B2B conferences—especially those hosted by analyst firms—are one of the most beneficial ways to gain industry knowledge, learn best practices, and rethink some of the ways our organizations function. While we always leave feeling empowered with new research and a grand plan to help our teams excel, by the time we get back to a typical day’s responsibilities, it can be difficult to remember everything we learned and put those plans into action. For that reason, I took a few days to let the dust settle after the SiriusDecisions Summit and to see what learnings really stuck with me. Below are the most important—and actionable—things I learned at the SiriusDecisions Summit 2016.
- If you don’t understand your buyer, you will fail.
One of the sessions that continues to stick out in my mind is Jeff Lash and Rachel Young’s keynote, The Art and Science of Identifying and Prioritizing Customer Needs. In it, they introduced the SiriusDecisions Needs Aperture, a process that helps organizations identify, evaluate and prioritize their buyers’ needs. But why is this so important? In a recent survey, SiriusDecisions found that 80 percent of B2B organizations say understanding customer needs is critical to success, yet over 2/3 of solution providers struggle to understand those needs. SiriusDecisions asserts that the foundation for “intelligent growth” is the ability to address commercially viable customer needs, because this is where growth opportunities are found. But most organizations lack a consistent approach to identifying, prioritizing and addressing the most important customer needs, which is where SiriusDecisions’ Needs Aperture comes in. It offers a five-step process for identifying and solving for customer needs, which is recapped in detail here.
In sum, your buyers and their needs should fuel your sales process and marketing initiatives, not the other way around.
- ABM + Personalized Content = World-Class Customer Experience
One major benefit of understanding customers’ needs is building a more positive customer experience. In SiriusDecisions Vice President Megan Heuer’s session, B2B Customer Experience: The Definitive Guide to What Matters, Megan stated that the customer experience remains largely undeveloped for most organizations, because they don’t know where to start, invest or deliver on customer-centrism. Once organizations have a deep understanding of buyers’ needs, they are able to address those specifically—through hyper-targeted content and sales interactions. A major theme of the Summit was the rise of account-based marketing, which helps organizations tailor their messaging, resources and engagements to specific audiences. Whether you’re taking a large model (small amount of key accounts) or segmented (larger number of accounts within the same vertical or segment) approach, you will need to understand and prioritize each account’s—and the individuals within each account’s— needs, and must tailor your messaging, support and sales execution differently for each.
- The right sales content can be a catalyst for won deals.
At last year’s SiriusDecisions Summit, the myth “buyers are 50-75% of the way through their buyers’ journey before interacting with sales” was dispelled. This year, SiriusDecisions doubled down on this busted myth by sharing just how integral sales interactions are to the buyers’ journey, and how content can make or break that deal. Buyers now expect more, higher quality content from Sales than they ever have before: 79 percent of B2B buyers report that the content provided by a rep is “very to extremely influential” in their selection of one vendor over another, and 68 percent believe interactions with reps are as well. Buyers are interacting with and consuming large amounts of content throughout the entire decision-making process, and it seems that the more content, the better: Buyers received and/or consumed 22 percent more content overall from winning reps, and the content they provided was perceived more often as “high impact.” But this content shared externally, typically referred to as “activation content” isn’t all that matters. Reps need thought leadership, competitive and value-add content to prepare for each buyer interaction—empowerment content. If organizations can seamlessly and quickly get both of these types of content into sales reps’ hands at the right time, their reps will be more prepared and can consistently win more deals.
“When you look at B2B sales, you realize how quickly and violently it is changing,” said Tony Jaros, SiriusDecisions’ EVP-Chief Research and Product Officer in his keynote presentation. It was clear through each and every session that the gears of sales and marketing are moving at an impressive pace. When planning and executing your sales and marketing strategies for the rest of 2016, keep these three themes in mind by putting the customer first, tailoring content to each buyer as granularly as possible, and empowering reps with the right content in a timely manner.