The convergence of social, sales and marketing has been a long process that started back in 2000. It started with Google Search, which enabled buyers to educate themselves on upcoming purchases. This caused marketers to invest in Google Ads, but since buyers preferred organic search results, marketers also invested in SEO and in creating content.

As buyers gained access to more knowledge, they started sharing it on blogs and social media. This has put pressure on sales people – they had to be more knowledgeable than the company’s website, or there was no need for them. In other words, buyers have changed, and so sales people had to change in order to meet their buyers’ requirements.

Do we still need sales?

Since close to 60% of B2B prospects have already made their buying decision based on online research, one might wonder if we even need sales. I think we do – but sales reps must now be not just highly knowledgeable about their company’s products, but they must also be able to point out the benefits of those products for specific leads and specific roles within organizations, just like marketing content must be tailored to specific prospects.

Buyers now demand a trusted sales person that knows not just their own company’s business but also the buyers’ business, and can teach them something new and valuable.

This means that sales now need to nurture prospects, using social media. It’s important for sales reps to have a strong social media presence and use it to demonstrate their expertise (what we call “social selling”) because that makes people trust them and want to buy from them, and using social media as a nurturing tool helps keep sales reps top of mind. It’s not uncommon for a prospect to base their buying decision on the trust they feel towards a sales person, rather than a company.

Impact on businesses

On the marketing side, best-in-class companies now spend more on creating targeted content for their buyers’ journeys, and on tracking this digital journey, typically using marketing automation tools.

On the sales side, we’re seeing growth in inside sales and in social selling, and use of triggers and alerts.

We’re also seeing much higher alignment between marketing and sales, as sales are doing more and more nurturing.

When looking at a typical pipeline, traditional advertising, direct mail and telemarketing have been replaced by content, digital marketing and social selling.

How can I capitalize on this convergence?

Pull all the data you have, making very targeted personas of who your buyers are. Then send profiled content to profiled leads, tailoring your content to the personas that you’ve built. Use marketing automation to follow each buyer’s journey from their first visit to your website all the way to the actual purchase, and use that data to improve your next campaign.

This article originally appeared on eTrigue’s Demand Generation Best Practices Blog.

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