Posted by Bradford Holmes on February 12, 2014
These days, it's harder and harder to skate ahead of business buyers who are more informed and fickle than ever before. We all experience the same dynamics, our buyers know a lot about our capabilities before we meet, or they have a point of view on where we fit that may or may not be what we would want them to think of us, but there it is. They move around a lot, and they work in teams that form and break apart on projects or programs that span days or years. And they have options, lots of them, so what used to be a clear competitive landscape is now muddled with new alternatives. It's just hard to sell your value these days when buyers are so well informed and on top of your stuff -- and changing all the time.
And I don't just mean for you, for us too. Sales enablement is an elusive role. About one-third of the folks who attend our Forum each year have sales titles, a third marketing, and another some form of sales enablement. And I don't see that changing radically any time soon. What is happening is that executives are increasingly, and I don't mean a flood, but increasingly assigning someone to deal with the growth problem that many, many companies have and whose CEOs are not happy. But they can't make a difference on their own, because they come from sales, or marketing, or maybe a new enablement function, and they need to collaborate with their counterparts across sales, marketing, training, product, and HR to make change. So that means Forrester, like any of you out there who also help companies with their growth problem, have to sell to a team. And that team is diverse, so the marketers have one perspective on what would be helpful, the sales folks another, and so on. Sure, we might have some appealing frameworks for the lead person, and an approach they can use to work across functions, but we still need to shape our message about that approach to match what the others see as valuable in their roles. And you might have a cool tool, or provide a great service, that is focused on messaging, or maybe sales force development, but the value of those things to people working on the growth problem as a team needs to make sense to everyone on the team who will have a say in how they spend their money.
Now I am not crying you or me a river here. Just making the point that knowing what is going on with your buyers, SE pros in my case, and many of yours too, is critical for communicating the value of your capabilities. And in this world, that means understanding the perspectives of sales, marketing, product, HR, and so on so you can match your messages accordingly. Which brings me back to buyer insights. Mine are SE pros, yours could be anyone, from people with a task and a budget and a need for a fast and easy transaction for that "hammer" they have been comparison shopping for online, to someone looking to consolidate their spending on office supplies or lab equipment with one vendor, to someone who runs a key function or process, like closing the books, or running a plant, who needs a prescription for how to do that better, faster, or cheaper, to a senior executive (and her team) looking for help in growing her business overall. Wow, that's a heck of a range of different buyers, so that means a heck of a range of content, and some very different kinds of salespeople to boot.
So where to start? Well, we say with those buyers. And that is why I am writing you today. Here are three recent publications from my team. From your perspective, any one of them could be about your buyers. This first one is about salespeople's self-perceptions on how prepared they are in sales calls. If you sell stuff to help salespeople prepare better, that's buyer insight for you. This one is about how often executive B2B buyers take meetings and why. If those are your buyers, there you go, more insight. And this one is about focusing more on advocates for your company or capability versus on reference customers. If you sell B2B, here is more insight about the changing behavior of your buyers.
How to pull this all together, that's a fair question. This report is one of our role profiles. I share this one because this is the structure we advise you use to capture the kind of insights you need to be more relevant to your buyers in the first place. In other words, the systematic capture of buyer insight is the starting point to making your messaging more relevant, and preparing your messengers to be more welcome.
OK, so if you are interested in learning more about how to weave this all together, that is what we call a selling system, and that is what we will roll out at our Forum in March. In the meantime, please enjoy this latest research through the lens of buyer insights, and I hope to see you in Arizona.
If you want to say your piece about your own changing buyers, please comment here and we will have a blog chat on that shared pain!