Marketing Content to Make Sales Look Amazing.
Teach, Tailor, Control – the new art of the salesperson. The Challenger Sale represents a major leap forward in sales thinking from the dominant ‘solution selling’ model. This is no fad. CEB Global (now Gartner) researched thousands of salespeople spanning every major industry and market to conclude that it’s no longer traditional relationship-oriented salespeople that perform most strongly. It’s the Challenger – the salesperson that excels at disrupting the customer’s frame of reference – causing them to reconsider their business and gravitate towards the vendor’s unique solution. In other words, salespeople who teach the buyer something new, tailor their solution to address the buyer’s drivers and in doing so, take control of the engagement.
The new view reflects a world where B2B buyers are retreating from the sales process – CEB’s research found that average customers are already 57% through the purchase process before they approach a supplier. As buyer groups – formal and informal – increasingly take on responsibility for purchase decisions, individuals no longer want to invest their time, or their personal reputation in long scoping and qualifying meetings with amiable salespeople. Far quicker to consult an analyst report, seek out peer recommendations on LinkedIn or set up your own internal demo.
So how does Marketing respond to the Challenger model? At Atomic Beta, we’ve had recent success with two key techniques:
1. Using external stimulus to develop frame-breaking content
Salespeople aren’t magicians – they can’t magically disrupt buyers’ thinking without strong and relevant insight, that leads directly back to their own product’s selling proposition. A key job of Marketing is to enable them with that ‘commercial insight’. However, as the saying goes, ’It can be hard to see the label when you’re inside the jar.’ In other words, organisations take for granted, or struggle to articulate, what is different or frame-breaking about their proprietary knowledge or proposition.
That’s where an external view is so valuable. A good comms strategist, market analyst or editor has the fresh perspective and objectivity to help Sales & Marketing to identify what is genuinely powerful about the organisation’s proposition. They can cut through the internal, conventional thinking about customers’ businesses and stimulate the process of arriving at a new needs-based value proposition.
This year, we have worked with talented mediators, industry-leading editors and world class analysts to help our clients to arrive at these propositions and develop content that goes beyond factual thought leadership into genuine commercial insight.
2. Targeting buyers directly with ABM
Commercial insight, by its nature, should be tailored to a specific account or segment. It isn’t generic. As such, we believe it’s less suited to the traditional ‘inbound’ approach – it’s too specific and too valuable. But it’s ideally suited to Account-Based Marketing for a few key reasons.
Firstly, the research phase of ABM itself unearths the intelligence about an account’s business to enable highly relevant commercial insight to be mapped against it. Secondly, ABM’s targeted approach allows that commercial insight to be targeted directly to the appropriate buyer or buyer group in a highly personalised manner.
For example; through an ABM research exercise, a vendor discovers that a target account is encountering negative investor sentiment due to slow revenue growth and identifies the individuals, who are getting the flak. Marketing responds to that by crafting personally targeted commercial insight that introduces a new perspective on pipeline acceleration and a high level outline of a proprietary solution. A door-opener campaign is orchestrated to personally target decision-makers and influencers. Sales follows up on these warmed-up Marketing Qualified Leads and leverages the commercial insight to get a meeting earlier than the competition. The result: a disrupted purchase process that the vendor can more effectively shape and control.
The beauty of an approach like this is that it can be easily piloted on a specific market segment or set of named accounts. It’s a practical and commercial approach to Sales and Marketing alignment, that doesn’t require huge organisational change – just a readiness to trial, learn and refine. Most importantly, it puts Marketing in the driver’s seat, going beyond sales enablement into genuine customer origination.