This Popular Stat is Wasting Your Time: The 57% Engagement Myth

Target prospective buyers early using refined targeting, educational content, and digital inbound lead generation

September 5, 2016

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In 2011, CEB rocked the sales industry with a statistic from their comprehensive report, The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing:

“The average B2B buyer is 57% through the purchase decision before engaging a supplier sales rep.”

This one statistic triggered speculation about digital sales apocalypse, the collapse of the sales funnel, and “the end of sales as we know it.” Cold calling is dead. Networking is a waste of time. Sales will become order fulfillment in a bidding race to the bottom.

However, the problem with this sweeping statistic and those predictions is that it just hasn’t happened that way. What’s more, overreacting to a shift in digital lead generation and late sales funnel interaction with prospects is waste of sales reps’ time.

At its core, buyers are still engaging early in the sales funnel, and B2B sales are still driven by the same pillars: early buyer engagement, proactive targeting, education, prospecting, and pursuing potential customers.

Instead of announcing the end of sales, the “57%” stat (or 67% stat depending on your source) has acted as a steady reminder that the sales process is evolving. Social selling has created a complex interconnected sales funnel—with prospect engagement at multiple levels—and business is booming for the properly equipped salespeople.

So to set the record straight and point your sales team in the right direction, here are a few ways to interpret this oft-cited statistic as a reminder to your sales and marketing teams to cultivate early, effective prospect engagement.

Strategic Targeting Works Better Than Ever

The meteoric rise of social selling and account-based marketing (ABM) in the past few years is nothing short of amazing. This breakthrough has led to a tangible increase in the synergy between sales and marketing—namely, narrowing the field of prospects, finding them, and turning them into clients with targeted content.

Alissa Dettelbach, Marketing Manager at Demand Generation, PGi claims this shift to ABM has reshaped how marketing and sales interact. “Instead of looking to marketing as the ‘lead driver,’ we are now seen as a strategic partner in driving opportunities and influencing the pipeline.”

Patrick Chen, Senior Manager at Demand Generation, takes this idea further when he says, “Focusing on the right segments of your prospect audience is key in being able to tailor your content and messaging in a way that truly resonates with your target buyer.”

Education Is Early Buyer Engagement

While it may not look like “Sales” with a capital “S,” education is a vital stage in the buyer’s journey and typically occurs near the top of the sales funnel during the “Awareness” stage. In fact, SiriusDecisions recently released a study confirming that the earliest stage of buyer engagement is during the education phase. This same education phase also accounts for the highest rates of engagement throughout the entire buyer’s journey.

Helpful, targeted educational content is a fantastic form of early buyer engagement that can build brand awareness and ideally can transform prospects into clients. What’s more, this type of interaction and lead generation has only increased as clients and prospects continue to move online. When done right, educational content leads to earlier engagement and higher conversion rates.

The Evolution of Inbound Lead Generation

Lead generation has fundamentally changed the classic sales funnel from top down to cyclical as buyers continue to move online for education and information. Engagement rates at all stages of the journey are at stake for those not aware of this shift. In fact, Megan Heuer, Vice President and Group Director, Data-Driven Marketing at SiriusDecisions says the CEB stat is really about the changing face of inbound lead generation:

“The real message behind the 67% statistic is that every marketing organization must view its inbound efforts as absolutely critical to success at all stages of the buyer’s journey. Do not ignore the role of inbound marketing at later stages of the buyer’s journey.”

The idea that lead generation occurs at all phases of the sales funnel with the right targeting and content is further evidence of the dangers of accepting the “fact” that 57% of a buyer’s journey is over before they engage with a sales rep.

Sales reps have more reach, targeting capabilities, and data-driven metrics available than ever before to engage with today’s buyers. The buyer’s journey is filled with sales engagement opportunities for those that know how to create them.

Download our latest eBook, Solving Sales and Marketing Alignment today and learn how to be the one creating buyer engagement from the word go.