“[L]ess than 40% of executive buyers say that meetings with salespeople meet their expectations…”[i]
Depending on your perspective, this recent statistic from Forrester Research is either depressing or a great area of opportunity for your focus. Incidentally, the numbers are even worse for IT buyers, where only 33% are somewhat satisfied with sales meetings. Regardless, the research indicates that there exists a clear – and rather significant – gap between what buyers expect from their sales experience and what they are actually getting.
In this ‘Age of the Customer’, where buyers are empowered on the heels of the Age of Information, buying expectations have changed. Today’s buyers expect a customized experience, carefully tailored to their situation. Instead, buyers lament that all too often sales meetings are focused on the vendor’s solution, rather than first internalizing the buyer’s context in order to provide a product or service which precisely meets those particular needs. In fact, Forrester’s research reveals that buyers only give a marginal grade of “C” to vendors regarding the vendor’s knowledge of their own products, while flunking them in all of the following buyer-context categories:[ii]
- Knowledgeable about my industry.
- Knowledgeable about my specific business
- Can relate to my role and responsibilities in the organization
- Understands my issues and where they can help
- Prepared for the questions I ask
- Has relevant examples or case studies to share with me
Clearly what is needed is a deeper understanding of the complete buyer context from the buyer’s perspective, or what Forrester terms, “buyer empathy.” No longer can vendors get away with vendor-based pitches on product features and cost benefits alone – the new buyer wants comprehensive solutions which fit their unique situation. Consequently, vendor organizations must seek to achieve buyer empathy – a solution by which marketing must play a significant role in. Here are three key ingredients[iii] marketing must get right in creating the Buyer Empathy Secret Sauce:
- Walk a mile in the buyer’s shoes.
Marketers must provide insight into the motivations driving buyer behavior, informed by a rich understanding of the buyer’s context in both the generic and specific senses. The generic context or persona informs our knowledge of the language and issues pertaining to the target buyers’ industry, market(s), while the specific context addresses the individual’s particular needs and challenges (gleaned through the use of prospect surveys and the like). And nothing quite replaces the value of learning directly from the source – leading the sales conversation with questions that dig deep to first flesh out the buyer’s specific context, not only informs that understanding, but also conveys a willingness to place listening to the buyer to develop empathy over speaking to the buyer.
- Rise above the noise.
A second component to the secret sauce is ensuring that your marketing strategy successfully keeps your company top-of-mind with a winning combination of compelling, engaging content and effective lead generation. It’s simple – your message has to be good to gain attention, but if your message can’t be heard or found, it doesn’t matter how good it is.
- Own the role of trusted adviser.
Being diligent in amassing a deep understanding of your buyer’s context, including what motivates their behavior, provides a wealth of valuable intelligence. Use this resource to craft insightful and unique messaging that will see your organization well positioned as a thought leader. From here, sales can speak intelligently regarding your buyer’s full context, from the generic to the specific. Coupled with an empathetic, buyer-centric approach, marketing can help sales engender confidence in prospective buyers, creating bankable trust and goodwill.
Marketers have a key role to play in enabling sales success. In providing rich insights into target buyers and the factors driving their behavior, marketers can help ‘put the shoe on the other foot’ for sales, effectively helping craft the Buyer Empathy Secret Sauce.
Prospect surveys are exceedingly effective at reaching just the prospect you want to speak with. In so doing, you gain insight into both that individual target buyer as well as your larger industry segment, informing both the specific and generic contexts – information that can help you relate to buyers’ roles and challenges, while informing how your solution can best be tailored to meet individual needs. Yet not only are prospect surveys an essential component for developing buyer empathy, they do so while generating valuable, highly-targeted leads in one efficient process.
[ii]Forrester presentation, Feb 2014 “Improving content and conversation for B2B sales success.” http://www.slideshare.net/poneill1956/improving-content-and-conversation-for-b2b-sales-success