This certainly doesn't mean most marketing is useless, but it's a telling statistic about the divide that separates marketing messages that operate at 30,000 feet from sales conversations that happen at 3 feet — the average distance between a salesperson and a prospect during a sit-down meeting.
In this digital age, it's increasingly important for marketing to play a bigger role in helping sales not just get "your" message in front of a customer, but to make it "their" message — something that the buyer cares enough about to talk to your rep and to do something that upsets the status quo as a result. It's about creating content that can play dual roles: attracting and educating buyers while giving sales a deeper understanding about what's attracting that attention in the first place. To achieve both, marketers have to understand their buyers. Better. Deeply. Obsessively.
In our research, executive buyers tell us that referrals are far more effective than other approaches for gaining access to them. Yet the referral strategy is ignored in most corporate sales organizations. If you want your salespeople to have greater success accessing executive buyers, then it’s time to consider this important yet forgotten strategy.
Do salespeople in different roles (e.g., strategic accounts, geographic, inside sales) and with different levels of experience have different perspectives on selling? Not significantly, according to our Q1 2012 North American Technology Seller Insight Online Survey.
Our recently published report “What Do Reps Believe Makes A Meeting Successful?” illuminates how similar the perspectives of sellers in different roles and with different levels of experience really are. If your company has one kind of sales role and one very consistent type of buyer, and they are well aligned, then this data may not much matter to you. But if you have different roles and types of buyer, then it’s worth examining the data in this report.
We found that three-fourths of salespeople agree that the most important aspect of a successful meeting with prospective buyers is their ability to understand the buyers’ business issues and share a way to solve them. The thing is, Forrester’s Q4 2012 Global Executive Buyer Insight Online Survey data, and interviews with executive buyers, clearly illuminate that the majority of buyers believe that salespeople are not successful in meetings with them.
“It's no longer sufficient to say that you are simply ‘customer-centric" or "customer-focused.’ The only successful strategy in the age of the customer is to become customer-obsessed — to focus your strategic decisions first and foremost on how your customers expect you to engage them.
Through our ongoing conversations with executive buyers, professionals in sales enablement, and through survey responses from hundreds of global executive buyers, Forrester’s Sales Enablement practice has discovered a massive gap between buyers’ expectations of salespeople and what they’re actually experiencing when they meet with reps. In fact, less than 40% of executive buyers say that meetings with salespeople meet their expectations (see figure 1). Further, only one in three IT executives said that sales meetings "usually" live up to expectations, and just over two of five business executives said that sales meetings hit that mark (see Norbert Kriebel’s report: Executive Buyer Expectations — The Bar Is Low).
Considering that perhaps 25% or less of the typical sales force is even capable of gaining access to executive buyers, consider the cost when these meetings miss buyer expectations and result in no further opportunity.
Funny question. The answer seems so obvious, right? True that when it comes to tangible stuff with clear intrinsic attributes which are, well, easy to value. Gold goes for $1,390 as of 3:16 pm Eastern time today, and we all know why. It's a commodity, a scarce one at that, and gold here, same as gold where you are. Obvious.
But what about intangible stuff? How valuable is fame, how valuable is professional success, leadership, or maybe a strategy? Well, we also know that depends on who is doing the buying and why, which means that value is in the eye of the beholder, just like beauty. So putting a price on some things is tricky. How much were you looking to pay for that success? And maybe price is not really an issue when a strategy for turning around your $15b company is the goal and its your head if that strategy does not work in the next 18 months, so that will cost you $6m, few questions asked.
So why am I asking such a simple question?
In our research with business and IT executives we ask them simple questions, like what's valuable to them, and they are quite clear. And their answers tend toward the intangibles versus the tangibles. For example, when we ask, "What would you consider to be a valuable meeting with a vendor salesperson?" the number one reply is "The salesperson clearly shows they understand my business issues and can clearly articulate to me how to solve them." That's an intangible value forged in the cauldron of empathy, credibility, expertise, experience. Also obvious, but perhaps not so easy to deliver.
Funny question, until you think about it a bit more. With all the focus on the changed buyer who finds online or from peers much of what she needs to make a decision, on just about everything, including what to buy, why do we still have salespeople on the payroll?
Because your customers require them.
Funny answer, until you think about it a bit more.
Work with me here. If your company is in the business of converting assets, like a patent, or skilled craftspeople, or molten metal, or a process you understand well, into something of potential value to others, that is step one. Next, you have to communicate that value to other people so they can decide to get some, or not. To do that, you have people crafting all sorts of messages about your value; some of those messages you send out to the world online, some in traditional ads, others on blogs, some into communities, maybe a book, and those messages are the simpler ones. Simpler because these are messages the target recipient must be able to decode, absorb, and assimilate unaided into his or her personal value equation. Does the value I perceive exceed the cost and is the risk to realizing that value manageable and acceptable? "I like what I hear and read about this iPhone well enough, the cost seems worth it, and I think I can figure out how to make it work." Like that.
Then there are more complex messages, to go with more involved decisions, for stuff, the value of which you created to solve more involved problems than retrieving and sending texts or booking a table for dinner.
Peter O’Neill here with some comments about being truly effective at content marketing. Did you know that B2B buyers say that 70% of the content they read and study before making a purchase decision is actually found by themselves; as opposed to being given to them by marketing or sales? At Forrester, we like to talk about the new interaction model of need-match-engage, where the buyers now initiate the interaction and spend a major part of their buyer journey doing their own research before calling in potential suppliers.
Content marketing has therefore become much more than product and solutions collateral, campaigns, mailings, and fulfillment. B2B marketers have to be great at being found by buyers in their early research phase (the phases we call discover and explore). In a way, successful marketers will “fool” their buyers into consuming their thought-leadership and educational content in stages 1 through 5 — while hardly realizing its source. And the most successful marketers will learn how to mix their brand "scent" into that content without appearing to be selling — to the extent that buyers will count it as part of their 70%.
Yes, the headline is a bit blunt…we are working so hard these days, weaving together our program for you, that my creative juices are a little fried.
If you’ve been to one of our Sales Enablement forums, you know we put a lot of effort into ensuring a core event theme and message that’s solid, consistent, and woven throughout every presentation and session. You also know we strive to create a cohesive community experience where you and your team can leave with strong new perspectives, a rolodex of new contacts, and a sense of purpose to help drive success at your company.
What I’d like to do is share with you some of what we have in store.
As you know, we’ve been researching the growing divide between buyers and sellers now for the last four years. Recently, however, we’ve been shining a brighter light into this chasm…and illuminating the gaps between the articulation of the corporate business strategy and the different tactics used by members of the executive committee to execute that strategy.
What have we uncovered?
Well – to put it kindly – many of the tried-and-true tactics, successfully used by these leaders in the past, no longer work in today’s changed economy.
Major tectonic forces – such as the emergence of our “do more with less” economy and the increased empowerment of buyers – are having fundamental and transformative impacts on how B2B companies sell and market their products and services.
Hello Fellow B2B Marketers, this weekly blog post highlights our ongoing research focused on B2B revenue acceleration, as well as an exclusive look into what outputs you can expect in the coming weeks. Kick off your week here every Monday to get a burst of support for your professional success.
Forrester hosts its Sales Enablement Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona, on March 4 and 5, 2013. Attendees will engage as a community with a shared focus on driving revenue, hear success stories in process from their peers and leading B2B practitioners, become immersed in the latest thinking and data from Forrester including face time with analysts, all in the comfort of the Camelback Inn Resort & Spa. Over the next few weeks, Marketing Mondays will spotlight the themes of the forum through a series of Q&A sessions with attending analysts. This week I sat down with Norbert Kriebel to discuss his track at the upcoming forum.
Forrester hosts its Sales Enablement Forumin Scottsdale, Arizona, on March 4 and 5, 2013. Attendees will engage as a community with a shared focus on driving revenue, hear success stories in process from their peers and leading B2B practitioners, become immersed in the latest thinking and data from Forrester including face time with analysts, all in the comfort of the Camelback Inn Resort & Spa. Over the next three weeks, Marketing Mondays will spotlight the