Understanding How Customers Buy Will Better Inform Your Sales And Marketing System

Peter O’Neill here. We had an interesting discussion with a Forrester client this year, a business unit that sells computer storage hardware and software. Focusing on just one of its major accounts, we asked how much storage the vendor had sold to that account. The number reported was impressive, and the vendor also felt it had a significant market share in that account based on its own addressable market analysis. Well, Forrester talks to marketing professionals and to the IT organization. So we researched the true spending on storage in that company. The actual spending on storage was well over three times the amount assumed by the vendor. There were many business initiatives in progress (ran by business executives, of course, not IT), to optimize business processes or improve their outcomes. All of these projects end up deploying technology including storage, but there is no actual storage purchase — that is “lost” in the project budget. The reality was that this vendor had a miniscule market share because most of the spending on storage technologies passed over its head.

What had gone wrong? Well, the vendor no longer knew its customer well enough. Sure, it had a dedicated account team and a full customer relationship management (CRM) database; but its system, based on addressable revenue, incorporated the vendor’s interpretation of how storage is sold. Nowadays, in the age of the customer, it is imperative to understand how things are bought, not how they should be sold. The storage sales team was waiting for the one door to open for storage requests for proposal (RFPs) while the real spending was being driven by higher-level projects being decided by much higher-level people on the upper floors. As with most technology nowadays, it is no longer sensible to just chase down budgeted tech spend, because top-level executives can and do create their investment plans using other budgets based on a compelling business case. Another lesson is that perhaps a storage sales team is not enough anymore.

That is the theme for our Forum For Sales Enablement Professionals next March. We will talk about driving growth with a 21st-century selling system, one that is transformed from a siloed and product-focused system into a holistic, customer-problem-focused sales and marketing approach. You need to reevaluate who and what is your customer or audience, tune the right message(s) to those audiences, and deploy the right content and messenger(s).

My contribution to the Forum will be a series of sessions focused on message and content marketing. I will present a framework for a messaging model to enable content audits, new content creation, and delivery in a way that sellers can readily apply at the right time with the right audience. Then, together with my CMO-focused analyst colleagues Laura Ramos and Sheryl Pattek, we’ll discuss with leading practitioners about how they have revamped their marketing and sales content, and the resulting sales conversations of course, to truly support revenue acceleration growth.

Here are some examples of strong messaging and content I like to cite to my clients as great examples of 21st-century sales messaging. SAS Institute is one of the oldest software companies in the industry, providing statistical analysis technologies. But if you looked at this landing page, you wouldn’t even be aware that SAS writes code at all: It talks about a fraud protection service. That is how it should be. Or the way that content management software vendor Hippo talks about that topic, providing thought leadership even if they still talk about their offering more than the buyers’ needs, but it is compelling information for anyone who is not sure how to do content management.

So, I look forward to seeing you in Scottsdale. If that is not possible, we are planning a breakfast session on the same topic in our London office in Q1. If you need more details, drop me a line. As always, I’d love to hear from you on this and other topics.

Always keeping you informed! Peter

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