The Changing B2B Buyer | Forrester



the voice of value empowering sales and marketing leaders to make value clearer hi this is Chad Quinn president of eco systems and welcome to the voice of value today we are joined by special guest Mary Shea Mary is principal analyst at Forrester Mary started her career at Forrester after graduating with a PhD from Kent State University held various leadership positions in sales she was a chief commercial officer and even CEO of a sales and marketing consultancy she's now back at Forrester as a principal analyst in the b2b group and is also an adjunct assistant professor of marketing at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business welcome Mary well thank you so much Chad it's great to be here today I know there's a lot of research with Forrester right now on the age of the customer being this this moment in time what does that mean for us in sales and marketing for 2016 right it's a great question Chad and certainly a theme that's very integral into just about everything that we're writing here at Forrester and so before I delve into the impact on a sales and marketing standpoint I want to just talk a little bit about how we define the age of the customer at Forrester and so we're defining this as a 20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve a more powerful set of customers right now we're about five years into that cycle if you think about the age of the customer and I tend to think about it we throw card to a time line maybe looking at the 20th century we are thinking about today's b2b buyers as being more empowered than they ever have been in before so if you think about the types of organizations or companies that held power in the past in the early 20th century you know is the companies that were able to crack the code on mass manufacturing right so those became the industrial powerhouses and then in the mid century when global commercial travel became available with those companies that could really figure out these complex distribution channels like Walmart or PNG for example and then towards the latter part of the century you think about the connected PC and the Information Age and those companies of having a lot of power well today if you think about the online and mobile channels customers are really empowered with information they can get access to competitive information they access to pricing information and they're bringing into the business environment all the things that they do in their personal life the way they interact with the big brands going onto websites like an Amazon or a BMW or Nike and they want to interact in a b2b environment when they're evaluating service or product that they might want to purchase from the vendor the same way what this means is that we're in a pretty transformational period in terms of how b2b buyers are engaging educating themselves and going about the buying process as well as how the selling organizations really need to adapt their engagement styles to meet the customer the way they want to engage so if you think about a lot of the research that we're doing and I'm sure many of the folks in your audience are a barrage with a sort of on the channel information that you know buyers are doing 74% of their research online before they want to engage with rap they prefer to buy online once they've made their decision only 2% of them are going to actually take a cold call there's a lot of doom and gloom around what does this mean for the salesperson and I think you know what it means is that there's just less and less direct access that the salesperson is getting with a buyer whether it's in a remote in-person or digital type of situation and then simultaneously they need to constantly raise the bar of their interactions with that buyer so that when they actually do get to interact it's a much higher level of engagement so they're providing more consultative value they're providing thought leadership they're you know delivering insights based on analytics that they've done so it's a pretty transformative time for the b2b seller and I think a very very exciting time for those who are open to change and who are intellectually curious I love these themes of the age of the customer and being customer obsessed but if everyone's moving or skating to that puck so to speak how do you differentiate what I see is that the biggest challenges are you know not only with the clients that we work with but the clients the the firms that we see is that that the ability to execute flawlessly so I think the companies that are able to really move their sales organizations away from leading with sort of this product centricity that we've seen in the past and you know as we do do research again and again we see that executives very senior executives are pretty uninspired by the types of engagements that they're getting with sales folks saying they lead with product they don't understand or have empathy for my role they can't add value as part of the conversation and I think a lot of sales people tend to default to this comfort around you know let me position and present my product or maybe I'll talk a little bit about the industry and so I think the real differentiation will come with the organizations that figure out how to really really train and develop their sales organizations of course they need to have an understanding of the product and services that they sell but to be able to engage in a way that's really not provoking tells the buyer something new that they didn't know before and to become more of that consultant and trusted partner it's it's easy to understand the concept I found less easy to really execute in in a flawless way and that's where the dual of that huh yeah I love it and you're so right execution becomes the differentiator in that spirit if I'm a sales and marketing leader listening to the voice of value what would be Mary's advice to me something I can do in the next two weeks to bring some of these principles that we've talked about back into my company back into my teams back into my sales cycles yeah I mean think there's a number of different things that you could do one is partner up with your marketers and really do a quick analysis on what your demand gen looks like and what your inbound and outbound marketing looks like how effective are you how effective is the team are you getting more leads than you can handle are there areas where you could potentially amp up results in the pipeline by you know inking some sort of a deal with a provider whether it's a hard to get to market whether it's a new product you're launching or even you want to sell event seats is there a problem that you could solve or an opportunity that's being untapped where you can get more revenue the next thing I might do is really just do a quick assessment of myself team you know where do they where do they sit with regard to some of these new skills and characteristics that they're gonna need to have today as well as tomorrow and Forrester has a an assessment tool that we can license to clients or do a workshops with and help them really understand where the Salesforce sits and what type of clients and prospects they have and how to best match the team with the market I think also just take a very very quick look at the technologies you're using you know if your sales team isn't using technologies that link your database to different types of social media do you have a content management system that's helping you know push the right type of content to the sales rep at the right point in the cycle are you really using technology to the fullest to really rebalance the Salesforce to be as empowered as the customer is in this new environment excellent actionable advice Mary what research projects do you have underway or in the future that our listeners may benefit from sure as I mentioned earlier in the conversation I will be publishing a brief called may the force of the Millennials be with you a little bit of a nod to George Lucas and all the excitement there but you know it's really looking at how do you engage enable and manage the Millennial sales reps so you know the this rep is quite a bit different than ones that some of your sales leaders may have been managing for the net for the last ten years and so I think that's going to be really exciting brief for folks to reads and then a you know other things that I'll be working on will really look at you know how do you enable this new digital Salesforce so what are some of the different technologies and supporting platforms that you can use to equalize this balance and power between the customer and the seller we've heard so much about you know this customer has so much power well there's a lot of things that sellers can do to really equalize the footing I'm going to talk probably quite a bit more in the research about the role of inside sales over the course of the entire selling model so looking at the role of inside sales in the process of discovery exploring by using engaging and so on and then also really we'll be spending some time looking at sales and marketing alignment and where that's going in the future Chad I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation I feel like we could probably go on for about three or four hours here so I hope at some point we'll find ourselves in the same city and can meet I would as well thank you Mary my pleasure thanks everybody take care

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