Beware The "Buyers Already Know What They Want" Myth

Mark Lindwall

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.  

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When Three's A Crowd: Navigating An Agreement Network Is Key To Sales Success In The Age Of The Customer

Scott Santucci

In most cases, the answers to life’s more complex questions have really simple answers. In today’s selling environment it’s often hard to determine who exactly is “the buyer.” Your salespeople are given a lot of inputs:

  • Your executive leadership want them calling on “business people” or “executives.”
  • The sales training courses they have been to instruct them to find “champions,” “decision-makers,” and “influencers.”
  • Marketers produce information about “personas.”
  • Business unit leaders and other subject matter experts talk about “users” or “doers.”
  • Sales managers tend to be more interested in understanding the opportunity (Access to power? Is it qualified? Is there budget allocate? When is the account going to make a decision?).
  • Their contacts within an given account give them different people or process steps to follow, or kick them over to procurement.

With all of the different voices – “You should do this,” “You should say that,” “You need to present this way” – echoing  in the heads of your salespeople, things can get very confusing.

A Tale Of Two Sales

The thing is – the buying environment for most of us has changed, leaving us with two distinctively different buying patterns:

  • On the one hand, the customer knows what they want and have developed fairly sophisticated procurements steps to acquired what they need at the best possible price.
  • On the other hand, the customer is looking for the expertise to help them get value from their investment and solve a problem.
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Conversations Are The Fuel For The 21st-Century Selling System

Scott Santucci

Why are sales and marketing professionals working harder and longer than ever before? Why are they seemingly in a constant firefighting mode, moving from one fire drill to the next, one meeting to another?

We are in the middle of a major transformation in the B2B sales model. Your company is caught between a rock and a hard place because your investors want to see accelerated growth and improved margins. However, your customers have the same pressures, and all have some form of enterprisewide strategic procurement initiatives underway. Your goal: sell at a higher price. Their goal: buy only what they need at the lowest possible price. Something has to give.

In response to these tectonic forces, we find many companies have a variety of internal projects designed to combat the commoditization trend. Some common efforts include:

  • Training salespeople to get access to executives.
  • Creating "solution selling kits" (in marketing).
  • Developing return-on-investment tools.
  • Focusing on demand-generation campaigns.
  • Developing sales-coaching frameworks.
  • Creating more structured opportunity identification and account scorecards.
  • Fine-tuning the customer relationship management (CRM) system to improve reporting and forecasting processes.
  • Pricing and packaging exercises and corresponding negotiation training.
  • Reinventing product marketing functions into "solution" marketing roles.
  • Investing in branding and messaging programs.
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Discussing The Message In The New Selling System

Peter O'Neill

I spent some time today with Eduardo Conrado, senior vice president marketing and IT at Motorola Solutions. Eduardo is one of our guest speakers at our Sales Enablement Forum in March – in fact he is the keynote for the track which I have put together with a focus on the message within our 21st-century sales system equation. This graphic should give you a hint of what we mean:

 

If you’d like to know more, and what MMA and VPM mean, come to the Forum and find out. Eduardo and I discussed his presentation and this is our dialogue.

PETER: Eduardo. What will be your three key takeaways from your speech at the Forrester Sales Enablement Forum?

EDUARDO: When considering how to move your company from a product company to a solutions provider, reexamine your brand and what it means to you and your customers in the lens of purpose, voice, promise, and values. Through a collaborative effort with sales, you need to examine the people, process, and tools/systems you are currently utilize to address your customer’s business challenges. A dynamic mix customer messaging to sales enablement tools reinforces how you can help your customers solve their toughest challenges and can position your company as a trusted advisor and not just a product company.

PETER: How important was it to link your content to sales conversations and how did you do that?

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Sales Enablement And The CEO: Partners To Drive Growth In The Age Of The Customer

Scott Santucci

There sure are a lot of often-quoted factoids/observations about the state of affairs among sales forces. We are hearing and reading how:

  • Fewer salespeople are hitting quota.
  • Buyers are much more knowledgeable before they meet with salespeople.
  • Improving the volume or quality of leads boosts marketers’contribution.
  • Making it easier to access sales information helps.
  • Sales managers are not effectively coaching their sales teams.
  • Lots of spending is dedicated to better equipping sellers.
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Now Available: Forrester’s First Wave™ Evaluation Of Lead-To-Revenue Platform Providers

Lori Wizdo

We recently wrapped up our first ever evaluation on lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) platforms.  In this 75-criteria evaluation, we identified the nine most significant solution providers in the category, and researched, analyzed, and scored them.  I want to extend my sincere thanks to each vendor in the report — Act-On, Adobe, CallidusCloud, IBM, Marketo, Oracle, salesforce.com, Salesfusion, and Silverpop — for committing to and participating in the often grueling Forrester Wave™ evaluation process.  

In the analysis, the Forrester team looked in detail at how the vendors support traditional business-to-business (B2B) lead management capabilities — lead capture, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and lead promotion — as well as meet the emerging needs of B2B marketers in cross-channel execution, social campaigns, and real-time, contextual triggers, optimization, and analytics.   

Forrester clients can read the full report here.

The Forrester Wave process is extensive. Here are some of my key takeaways after having scored 675 criteria, reviewed the transcripts of 30 interviews, watched 18 hours of vendor demos, topped off with 9-plus hours of vendor strategy presentations:
 

The L2RM Platform Buyer Needs To Exercise Deep Due Diligence When Making A Platform Selection

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To Win Against Increasing Competition, Equip Your Salespeople With A Deeper understanding Of Your Buyers

Mark Lindwall

Last week I spoke with the VP of Sales for a tech company that used to have the hottest product in his market.  In housing terms, they used to be an exclusive and much sought after neighborhood, but now the competition has moved in on all sides and sales are down.  His sales force is facing a vastly growing number of competitors. Some are much larger and have broader portfolios that give them better presence in customer accounts. They’re getting squeezed and are finding it harder to compete in deals where they used to be the only solution.

Your only true differentiation comes from how your reps interact with your buyers

What’s interesting is that the vendor mentioned above is still experiencing consistent success when his company’s salespeople gain access to executive buyers early in their decision process and work in a consultative manner with those buyers to shape a vision of a solution.  When that happens, salespeople are confident discussing the business issues faced by those buyers.  They’ve found certain industries that they know well where they are able to do this consistently.  They are not getting squeezed by competitors and they are winning. But often, they're chasing deals that competitors started and reps are drawn into an RFP frenzy that chews up time and resources.  After all, they used to win these deals, but now they're pretty demoralized and reps are starting to leave.  

It's all about empathy for buyers

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Closing the Divide between Sellers and Executive-Level Buyers – A PLEA!

Scott Santucci

I hate to admit it, but I need to quote a line from the movie “Beaches”.   In the attached clip (its only 4 seconds) CC Bloom, the self-absorbed actress played by Bette Midler, utters a fantastically relevant quote for today’s sales and marketing professionals. 

“But enough about me.  Let’s talk about you.  What do you think about me”

This one quote best sums up the state of affairs in the trenches.  Your firm is sending your sales force to talk about your company and not the needs of the people who have the wallets to compensate you.   Ulitmately, sales forces are being prepared with a variety of messages about how great your company is (but enough about me) and they are getting a few hours of executive-skill training  in a day or two of genric executive selling courses (lets talk about you.).  Unfortunately, most lack the empathy of those executives to engage in a converation about the clients real business issues and revert back to talking about things they know (what do you think about me).  

What proof do we have of this? 

Each year for the past 5 years, Forrester has conducted an executive buyer study comprising of two parts.  The first part is a 38 question survey gathering the opinions of executives across the globe in different functions (finance, sales, manufacturing, human resources, IT, etc) and at different levels.  We follow up these survey questions with at least 100 interviews with roles that fit our profile to catch the color commentary that really brings richness to the insights. 

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Due Diligence Required: L2RM Vendors Are Great At Marketing

Peter O'Neill

Peter O’Neill here, to tell you: we’ve finally made it! Yes, our Forrester Wave™ evaluation on lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) platforms is finally published for Forrester clients. In this 75-criteria evaluation, we identified the nine most significant solution providers in the category — Act-On, Adobe, CallidusCloud, IBM, Marketo, Oracle, salesforce.com, Salesfusion, and Silverpop —and researched, analyzed, and scored them. Lori Wizdo and I, ably supported by reviews from colleagues Laura Ramos and Sheryl Pattek, looked in detail at how the vendors support traditional business-to-business (B2B) lead management capabilities — lead capture, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and lead promotion — as well as meet the emerging needs of B2B marketers in cross-channel execution, social campaigns, and real-time, contextual triggers, optimization, and analytics. Note that we sub-titled the report “Due Diligence Required: These Vendors Are Great At Marketing”.  This is not our frivolity: buyers really do need to firstly evaluate their own needs and then select the vendor that best fits that specification.

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Sales Experience — An Obsolete Hiring Criterion

Mark Lindwall

Sales Managers Err In Biasing Toward Years Of Sales Experience In Making Hiring Decisions

Thousands of sales managers, and the human resources (HR) teams that support them, consider years of relevant sales experience to be a key criterion for recruiting and hiring salespeople. In the new economy, however, sales experience is an unreliable indicator of future success versus another key characteristic. In fact, assumptions about sales experience that have guided sales hiring for more than a hundred years should be discarded in the age of the customer, in which buying dynamics have radically changed.

Successful sales managers, now, will focus on hiring salespeople who are best able to deeply understand their customers and align with their buyer's communication needs and preferences, as opposed to their product or vendor-industry expertise. Buyer empathy may be found in highly experienced salespeople or developed in inexperienced salespeople.

Sales Experience Is Not An Inherent Advantage For Engaging With Executive Buyers

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