Many B2B companies struggle to find, win, and keep customers. Their buyers have changed, but B2B companies have not. In his new book, Sales Process Excellence, Michael Webb explains the problem this way:
- Customers rely more today on cost and performance data than relationships with sales people, yet many companies cannot give customers the right information at the right time.
- Potential buyers scour the internet to get the information they want, yet few companies exploit the internet’s ability to share information and nurture buyers.
- Buyers’ perception of value changes over time, but companies have no way to gauge customers as their perception of value shifts between “price, durability, performance, delivery, maintenance, service or warranty.”
- Companies depend more than ever on their distribution channels, yet they know little about their end customers nor do they exert much influence on the behavior of their channels.
- Fiercely competitive markets drive companies toward a low-cost or high-quality position in the market, yet companies remain unclear on who their customers are, which position in the market they want to occupy, and how to communicate their market position.
It wasn’t that long ago that manufacturing grappled with similar issues. Here’s how Webb describes the problem they faced:
What is the nature of this “production system?” Years ago, executives viewed production as a series of separately managed functions that included purchasing, inventory control, scheduling, operations, maintenance, warehousing, and shipping.
Like the management of production years ago, sales, marketing and support today are managed as a series of separate functions. Each organization operates with its own goals, activities, and culture. Each organizes its own work and is only loosely coordinated with other organizations.
Webb says that although production has changed dramatically over the years, sales and marketing has not:
Thanks to process excellence, that view (of production) gradually changed. Most CEOs now view production as a series of interdependent processes, which include the entire “supply chain.” They understand that the interdependencies among functions can create effects that may seem counterintuitive at first yet have a huge impact on overall productivity. Unfortunately, most executives continue to view marketing, selling, and servicing as separate, independent functions that deliver, rather than create, value—and they manage them as such.
B2B companies have been slow to adopt process excellence in marketing, sales, and service. However, that is likely to change soon. The opportunities for improvement are too great to miss. And people like Michael Webb are showing us how to move forward.