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B2B Sellers, Wake Up! Adopt Buyer Experience Management, or Get a Pink Slip from Customer 2.0

By on Oct 21, 2012 Editor's Pick 11 Comments

The traits in a salesperson that executives find valuable and strategic, namely focusing on solving a problem (13%) and on driving an end result for them (8%), were the least common traits perceived by buyers.  —Forrester Research

The B2B sales profession is in denial. That’s the overwhelming conclusion I’ve reached after watching the painfully slow response of B2B Sellers to the rise of customer power. Instead of truly engaging as buyers expect, Sellers—the combined marketing and sales organizations—are tweaking 50-year-old selling approaches and loading up technology to optimize internal processes. This inside-out approach is a recipe for failure.

More than 10 years ago, during the dot com boom, I was researching how the Internet was disrupting distribution channels. “Disintermediation“—a clunky way to say “cutting out the middlemen”—meant that technology resellers and other partners had to find new ways to add value to the customer beyond “pushing boxes.” Some did but many others didn’t change fast enough, and closed up shop.

Now the middlemen at risk are B2B sales professionals

During that time, I felt that field sales reps were a bit smug, believing that it was the “other guys” that should worry about being displaced by technology. I wrote articles pointing out that disintermediation could happen to anyone if they don’t add enough value to justify their existence in the customer’s supply chain.

Now the middlemen at risk are B2B sales professionals. Today’s customers doesn’t need them, until it’s time to discuss product features and negotiate price. As any successful B2B sales rep knows, the only thing worse than not getting an RFP is being surprised by one. Because then it’s too late to build a relationship, influence requirements and gain a preferential position.

Customer 2.0 to Sellers: “We’re Just Not That Into You”

In the past few years B2B buyers have followed consumer trends, leveraging the Internet and social media. Industry experts estimate that 50-80% of the B2B buying process is now being completed without sales involvement. Quite literally, sales reps are being cut out of critical early stages of the purchasing process, because buyers have found more effective alternatives.

Let’s dub this empowered, don’t-call-us-we’ll-call-you buyer, Customer 2.0.

Emerging technology buying is at the upper end of that range, according to Christine Crandell of New Business Strategies. In a recent study of Fortune 100 companies, Crandell found that tech buying has changed a lot in the past five years. In a simplified form, the process looks like this:

  • A change in the company or its market “triggers” the start of the buyer’s journey
  • An internal team is formed to “socialize” whether it’s worth solving a problem
  • Team members search for possible solutions (not products or vendors)
  • Best practices are researched and a rough solution approach starts to take shape
  • If the feasibility looks promising, only then is a list of prospective vendors developed.

With about two-thirds of the process already complete, says Crandell, only then are vendors contacted. Now the real selling can begin, but that’s also changed. Buyers are much better prepared to negotiate, probe weak spots, ask for detailed demos, demand proof of concepts, etc.

Sellers in an Arms Race

With a few clicks of a mouse, prospective buyers can educate themselves, research alternatives and even find peers to exchange “war stories” about experiences with solution providers. As a result of this shift, B2B digital marketing is now a critical capability, because unless your brand ends up on a prospect’s short list, it’s unlikely to ever be considered. Sales excellence won’t matter if your reps don’t get an “at bat” to close the deal.

Here are four strategies I’ve seen employed thus far.

  1. Content Marketing
    Some of the selling work, and power, is shifting to marketing because it’s critical to have the right content available for buyers when they are searching. This has led to an explosion of marketing automation vendors and content marketing strategies. The theory is that if buyers are searching, you want the right content to be available to help them along their journey. More important, Crandell contends, is for marketers to design these interactions to build preference for the company and its solution. The dirty little secret of content marketing, however, is that it can take hundreds of pieces of content to engage with buyers, considering different personas, needs and stages of the buying journey.

  2. Updated Selling Tools
    The sales profession is taking a fresh look at selling tools, sometimes under the banner of Sales 2.0. In my view, Sales 2.0 has been dominated by technology, all in an effort to make prospecting and selling more scientific. Until very recently, however, there’s been little discussion about how to actually engage with Customer 2.0 using the Social Web. For the most part, I see new cloud-based sales tools being used to automate yesterday’s processes. There’s little or no value to the buyer.
  3. Revenue Performance Management
    Increasing buyer power has also forced marketing and sales organizations to finally address that age-old problem of alignment. Progressive organizations are pushing an integrated approach that some call Revenue Performance Management (RPM), a technology-enabled strategy to increase total revenue productivity. The core idea behind RPM is to optimize the end-to-end process, using marketing/sales technologies and metrics to track the buyer from suspect to closed deal. However, marketing automation vendors Eloqua and Marketo estimate only 10-20% of Sellers are proficient in RPM. Tim Riesterer, chief strategy and marketing officer of Corporate Visions, says about one-third of marketing and sales organization are “very collaborative” in developing messaging that resonates with buyers. Clearly RPM is at a very early stage; marketing/sales alignment is improving but has a long way to go.
  4. New, Improved Selling?
    Perhaps the most controversial approach has been proposed by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) in a new book The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation. CEB research claims that a challenger-style sales rep is more successful in a “world of hesitant, risk-averse, empowered customers.” Reps should strive to add value by, you guessed it, challenging the buyer to think differently about business issues and solutions. CEB research found these seven attributes of the buying experience had the highest impact on customer loyalty:
    • Rep offers unique and valuable perspectives on the market
    • Rep helps me navigate alternatives
    • Rep provides ongoing advice or consultation
    • Rep helps me avoid potential land mines
    • Rep educates me on new issues and outcomes
    • Supplier is easy to buy from
    • Supplier has widespread support across my organization

    Whether challenging customers is a new idea or not is debatable. I could argue that great reps have always sold in this way, regardless of what methodology label is applied.

28% of buying executives say seller’s focus is to listen for a keyword or phrase, then launch into a prepared pitch.
—Forrester Research

All of the above strikes me as too little, too late. Sellers are “tuning up” the same techniques they have always been used, without a fundamental change in orientation. Marketing and selling is still mainly what vendors do to customers, not an experience that delivers value for customers. This is the history of CRM, an inside-out approach that really doesn’t take into account the customer’s experience.

Understanding Buyer Moments of Truth

In B2C circles, Customer Experience Management (CEM) is not a new idea. In fact, the concept dates back some 30 years to Jan Carlzon’s book Moments of Truth. His belief: “Anytime a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business, however remote, is an opportunity to form an impression.”

Is a Great Buying Experience Critical to Revenue Performance?

  • Yes, it is critical. Marketing and sales [need] to be aligned around the information needs and questions that the buyers have as they move through their journey.
    Jeff Ernst, Forrester Research
  • How you help the buyer to buy, helping to clarify requirements and understand how your solution can be applied to meet those needs, is as critical as anything else in the buyer/seller interaction.
    Donal Daly, The TAS Group
  • Any company designing the revenue cycle must think about how it’s aligned with the buyer’s journey
    Jon Miller, Marketo
  • If you don’t align the buying process with your selling process, including the steps well before a salesperson may get involved, then you’re introducing friction into the relationship.
    Matt Heinz, Heinz Marketing
  • Buyers are buying a product or solution rather than an experience.
    Dan McDade, PointClear
  • Not necessarily. I think delivering an experience that delivers on your brand promise is critical. If your product is not differentiated, then customer experience can be a key differentiator.
    Hank Barnes, SAP
  • The pursuit of providing a “great buying experience” is highly overrated. Buyers want “people to sell the way I buy.”
    Andy Rudin, Outside Technologies
  • We assume that with improved buying experience, sales cycles shorten, ASP increases, and fewer deals are lost. But we need research to prove this.
    Anneke Seley, Reality Works

But the real action began around 10 years ago, and interest really took off in the past 3-5 years. Now there are dozens of books and CEM consultants trying to help B2C enterprises turn the concept of managing interactions to create a more delightful customer experiences into increased loyalty and profitable growth.

B2B firms are at least five years behind in embracing CEM concepts. Those that do, according to B2B CEM specialist Lynn Hunsaker of ClearAction, tend to think first about the post-sale experience—mainly customer service/support. The buying experience? Not so much. Jon Vander Ark of McKinsey agrees that the customer experience is vital, but “B2C companies have taken the lead” thus far.

That’s a shame, because the B2B buying experience really does matter, according to my informal poll of B2B experts in marketing, sales, customer experience and loyalty. About 90% agreed that B2B buying experience was critical to revenue performance. Although as you can see from the box to the right, it’s not the only thing that matters.

McKinsey backs up these expert opinions in a study of B2B buyers that found the quality of the “sales experience” was an important factor in being perceived as “an outstanding company for your company’s needs.” In the book Sales Growth: Five Proven Strategies from the World’s Sales Leader, McKinsey researchers assessed the “derived importance” of the sales experience at 25%, second only behind product/service features at 34%.

But wait, it gets better. In another study by the CEB, the sales experience is worth 53% of the buyer’s likelihood to continue buying, deepen their relationship with the seller, and be an advocate to others. In essence, the CEB found that “the best companies don’t win through the quality of the products they sell, but through the quality of the insight they deliver as part of the sale itself.”

What do Buyers Expect and Value?

Let’s start with what buyers don’t want. I believe it’s a huge mistake to attempt to take “control of the customer conversation” as the Challenger book’s subtitle implies. For heaven’s sake, buyers are fed up with sellers pushing and dominating the conversation! In part, that’s why they are opting out of the seller contact in the early stages of the buying journey.

A Forrester Research study found that buying executives valued sales interactions that focus on solving their problems: “The overwhelming majority (63%) of executives surveyed agreed that a salesperson who understood their business problems and offered a clear path to solving them was valuable.”

Christine Crandell’s F100 study uncovered these buyer’s expectations:

Have a long-term partner orientation; Act like a trusted business advisor; Always have a sense of urgency and care; Be relevant and credible; Set realistic expectations; Be transparent and forthright; Honor your word; Be fair and flexible; Maintain a positive & broad reputation; Be consistent and predictable; Focus on overall success vs. a transaction; Products perform “as advertised”

John Holland’s CustomerCentric Selling® selling behaviors include:

Converse situationally; Ask relevant questions; Solutions focused; Target business people; Relate product usage; Manage their managers; and Empower buyer to achieve goals; Solve problems; Satisfy needs.”

Long-term partner. Solve problems. Trusted advisor. Reviewing the terms on these lists, along with CEB’s loyalty drivers already mentioned, I see more similarities than differences. One thing I don’t see is any evidence that buyers want sellers to “control” the conversation. Perhaps “lead” the conversation is a more useful goal.

Mind the Gap

If you agree than the buyer experience is important, then the next question is how good a job are you doing? If you can’t answer that question, then making improvements is like driving in the dark without headlights.

Do Revenue Teams Understand How the Buying Experience is Perceived?

  • B2B falls short of doing the necessary buyer research to reach a good understanding of how buyer experiences are perceived.
    Tony Zambito, Sales Benchmark Index
  • Most revenue teams are too busy drilling new wells to spend time inspecting dry holes in their past.
    Jack Dean, Fast Partners
  • No, our research shows that there is big gap between what BtoB buyers feel would be most useful to hear from their suppliers (in tech), compared to what they get from vendors.
    Bill Band, Forrester Research
  • Companies assume that account managers understand what the buyer is thinking and I don’t think that is often the case.
    Pat Gibbons, Walker Information
  • Marketing and sales both understand that great impressions are critical, but I’m not clear they have great measures about what impressions they create and how they impact revenue generation.
    Dave Brock, Partners in Excellence
  • Companies that leverage and develop actionable insights from VoC research, CABs (Customer Advisory Boards), and other vehicles to capture customer experience feedback… are developing their capabilities and this understanding.
    Laura Patterson, VisionEdge Marketing
  • It’s evolving. Now there is a lot of thought put into understanding what the buyer might want – from content to a sales conversation – and offering that.
    Steve Woods, Eloqua
  • With exceptionally high performing teams, yes. Note: they’re exceptional.
    John Cousineau, Amacus
  • It’s relatively unusual for sales and marketing teams to share an accurate and detailed perspective, but I see real progress being made.
    Bob Apollo, Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners

When I asked CRM industry veteran Jim Dickie of CSO Insights whether sales and marketing leaders understood how the buying experience was perceived, his flat answer was “no.” Other B2B experts consulted for this article (see box to the right) generally agreed.

B2B sales consultant Dave Kurlan of Objective Management Group elaborated more colorfully: “No, most marketers are too far removed, and most salespeople think that all of their calls/meetings/relationships are wonderful as frequently as their happy ears kick-in to blur their objectivity relevant to the quality of their opportunity and likelihood of closing it.”

In Forrester’s report Executive Buyer Insight Study: Defining The Gap
Between Buyers And Sellers
, analyst Scott Santucci found that “understanding their company and focusing on driving a business result are by far and away the two most common attributes executives associate with vendors they believe are strategic.” Good news: 75% of executives said that strategic vendors would be rewarded with more business. Bad news: just 36% of executives agreed that sales reps were delivering towards these expectations, which look very much the same as those found in other studies noted earlier.

Summing up, I estimate that no more than 10% of B2B firms really understand what experience buyers receive, yet 90% believe it’s important to revenue performance. This gap must be closed.

Buyer Experience Management (BXM) to the Rescue!

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not from an onrushing train. Some companies are succeeding with a buyer-centric approach, which I’ll call Buyer Experience Management (BXM).

To me, it’s like the yin-yang relationship of CRM and CEM. Substitute RPM for the CRM, and BXM for CEM, and we’ve got a similar complementary relationship focused on the B2B selling/buying process. RPM is inside-out, BXM is outside-in. Both are necessary to win long-term.

Here are a few examples of companies that have profited from BXM.

  • Good Technology wanted to double annual revenue. But how? The company worked to “align all market-touching processes to their customers’ preferred interaction models.” The results were impressive. Good Technology reported they were able to double marketing-generate pipeline, increase lead velocity by 40% and increase customer engagement.
    Source: New Business Strategies

  • Around a decade ago, SymQuest Group found its printer/copier/fax business had deteriorated to where “price was the prevalent reason for winning or losing business.” CEO Larry Sudbay decided to focus the company on helping customers solve more strategic “workflow” problems, and set about transforming their sales approach. Now instead of pushing boxes and “sharpening pencils” to get deals, sales professionals call at a higher level and everyone works hard to create “raving fans.” Result: 32% increase in average annual sales revenue per sales representative, 12% increase in overall gross margin on equipment sales, and 20% decrease in sales force turnover.
    Source: CustomerCentric Systems
  • Enterasys, a fast-growing global provider of enterprise networking solutions, used RPM to get better visibility of future business, optimize investments in marketing campaigns and improve staff productivity. But Ram Appalaraju, Sr. VP of Worldwide Marketing, isn’t stopping there. The company is also forging ahead to understand the complete buyer/customer journey, including customer service/support. If you think about it, optimizing revenue must also include creating loyal customers through great service experiences. Advocates will sell themselves, and others, on future business.
    Source: CustomerThink

Waiting for a “Pink Slip” to Change?

The cold hard truth is that buyers don’t need sellers as much as sellers need buyers. Vendors lost control when buyers discovered the Social Web made it easy to research solutions and ask peers for the the unvarnished truth about vendors and products.

While some sales leaders recognize that times are changing, the pace needs to pick up. When I asked B2B experts what will cause leaders to get serious about the buyer experience, most said that business/sales performance would have to suffer first. John Holland, co-author of the CustomerCentric Selling™ methodology 10 years ago, says part of the problem is “everyone is looking for a silver bullet” rather than make a sincere customer-centric transformation.

With Buyer Experience Management, sellers can regain buyer’s trust and become part of the conversation once again. What are you waiting for, a pink slip?

Further reading:

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11 Responses to B2B Sellers, Wake Up! Adopt Buyer Experience Management, or Get a Pink Slip from Customer 2.0

  1. Michael Lowenstein, Ph.D., CMC October 22, 2012 at 7:38 am #

    Bob -

    The concepts in b2b sales, and indeed in all b2b customer relationship and customer experience, actively revolve around mutual trust and openness. B2b sales also rely heavily on listening. As you point out so well, this is rather rarely seen. Instread, most salespeople, as middle channels, are carefully trained to ‘always be closing’, as stated famously in Glengarry Glen Ross. They are focused, laser-like, on pushing their product/service features and benefits rather than hearing their customers’ actual use need requirements, and using that insight to effectively build trust and value in the relationship.

    Though purchasing a car is a b2c customer experience, it has many of the characteristics of direct b2b salesperson-customer scenarios. Like the b2b sales and post-sales situations and failures you describe, most of us can describe the horrors typically associated with car purchasing. Even among car dealers who are in denial about who owns the decision, there are dealerships that get it right, and create positive experiences and long-term customer relationships and value in the bargain. One of these is Price Automotive Group, based outside of Wilmington, DE, where Michael Price has created optimal customer experience management processes (http://www.customerthink.com/article/how_auto_dealer_group_builds_trust). The results Price Automotive Group has achieved in this sector, and in this economy, and how they have done it, can serve as a template and model for any b2b sales operation. They were featured as a case study in my most recent book, The Customer Advocate and The Customer Saboteur.

    As suggested in the title of my response, you have more than enough evidence of the importance of b2b sales (and marketing) response to the evolution of customer decision-making power for multiple books on this subject. Suggestion: Consider it.

  2. Christopher Ryan October 22, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    Bob, there is a great deal of wisdom in your post. Sellers in the B2B world must accept that the battleground has shifted due to the tremendous availability of online information. A great deal of education occurs before a prospect engages with a potential sale. And as you suggest, unless the prospect invites your company to the dance, you have no chance of making a sale.

    In short, buyers hold the keys to the kingdom and they are not giving them back to the seller. Smart companies recognize this fact and position themselves as trusted advisors. They also embrace content marketing, web optimization and smart (2.0) sales tools. Instead of throwing more sales reps into the process, they make sure their end-to-end marketing process is aligned and optimized.

    Chris Ryan

  3. Bob Thompson October 23, 2012 at 11:22 am #

    I presented some of these findings to the Sales and Marketing 2.0 Conference in San Francisco yesterday. In an audience poll about 70% raised their hands to say they believed a great buyer experience was critical to revenue performance. But only a handful of people agreed that their sales/marketing organization understood how buyers perceive interactions during the buying journey.

    On a more positive note, another speaker polled the audience (a mix of sales and marketing executives) and found about 50% said they were aligned.

    My feeling is that marketing/sales (internal) alignment is improving, but buyer/seller alignment is still in its infancy. A good opportunity for BXM leaders to step out!

  4. Andrew Rudin October 23, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    “The overwhelming majority (63%) of executives surveyed agreed that a salesperson who understood their business problems and offered a clear path to solving them was valuable.”

    That seems intuitive and non-controversial. Until you juxtapose it with the contemporary drumbeat that “sales reps are being cut out of critical early stages of the purchasing process, because buyers have found more effective alternatives.”

    Both cannot be true unless buyers have just thrown up their hands and said, “I quit. It’s never going to get any better.” Maybe the 63% who value compassionate, decisive salespeople were simply wistful for the good old days, if they ever existed at all.

    Like most things in sales–or presidential politics, for that matter–each claim is at best a half-truth, pumped up to support a particular position or idea. If you sell content marketing, analytic tools, and other services, it’s in your financial interest to shout “adapt or die!” to the world, and the messages will make sense because they are somewhat true. I think resonate is the term we marketers prefer.

    In addition, the editorial “broad brush” continues to astound me. With the proclamations of “shifts in information power” and Customer2.0, the inference is that B2B buyers behave in lockstep, shifting like a school of fish. Are purchases of commodity electronics or office supplies made the same way as environmental services or custom-engineered temperature sensors? Do their buyers demand the same sales and social media resources? Do they seek the same customer experiences? Sure, they’re all B2B, but the similarity ends there.

    “With about two-thirds of the process already complete, only then are vendors contacted. Now the real selling can begin.” I don’t question the veracity of that scenario, but I question the implied linearity, and how extensible it is to all of B2B sales. Everyone’s experiences are different, but the more I read someone’s explanation of linear, causal relationships, the less I understand.

    Before rushing to make changes, sales executives are right to be skeptical about these popular notions, and they need to first carefully consider how things work in their own industries and markets, and in those in which they want to compete.

    Sure, change is happening. By all means, change what needs to be changed, when it makes sense to change. Listen, be aware, and let go of legacy sales processes that aren’t valuable or create friction. While I applaud the success scenarios you described, it’s far easier said, than done.

  5. Bob Thompson October 23, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    Andy, I agree that every business and industry is different. Averages are misleading. And yet, if the average temperate is going up, it probably means something is happening, even if you don’t notice it locally.

    I’m willing to make a friendly wager that if you pick any industry, that the change in B2B Seller behavior is lagging B2B buyer changes. By and large Sellers behave like buyers are still acting as they did 5, 10, 20 years ago.

    The most chilling thing I’ve found in my research was how little awareness B2B executives have about how things are actually changing with their own customers.

    That said, it would be foolish to make changes based on an analyst reports or hype from those with vested interests (e.g. automation vendors, consultants).

    Your advice is solid…

    Before rushing to make changes, sales executives are right to be skeptical about these popular notions, and they need to first carefully consider how things work in their own industries and markets, and in those in which they want to compete.

    … but I would advocate a more proactive approach.

    Assume that something may have changed in the buying process, and launch an investigation to find how much. Start working on personas and defining buying journeys. Do something besides hope that buyers are pretty much doing what they always have. Because they’re probably not.

    Why not do your own research with B2B buyers you know, and write up an article about their perceptions of sellers, how they have changed (e.g. are they doing more online searching, etc.) and whether sellers are keeping up with the changes?

  6. Bob McGuire October 24, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    Great article, couldn’t agree more that B2B selling has not kept pace with the changes resulting in Customer 2.0. Other’s have issued similar warnings – “Rethinking the Sales Force” by Rackham and De Vincentis and “Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play” by Mahan Khalsa are two of my favorites for emphasizing (among others things) the importance of understanding the process from the buyer’s perspective.

    These books were published in 1999, echoing your warning at the time that disintermediation could happen to anyone. The availability and quality of online resources and buyers’ accessibility to peers via social media has been improving ever since. What’s most frustrating to me is that sales leadership is more often than not the group most in denial.

  7. Bob Thompson October 24, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

    Blaming B2B sales leaders is convenient, but I think it’s like blaming one player on the team when it’s the coach who draws up the playbook.

    For many decades the playbook has been marketing does one thing and sales another. They complained about each other but could succeed anyway.

    Now Customer 2.0 requires a new playbook, with marketing getting more involved in what used to be sales jobs. And sales getting deeper into customer issues, rather than just “selling.”

    The CEO, or whoever owns both marketing and sales functions, has to get involved in this transformation.

    We need more case studies of companies making the transformation and showing success. In addition to the brief stories I collected for this article, please also see Hubspot uses persona-based teams to align with buyers, accelerate growth.

    Bottom line: the organization needs to be energized towards making a big change. That’s an opportunity for real leadership, not just tinkering around the margins.

  8. Andrew Rudin October 24, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    Bob: I wrote a related post on this topic about a year ago, What Do Tech Buyers Really Think of Salespeople? Three CIO’s Tell All

    To distill the blog to Twitter-length, I offer this quote one CIO made about salespeople:

  9. Mark Gibson October 24, 2012 at 11:48 pm #

    Great article Bob,

    Adam Zais from Wistia and I had a 40 minute conversation on this very topic today and your article covers a lot of the same issues – my blog post of the above title last week mirrors your sentiment.

    Sales training businesses are struggling to produce results for their clients; the old stuff isn’t working and B2B salespeople across the board are struggling to engage and create value in the B2B buying relationship.

    Conclusion…if you don’t create value, then get out of the way and find something else to do.

    It’s interesting to read Mike Bosworth’s new book, “What Great Salespeople Do” – he admits that the old stuff (Solution Selling) is not working. HE now suggests that the way to reach buyers (and what great salespeople have always done) is through a genuine connection, empathy and real world experience and insight and that you have to connect first through story, before the buyer will engage around your insights.

    Marketing is now key in this B2B buying process and as you rightfully point out, there are potentially hundreds of pieces of content required to effectively engage and nurture a set of personas through a buying process.

    It’s an exciting time to be sure for both marketers and sellers and the buyer is firmly in charge.
    Sorry we are fresh out of silver bullets.

  10. Cliff Pollan October 29, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    Bob – Terrific article. Great insights.

    Two thoughts:

    1. A great place for sales and marketing to collaborate. Reps need to bring value to the table In this inbound marketing world, sales people can use the content that marketers create for top of the funnel in their new sales process. They should use the content to bring value to the table. Using the right content and information helps to uncover needs and provide insights. In the end the reps must know the content and not just share an ebook, but draw the right piece of information from the content to put things in context and create a conversation. To your point about the Forrester research on the person who helps them create the strategy often is rewarded, this is a component of putting yourself in that advisor position. For marketing and sales leaders they can collaborate on this approach.

    2. I gave a talk to a very accomplished group of sales professionals last week. I asked this 100+ people how many of you use content in the sales process. About 15% of the hands went up. I think this points to the need that we as sales people we are lagging the buyer.

  11. Lasse Ylinen April 3, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    Hi!

    Run into your article only today. I just had to post a comment and share it also to my business network as I strongly agree with your findings.

    Having browsed through hundreds of articles only recently related to the topic of B2B sales enablement and sales/marketing alignment & related topics, I truly felt you have managed to picture here very accurately a view of the status quo. So congratulations for that!

    I’ve personally discussed with hundreds of B2B sales and marketing professionals/execs about the issues you’ve described here during the past 2-3 years. And based on my findings, I can confirm that it really seems that majority of B2B companies are currently either in process of struggling their way to a new era (or trying to find the magic bullet as you say) or are living in denial that they would not have this “painful” journey ahead of them.

    Great article – thanks again!

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