3: Viewing Business Development as a ‘Customer Decision Journey’

 Let’s take a look at each of these in a bit more detail.

Trend #1: Process Thinking Comes to Marketing & Sales

Process thinking runs deep in most every aspect of our businesses, and now the time has come for it in sales and marketing.   Process thinking started in earnest in the 80s in U.S. manufacturing with things like just-in-time inventory management, kaizen, TQM, and six sigma.  In the 90s, we saw this thinking come out of the factory and into the front offices with Business Process Redesign (things like A/P, billing, payroll, benefits).  In the past decade or so, companies have taken this thought process to their global supply chains removing excess inventory, time and cost from the system.

Along the way through all of this process improvement, sales and marketing got a hall pass.  There have been technological advances, for sure, but for the most part there has been no widespread process thinking going on in or between sales and marketing.  These functions continue to operate today in vertical silos in most companies.  They often fight with one another for their budgets, and plow ahead trying anything that offers to move the needle.  If things don’t work, they point the finger at the other.

This is changing though.   Some smart companies have begun to think about business development as a holistic process that crosses the boundary between marketing and sales.  Not so much for efficiency sake, but for effectiveness.  Yes, it’s early, but I believe this will be one of the biggest trends in business development in the coming year.

Trend #2: Uniting Marketing and Sales As One

For at least 100 years, marketing and sales have been two distinct departments in most every business – each with their own goals, culture, compensation structure, and leadership.   Furthermore, these two haven’t traditionally played that nicely together.  Marketing can be seen as too cerebral and not wanting to get their hands dirty.  Sales can be viewed as non-strategic and short-sighted. Often, they aren’t even in the same location and may rarely interact with one another.

However, as smart B2B companies begin to see marketing and sales as a process along the business development continuum, they have realized that having two silos doesn’t make very much sense.  You can optimize each function without necessarily benefiting the whole.  Over the past year or two, there has been a growing trend among smart companies of uniting these two functions under one leader.  This person is increasingly titled the “Chief Revenue Officer”.

The number of CROs among businesses is still relatively small, compared to VPs of Marketing or VPs of Sales, however it is growing.  The name of the title isn’t important.  Call it VP of Marketing AND Sales, or VP of the Customer Experience, or whatever. What is important is that companies begin to view marketing and sales as one continuous customer journey (such as the 7 Elements) and manage the process holistically.  This brings us to trend #3.

Trend #3: Viewing Business Development as a ‘Customer Decision Journey’

For a long time, the primary framework in business development has been the sales funnel.  Most of us are familiar with this.  There are lots of different versions, but they basically look something like this.


The limiting thing about the sales funnel, though, is that it is always based on where the customer is in the buying process.  It’s an internal perspective intended to help you manage the pipeline.  Versions of the funnel may label the milestones differently, but the gist is always the same.  Never has the sales funnel been viewed through the lens of a customer – the preconditions that a customer mentally phases through in the decision of choosing to buy from you or hire you.

Additionally, the funnel presumes a linear process whereby a prospective customer can only start at the top and get pressed through until squirted out like a sausage at the bottom.  This linear mentality may be helpful in simplifying the process for your sales team, but it doesn’t reflect the non-linear paths of the real customer journey.  Additionally, the ‘sales funnel’ is a sales model and doesn’t include the important role of marketing – to build awareness and understanding and interest in your offering.

Today, enlightened companies are thinking about the process in a different way – as a complete journey that each prospective customer moves through in choosing to do business with you.  Start to finish.  My version of this customer journey is called  the 7 Elements.

B2B, Business Development

The term ‘customer decision journey’ – which I think is an apt name – was coined by McKinsey I believe.  Or they use this term the most often.  Call it what you will and label how you will, but the simple act of thinking about marketing and sales through the decision making process of your customer will greatly improve your success at winning new business.  If you missed my earlier white paper on this, I’ll leave a link for you at the end.

There you have it, 3 trends in B2B business development that I believe have a lot of runway ahead of them and will leave a lasting positive impact:     1) Process Thinking Comes To Marketing and Sales,      2) Uniting Marketing and Sales As One, and 3) Viewing Business Development as a ‘Customer Decision Journey’.  I welcome your thoughts on these trends, and suggestions for other important trends that should be discussed.

Good luck!

The 7 Elements: A Strategic Framework For Winning New Business in B2B