Alexander Group’s ongoing sales transformation research, including its recent executive roundtables, reinforces a stark reality: the binary concept of the sales “close” is outdated. Specifically, in today’s digital sales environment, revenue leaders see a longer prospect development cycle before any revenue begins (i.e., at the close), and a longer revenue development cycle after revenue begins. In this emerging world, the “close” event is less crucial—even absent—as try-and-buy cycles merge into user adoption, and then into upsell trials on adjacent products.

 

The new digital buyer journey is forcing a redefinition of sales and marketing roles. Basically, leaders can no longer spend their whole sales budget closing qualified leads. Instead, many are redistributing sales resources, budget and management away from closing to: more upstream (“Above-the-Funnel”) activities and downstream (“Revenue Development”) activities.

This Alexander Group Research Brief will focus on how today’s winning revenue leaders are redeploying their sales, marketing and service resources, and collaborating with customers to create value before revenue…essentially: how are leaders working to own their “Above-the-Funnel” space?

Creating New Value Above The Funnel

Because prospects today are self-educating at an accelerating rate, leaders now need to pay a lot more attention to upstream prospect development. For example, prospects used to learn about your product from Sales or Field Marketing. Now by the time you see them, prospects already know the vendors and offerings…and you may even already be positioned incorrectly in their eyes. Also, your sales personnel now typically lack the traditional discovery time with prospects to shape a customized pitch. As a result, you may find that your team is increasingly “selling blind” vis a vis these prospects’ needs and preferences.

Therefore, today’s savvy leaders are investing in new above-the-funnel resources, including web-based IP, interactivity and value-added features, as well as new sales and support roles, to guide their prospect learning. This way, they can build awareness and pipeline, while now also driving discovery, customization and loyalty. Overall, the research is clear that the company with the better above-the-funnel experience quickly starts taking share.

Deploying New Roles Above The Funnel

Revenue Leaders will only see a significant ROI from their new roles if they redefine sales activities for today’s longer prospect development cycle, including creating job profiles and performance metrics for:

a. Enabling and guiding prospect learning
b. Refocusing their sales culture from Qualifying to Nurturing
c. Structuring multi-stage trials that transition to revenue
d. Adding value to prospect data, including thru benchmarks
e. Sustaining nurturing and driving discovery over long/interrupted periods
f. Pro-actively co-solutioning with prospects and internal experts
g. Moving seamlessly between busdev, support and sales activities
h. Conducting online demos and rapid configurations
i. Orchestrating engagement across multiple influencers

Creating a New Culture That Treats Prospects Like Customers

Since prospects today often educate themselves, they increasingly demand real value when they do interact with Sales. They want real insight and responsiveness—essentially, customer-type value—and they want it long before generating any revenue!

Driving this degree of sales culture change will be a real challenge. For example, some companies even have more prospects using their application than they have paying customers! Another new cultural challenge is that keeping prospects engaged today requires continually adding value to/with their data, even before they are officially buying.

Above-the-funnel targeting skills also become a crucial new leadership priority. This is because the new range of technical, administrative and account management roles needed to enable a strong prospect experience today can quickly become expensive. Therefore, figuring out which prospects to invest in, and when to pull the plug on them, becomes a crucial new organization muscle.

Please let us know if you found this AGI Digital Sales Research brief useful. Future briefs in this series will include: “Leveraging Customer Data Is the New Face-to-Face” and “Upselling Is the New Closing.”

In the meantime, you are invited to discuss best practices in this area, and other key sales transformation and leadership challenges, in one of our ongoing Sales Leadership Roundtables, Benchmarking Studies or Leadership Events.

For a deeper exploration of the Digital Customer Journey, contact us to schedule a complimentary Findings Briefing from our research with 60 leading companies.

Read Part 1 of this blog series: Today’s Revenue Leaders Must Own the New Digital Customer Journey
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RELATED RESOURCES
1. The Digital Revolution: New Sales Strategies for New Revenue Streams

2. Revenue Leadership in a Digital Future

Companies offering a better above-the-funnel experience today will soon be stealing share…all other things being equal.
- President, Software Company