A few weeks ago I had the privilege and opportunity to deliver the closing keynote for the B2B Summit in London. The event, hosted by B2B Marketing, was a one-day event that delivered multiple sessions focused on best practices on everything from content, measurement, demand generation and Account-Based Marketing (ABM) strategies.
Since the event, I have been fortunate to have several conversations with a few of the attendees either by phone or email and I keep thinking about what it means to be buyer-centric. One conversation, which is still ongoing, has been with one of the few sales reps who attended the event. Side note: If you want to help your sales people adapt to the new world of a very sophisticated buyer, send them to marketing events.
During my speech, I poked a little fun at the numerous emails I receive on a daily basis that present some kind of technology or service that I must have in order to make my business even better. Then, they ask if I have time for a 30-minute demo. I spoke about how this type of approach, which is rather disruptive, is ineffective and is in no way aligned to a buyer purchase path. While every once in awhile this may lead to finding that elusive needle in a haystack, it is simply not an effective way to try and engage prospects. To be clear, sending a cold email or worse yet, connecting on LinkedIn for the sole purpose of sending a pitch, are both disruptive, and ineffective.
In response to this segment of the speech, one of the attendees (who is in sales) emailed me and asked,“What would your suggestion be on how we fill top of the funnel (tofu) if we do not suggest a demo? I have very slim/non-existent marketing. I am smart about targeting and messaging but the reality is I think the prospect does need to see it. Doesn’t a demo sound more interesting than a case study or conversation?”
Clearly in this situation, this rep is on their own trying to source their own leads, not all too uncommon in many organizations. However, during our dialogue, I responded with the following, “The issue with the offer of a demo is that the sales person has just told the buyer that they have no idea of where I am in my buying process or even recognized that I may not be in a buying process at all. You are right that the prospect will need to see a demo . . . eventually, but not at the first interaction. I do believe a conversation is what you should be aiming for initially. This is not a conversation to sell, but a conversation to help them, to educate them.”
“This does require being an expert in your field and not just an expert on your product or company. You need to be able to speak to industry trends, the impacts of market shaping events and be able to articulate the struggles companies are having today and provide inside and education on how they should be solved without talking about the services or technology that your company provides. Buyers want to and often time need to be educated as they know they have an issue, but often times need help thinking through how they should approach solving it. If you can be the person (in a sales roles with little marketing support) or your company can be the vendor that helps provide that, you will convert more deals to wins in the long run.”
And this is exactly what organizations need to embrace, the understanding that disruption is no longer a valid approach. The understanding today is that the buyers buying process trumps the sales process. Understand that often times the buyers need help understanding their issues on a deeper level and content should address these issues and help educate. The understanding is that sales is no longer the focal point of deals, but it is the buyer(s) who chart their course and we, as an organization – marketing and sales – must develop a strategy that aligns to this process.
In DemandGen Report’s latest B2B Buyers Report, when asked the Top 4 Reasons buyers selected the winning vendor the second most important reason given was, “They demonstrated a stronger knowledge of the solution area and the business landscape.”
Disrupting buyers with offers of demonstrations, gimmicks, or a quick checking in to schedule a time for a call is not at all buyer-centric. Educating, providing insights, being helpful to buyers as they seek to address their pain points and challenges is what buyers want. Organizations that want to succeed will make this change starting now, understanding that unless they do, the buyer will be lost to them.
*Image via katloterzo.com