A new and pernicious myth as taken hold in many B2B Sales and Marketing organizations. The myth - that buyers are 60-70% of the way through their buying cycle before they talk with a salesperson - is an intentional fallacy based on a false generalization that “buyers” means “all buyers”. Search the web for phrases around this topic and you’ll find a substantial volume of vendors selling the myth as truth, much to their short term benefit. In my discussions with both vendors and practitioners (leaders in Sales and Marketing), it is disturbing when they throw out the "60-70% ..." statement as if it were "fact" when, in reality, it is not only false but damaging to the revenue engine of companies who sell in the B2B space.
Not All Buyers Know What They Need
Our point of view is that not only are there different types of B2B buyers (we've identified four categories we call archetypes), but that in today's economy there are multiple buyers involved in decisions and they operate in what we call agreement networks. Some of these buyers - especially most executive buyers - want help in understanding complex problems in their business (including “unrealized opportunities”) before they ever think about products. They may not yet be aware of a problem they are faced with, or they may know that they have a problem but don’t yet understand its patterns or implications or impact on their organization. They are (appropriately) weeks or months away from a search for a product or service. It is these buyers who set the direction, before asking others in the agreement network (e.g. their teams) to get deeper into the details, including acquiring solutions.
Just back from the Forum for Sales Enablement professionals in Scottsdale and the buzz is still there. Maybe that's the effect of cold Boston air after 5 days in paradise, but I think there is more to it. Attendees were on a high with the ideas and approaches they learned to "work back from their customers" to better communicate in the ways buyers need and want in the Age of the Customer.
Check the twitter feed here and you will see some of that energy, like "marketing and sales have to align on the same methodology, but start from the customer perspective", or "buyers want you to give them insight they haven't thought of".
What is that methodology? If Forrester's new 21st Century Selling System in the Age of the Customer. The core idea is simple, model your buyers, so you can map your messages and assign the right messenger to communicate what the buyer needs in order to appreciate your value. The key? There are 4 archetypes of buyers, so there are 4 aligned archetypes of messages and messengers as well, like this: