New buyer preferences and demands have forced B2B professionals to make much-needed changes in their go-to-market strategies. With B2C brands like Amazon and Spotify shaping expectations in their personal life, B2B buyers are now expecting a more intuitive customized experience in their professional engagements. And it’s not just marketing teams that have to adapt to new expectations — sales teams are also being forced to adapt and evolve.
This “sales revolution” was the key theme at SalesLoft’s annual Rainmaker event in Atlanta, Ga., where experts from Forrester, Informatica, Gong.io and more took the stage to help address the sales experiences B2B buyers are now demanding.
“On top of the digital revolution, we’re seeing massive changes in buyer behavior,” said Kyle Porter, CEO of SalesLoft, during his keynote address at Rainmaker 2019. “[It’s time to] elevate the profession of sales to focus on delivering customers world class experiences. With that, you can maximize revenue. A sales experience must be authentic, engaging, relevant, human, one-to-one and, most importantly, it understands buyers’ needs and solves their problems.”
Today’s B2B buyer expects sellers to know who they are and what challenges they face at work. In another session presented by Mary Shea, Principal Analyst at Forrester, she discussed the “consumerization of the business buyer.”
“What this means is that the bar is being raised dramatically and quickly on sales reps,” she said. “In many cases, they are not prepared to engage the way the buyer expects. Amazon knows me as a person. I never sat down with a sales rep and told them what keeps me up at night and I never had a sales meeting about critical issues. But Amazon knows what sports I compete in, they know when my race is, my nutritional intake, injuries and the ages of nieces and nephews. But I don’t talk to Amazon. This is the experience your business buyers are bringing into the business world.”
62% of B2B buyers say they can now develop selection criteria or finalize a vendor list based solely on digital content. “We have to have a very strong digital content strategy that links extremely well with a sales strategy.” -@sheaforr at #Rainmaker19 pic.twitter.com/l9CnwiwXeC— Klaudia Tirico (@klaudiatirico) March 12, 2019
To illustrate these new realities, Shea shared the following statistics from Forrester:
Another common discussion during the event was the alignment across the entire organization.
“If sales and marketing aren’t aligned, the business isn’t aligned,” said Sydney Sloan, CMO of SalesLoft, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “The question I ask is, ‘Is it better to be right or to be aligned?’ I would argue that it’s better to be aligned. If two people fight to be right and you’re not aligned, you’re not going to get anywhere. It’s better to be aligned and getting that sales and marketing alignment around the strategy of go-to market.”
Informatica, an enterprise cloud data management company, is an example of a team who innovates internally to help transform the organization.
“We needed a ‘one team’ approach across the board — to do our own Digital transformation before we helped our customers do a digital transformation,” said Nick Mike-Mayer, VP of Corporate Sales, East at Informatica. This shift in culture helped to bring all the teams together to work collaboratively to help deliver on company goals, pipeline and transformation.
“Sales is a copycat success program,” Mike-Mayer continued. “People want to see how others find success. So, bringing different cadences and reps to gather on one team meant a lot to the team. With the SalesLoft platform in place, we easily saw who was having success with the right message by title, industry, person and by other reps copying what the successful reps were doing. We found that people had success more quickly by learning from others.”
A little healthy competition (tracked through a sales engagement platform like SalesLoft) also helped the Informatica team reach their goals. The company would communicate small successes across the organization, which led people to want to emulate others’ success. With SalesLoft, Informatica was able to track what each rep was doing to either make small tweaks to the platform and other teams “to make sure everyone was successful across the board,” according to Teri Turner, Global Enablement Program Manager for Informatica.
The current martech landscape if proof that every space is exploding with competitors. Therefore, a unique product does not cut through the clutter and with Millennial buyers taking up a large portion of the B2B workforce and doing a lot of research before talking to sales, reps must provide more inspiration than information to close deals.
Really great session by @Chris_Orlob of @Gong_io — so many insights in just 15 mins! “What your sellers say, do and write during the sales process is where your competitive advantage should be. It’s not about product features anymore.” #Rainmaker19 pic.twitter.com/zSNNdJiKkV— Demand Gen Report (@DG_Report) March 12, 2019
“The source of competitive advantage is shifting,” said Chris Orlob, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Gong.io, a conversation intelligence technology, during his session at Rainmaker. “The perception of uniqueness happens in a sales conversation. What your sellers say, do and write during the sales process is where your competitive advantage should be.”
During her session, Forrester’s Shea shared six traits of the modern B2B seller:
But as buyer behaviors change, the modern B2B seller must keep up. Future attributes of B2B sellers must be an empathetic partner, flexible and adaptive, a master storyteller, adept to digital, have an operational mindset and advocacy focus, according to Shea.
“Modern B2B sellers must also differentiate with how they sell, rather than what they sell. “It’s not about product features anymore,” said Orlob, who shared three principals around what to say, do and write during customer conversations:
“Eliminate the fat from any message and get to the valuable part first,” Orlob said. “Instead of building up anticipation and ramping up, doing it last — which is intuitive but does not work — show what you planned on showing at the end of your demo, email or presentation… on the top. Flip it on its head.”
“The opposite of tribal social proof is generic social proof, which is what your competitors are doing,” Orlob said. “[At Gong,] we analyze a lot of sales conversations with AI and we figure out what’s working and what’s not. The use of social proof techniques counterintuitively correlates with deals lost. What should not conclude from that is social proof doesn’t work. What you should conclude is that it’s spectacularly misapplied and if you do misapply it, you alienate your potential buyer.
“Competitors rattle off list of impressive logos without any concern as to whether or not those logos will resonate with buyers and they talk about customer stories that marketing just generated hot off the press. This is the effect it has on the buyer… They say, ‘I don’t care if Google is your customer, we’re nothing like them.” Not only did it not work, it was actually counterproductive.
When you’re talking about current customers in an attempt to influence the buyer, this is the question that’s going through their mind: ‘Are they like me? Are they in my industry? Do we share a similar problem?’ There’s got to be something in common.”
When you’re talking to prospects, they’re thinking, “are they like me?” Don’t rattle off a list of impressive companies you work with because they aren’t the same as the prospect. @Chris_Orlob #Rainmaker19 pic.twitter.com/GVwdRWqnRw— Klaudia Tirico (@klaudiatirico) March 12, 2019
“We’re all familiar with ideas that you should sell the problem before you sell the solution, but we forget to do that in the micro scenario that is competitive differentiation,” Orlob said. “We sell the broad problem and we deliver the brand solution, but we don’t sell the micro problem that our unique product advantages solve. So, the buyer doesn’t have the context to land.”
At the end of the day, modern sellers must develop authentic relationships with prospects and be a true partner.
“Today’s successful seller has to be a problem solver and you do that by asking great questions and collectively solving the problem with and for your customer,” said SalesLoft’s Sloan. “It doesn’t matter if the product goes 10 miles an hour or 50 miles an hour, it’s the people I want to work with in partnership and at the end of the day, it’s the people I want to work with. I’ll pick a company because of the relationship. The product still has to solve my problems but if two things are equal, I’ll go with the partnership.”
Demandbase, an ABM solution provider, announced that a new book written by three of its executives will be released at the company’s ABM Innovation Summit, held March 14-15 in San Francisco. Event attendees will receive a complimentary copy of the book, which will then be released to the general public on March 19.
The B2B buyer’s journey looks more like its B2C counterpart each year, and e-commerce solutions are the newest trend helping B2B marketers create streamlined, consumer-like experiences.
More than 1,200 B2B marketing experts and practitioners packed into the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz. for the 2019 B2B Marketing Exchange. The three-day event, held February 24-26, included over 60 sessions, workshops and case studies designed to helped attendees see B2B marketing through a new lens.
Event marketing is having a major moment in B2B right now. Multiple research reports indicate a rise in event marketing spend and success, while event technology vendors have built a strong presence in the B2B martech landscape.
Events have proven to be a top engagement tactic for all the stages of the funnel. New research from Demand Gen Report revealed that events were:
However, a top challenge for marketers is tying their event strategies back to revenue and measuring overall event success. While a recent Harvard Business Review study showed that 52% of respondents said event marketing drives more business value than other marketing channels, only 23% admitted they can calculate ROI for events.
Companies such as Microsoft, Red Hat and Morningstar are taking unique approaches to engaging event attendees, prospects and clients at all stages of the event lifecycle — including pre-, during- and post-event — such as sending personalized follow-up event recaps, collecting important demographic data to determine the event agenda and more.
“I’ve been doing event marketing for about 10 years now. Over the past three years, I’ve seen the most acknowledgment of the influence of events on the funnel,” said Ben Hindman, Co-founder & CEO of Splash, an event marketing software. “What’s really exciting is that we started to see marketers look at events and try to predict their effect similar to how you’d see prediction in the demand generation space. We’re now finally starting to hear people say, ‘We can actually predict what events do to our funnel.’”
Here, experts highlight four trends, tactics and best practices for successful pre-, during- and post-event engagement, including:
Mobile apps have been a staple at events for some time. But a majority of event organizers end up making them available to attendees for on-site interaction. Progressive B2B organizations are uncovering unique ways to incorporate their mobile apps into pre- and post-event engagement, according to Laura Ramos, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester.
Ramos suggests using the event app weeks before the event to help attendees set up their entire trip. It can even go as far as helping with travel arrangements and sharing personalized session recommendations.
“That app should say, ‘Based on our knowledge of your interest and things, here are the [sessions] that we think are important’ and ‘Here are the people you should meet with because we know they’re also going to be there,’” said Ramos. “It should manage their calendar, and what’s going on while they’re at the event. Then, have some sort of meaningful follow-up afterwards.”
Experts noted that personalizing post-event follow up can have a greater impact on engagement and possible conversion.
“Organizations do really well at the pre-event [stage] with highly personalized, more meaningful interactions and they’re optimizing better at the event, but we still have some room to grow in the post event follow-up,” said Brad Gillespie, VP of Enterprise & Corporate Marketing at Cvent, an event management solution provider.
One example of an effective post-event strategy is sending a personalized summary of the attendee’s event highlights. Red Hat, for example, sends follow-up trip reports to attendees, which highlight the sessions they attended and share additional content based on what they did before and during the event, according to Matthew Camuso, Researcher at Forrester. “It would be customized based on target stage in the buyer journey, among other things,” he said.
Ramos added that this strategy also helped attendees justify their trips to their bosses. “The problem that [Red Hat] was looking to solve is that, before the event, people would say they can’t justify it,” she said. “So instead of just sending them a survey to ask how they liked the event, they would collect data [during the event]. They would look at their badge scans to see which sessions they went to and put all of that together in a trip report format. The intention was, ‘Take this, modify it slightly and give it to your boss, so you wouldn’t have to build it all from scratch every time you went.’”
Another example Ramos noted was Microsoft, which spent a lot of time working out post-event marketing automation and nurturing streams.
“Depending on the degree of interaction, if somebody said, ‘Yes. Scan my badge. Send me someone or something, or have someone get in contact with me,’ that went into a specific nurturing stream, as opposed to somebody that just may have scanned the badge, took something and not had any sort of engagement at the booth,” said Ramos. “They thought through all those scenarios, and they had very specific nurturing streams for someone who is considered to be a high score for that event in terms of engagement, medium score or a low score.”
These days, people have more reasons to attend events or not than ever before, and they have many to choose from. That means, having a specific audience-centric mindset and catering to their needs with relevant content on the agenda to compel them to attend is table stakes, experts noted.
“Most organizations have always known what the audience makeup is, but now, they’re looking deeper and asking, ‘Do we have enough content in our programming and in our agenda to compel someone to come to our event?’” said Cvent’s Gillespie. “Now, organizations are doing a better job of looking at the mix of the audience. That could be by role, function, persona or industry, any dimensions that exist in their business to make sure the agenda has something for everyone. Having a personalized agenda for my role or for my attendee type — that’s much more common today than it was just a few years ago.”
For example, Morningstar, an investment research company, asked registrants to provide specific demographic data as part of the registration process instead of capturing it during a post-event survey follow-up. According to Cvent, this results in 100% visibility into the attendee base prior to the event, which allowed Morningstar to improve programming and even provide the right data to conference sponsors before the event. Using the event platform, Morningstar was able to successfully collect 80% of attendee demographic data.
To prevent the assumption that any or all leads from an event are ready to talk with sales, veteran B2B companies focus heavily on engagement with leads at the event to determine lead priority, according to Gillespie.
“We still too often jump the gun to think that the attendee is ready for a sales interaction when perhaps they’re not,” he said. “Perhaps they need to be nurtured. That is in the three big pieces of an event: pre, during and post. That’s the one we can all improve upon the most. The good news there is event technology plays a really critical role, because it helps you capture attendee behavior, draw insights from that behavior, couple those insights with all of the other insights we already have, and do a better job of scoring what’s the next step action.”
Gillespie advises that capturing meaningful data around interactions made with an individual — and not just scoring them based on a one to five score or a sales rep’s gut feeling — is critical.
“Best practice number one is to capture the data and maintain the standards you have for what a good lead looks like: definition of a lead, level of a lead, etc.,” said Gillespie. “Best practice number two is don’t leave the data behind. Take the data with you and make it as automated as possible. Having the most timely, relevant follow-up is going to depend on your ability to capture the true nature of the interaction and to be able to as quickly as efficiently you can get to the next follow-up with the right next offer or interaction to put in front of that individual.”
It comes down to working closely with sales to determine their lead requirements and getting the right information on what is considered a qualified lead based on the attendee’s engagement at an event.
“What excites me about events and why I see them as so challenging often is that it’s the only true marketing activity that I know of that is triggered by salespeople,” said Splash’s Hindman.
“Get compliance from your salespeople, get them actually to do what you need them to do so you can collect a level of clean data. Once you do that, once you’ve set things up right in your CRM, once you’re understanding and you’re thinking about time, and once you’ve created the culture of systematizing what you’re doing, really at that point, the next step is setting benchmarks and starting to track the stuff.”
Marketing performance measurement is an ongoing challenge for many B2B brands. For example, our research shows 87% of B2B companies ranked marketing measurement and reporting as a growing priority, but more than half (58%) said their current ability to track marketing performance “needs improvement” or worse. Progressive companies such as Iron Mountain and ServiceMax are succeeding by moving beyond baseline metrics to analyze pipeline velocity and track marketing performance across various stages and campaigns.