9 Trends Facing B2B Sales And Marketing In 2017

02/02/2017 01:50 pm ET Updated Feb 01, 2018

You're a high-level B2B sales or marketing executive.

Your 2017 goals are in front of you. And one month into the year, you're facing serious obstacles imperiling your path to success.

The good news: you have a powerful new resource to utilize, thanks to the fine people at Prezi, Ambition and LeadGenius.

Their just-released 2017 Trends and Tech Guide for B2B Sales + Marketing knocked my socks off, and will probably do the same for you.

The premise: 9 chapters, each devoted to a single, major trend disrupting the everyday lives of B2B sales and marketing organizations.

Each chapter breaks down into 3 main categories:

1) The trend itself

2) The critical pain points that trend is creating

3) A list of 10-15 software tools that can solve them

For a primer, here's a look at the 9 trends the book covers, plus my personal tool of choice for each one.

1) Managing Millennials in B2B Sales and Marketing

The first trend the book covers is a crucial one that spans the entire gamut of B2B sales and marketing organizations: managing the millennial workforce.

The top 3 needs the book identifies for millennial workers include better visual cues, connectedness, and manager feedback - in other words, new-and-improved digital communication channels and strategies.

My tool pick: Slack. Insanely popular among the 35 and under sector, Slack is swiftly becoming the 2017 version of Salesforce.com - an essential component of B2B sales and marketing organizations that encourages work communication and blows the doors off silos.

2) Account-Based Marketing & Sales Strategies Come of Age

The most timely chapter in the book, chapter 2 takes on the biggest industry buzzword of the day and unpacks the substance behind it.

Enterprise sales 2.0 is a better name for it, as the writeup identifies how divergent organizational goals like sales-marketing alignment, social selling, and sales intelligence are all fighting the same core mission: get the 5-7 decision makers in the average B2B buyer onboard with buying your product or service as quickly as possible.

My top pick: DiscoverOrg is the consensus market leader for companies who'd love to know the organizational hierarchy, key decision makers and contact information of the companies they're marketing and selling to. Comprehensive coverage of your targets. Instant access for your teams.

3) The New CMO

The creative-centric good ol' days of B2B marketing are going away. More and more B2B marketing leaders are facing quota, being held accountable for revenue growth, and taking on operations-minded duties.

In other words, they're being expected to become savvier at both sales and technology, simultaneously. While retaining all the core duties they've always had with brand awareness, quality control, et cetera.

As the book identifies, "product marketing, retention, upselling, customer happiness, and even user experience now fall under the CMO's purview."

My top pick: Mailchimp offers user-friendly interface, straightforward data analytics, email segmentation capabilities and free pricing for your first 2,000 recipients.

4) The Segmented Sales Force

Here's a sample of the modest goals facing B2B sales leaders in 2017:

Shorter sales cycles, exponential market growth, unreachable and arbitrarily-chosen revenue targets, and business scalability.

The go-to strategy for reaching these targets?

Sales force micro-segmentation - by role, territory, and industry vertical.

Sales development reps, sales engineers, and market developers are the new normal; as is the role that makes all this crazy segmentation actually work: sales operations.

My top pick: In the crowded sales acceleration and automation space, Outreach has lunged ahead of the pack with an unbelievably powerful platform that lets teams automatically create and personalize powerful 1:1 communication and workflows with prospects via email, phone, and social channels, backed with insightful data analytics and deep CRM integrations.

5) Customer Experience: A Unifying Force for Sales & Marketing

A positive trend for B2B sales and marketing, renewed emphasis on customer experience (and not just a great relationship with individual sales reps).

Whether that means spending more attention (and budget) on customer support, product development, referral channel development, or otherwise, there are serious benefits to be had for B2B sales and marketing leaders in organizations with this trend top of mind in 2017.

My top pick: Intercom is the platform everyone's talking about these days - a powerful, easy way to improve client experience and gain new insights that marketing and sales teams can leverage to improve their own processes.

6) Personalize Everything: From Messaging to Management

Developing personalized relationships both internally and externally - and also at scale - is a key challenge for B2B sales and marketing leaders.

Technology can be a double-edged sword in this regard - just because you're reaching more people with your marketing and sales communication doesn't mean you're moving the needle.

In fact, you may be undermining your own efforts with generic automated public and 1:1 communication.

My top pick: Zoom is a web conferencing and communication tool that goes the distance, offering top-notch video and audio, recording and storage capabilities, and personalized backgrounds, landing pages, and messaging all done via the Zoom platform. If you're interfacing with someone digitally, there's no better way than Zoom.

7) The Consolidated Technology Stack

There's nothing wrong with leveraging enterprise technology across your B2B sales and marketing efforts.

There is a very real problem, however, with having an overly-cumbersome, extensive, and expensive sales and marketing stack.

The Trends and Tech Guide predicts that 2017 will be the year many businesses opt to consolidate, rather than expand, their toolkit.

My top pick: Calendly is my team's scheduling tool of choice, syncing tightly with all the major calendar and email providers and making tasks like scheduling meetings, setting event reminders, and so forth the cinch that it should be.

8) Data: The Currency of the Trust

The switch in mindset around business intelligence - from reactive to proactive - is a trend interloping every sector of B2B sales and marketing.

Whether it's sales reps acting on behavioral and activity cues from certain prospects, marketing teams pivoting messaging based on things like Google search volume, or employee surveys telling you what kind of pizza they prefer for lunch, data will be the judge and jury behind the most crucial decisions your company makes in 2017.

My top pick: Clearbit is a highly affordable, efficient way to get enriched, verified data insights on both companies and individuals.

9) Machine Learning: Predictive Sales and Marketing

Machine learning is all about predicting the future.

Which companies are going to be good customers? Which sales team members are going to have a great quarter? Which blog articles are going to get the highest reader engagement?

These are the challenging enigmas that B2B sales and marketing leaders still lose endless hours of sleep over.

They are now being solved by artificial intelligence that uses data to forecast increasingly accurate answers to these questions.

My top pick: Crystal is a jaw-dropping new tool that predicts both personality and preferred communication style using data from previous communication on social media and email.

Where to Get the 2017 Tools and Trends Guide for B2B Sales and Marketing

Rather than put the book on Amazon, Prezi, Ambition, and LeadGenius are giving it away for free.

To get your free copy of the eBook, go to www.B2BTrendsAndTech.com.

A final word to the wise: At 38 pages long, the guide is not meant to be digested in one sitting, but to be referred back to throughout the year based on the issue you're facing.

The tech side of it is no joke - all told, there are 112 software tools in here, each one has an original writeup, pricing info, links, and use cases.

The scope and specificity of the 112 software tool profiles is staggering - prices range from free solutions that team members can adopt individually to six-figure operating systems built for the enterprise.

Whatever your needs as a B2B sales and marketing leader, the guide has something for you.

Read it and start preparing your organization to hit those unrealistically high 2017 revenue goals.

___________________________________________________________


James Carbary
is the founder of Sweet Fish Media, a podcast agency for B2B brands. He's a contributor for the Huffington Post & Business Insider, and he also co-hosts the B2B Growth Show: a daily podcast dedicated to helping B2B marketers achieve explosive growth.