How B2B Marcom Supports a Selling Transformation
The Corporate Executive Board (CEB) estimates that nearly 60 percent of the buying journey is complete before the sales person meets the buyer. Thanks to all the marketing communications produced for each stage in the buying journey, prospects have taken control over a greater portion of the buying journey once controlled by the sales rep. While the B2B buying journey in a complex sale still involves consensus of several buying influences along the way, the pace has accelerated over the last five years.
Extensive studies by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, co-authors of The Challenger Sale indicate that sales reps who challenge the way prospects think about their businesses and their needs outperform sales reps who focus on building relationships. Challengers know their propects’ businesses well and aren’t afraid to challenge status quo and offer unique perspectives.
So what does Challenger Selling have to do with B2B marcom?
First, the Challenger Selling model supports the need for closer collaboration between sales and marketing communications. Such collaboration ensures that the right content is produced for each buying influence and at each stage in the buying journey. Though it may sound like what B2B marcom has been doing all along, there are a few subtle differences. In the Challenger Selling approach, thought leadership plays an important role because that’s precisely the value that the Challenger Seller brings to the buying journey—a unique and sometimes contrarian perspective. Let’s face it, if everyone towed the status quo line, where would the value lie?
B2B marketing communications that support the Challenger Selling model should reflect the unique perspectives that add value. Blogs and case studies come to mind; however, it would be a mistake to become hung up on a given communications medium. This is where working closely with the sales team can help. While marcom is good at telling the corporate side of the story, there’s substantial value in creating content that presents unique selling perspectives and valuable insights using a variety of media that together tell a compelling story. The content calendar comes in handy here.
Secondly, using a Challenger Selling approach, the early-stage content in the B2B buying journey is highly influential in cultivating a relationship between the company and the buyer. Therefore, integrated marketing communications play an even greater role in the early stages of the buying journey. Remember, this is the self-service part of the journey where the buying influences are gathering information via websites, search queries, industry events and the social sphere. Is your content optimized for search, and is it ranking well? Does your content reflect a consistent message that exudes your position and unique selling proposition?
B2B marcom is helping to cultivate the relationship prior to the sales rep becoming involved. Consider Achim Klor’s infographic of an IDG study, “What’s Influencing B2B Tech Buyers.” The graphic shows the influence of content consumed across various media in the decision-making process. Often a majority of the content is consumed before the sales rep makes the call.
Sales reps are no longer the bearers of content
Gone are the days of a sales rep, armed with brochures, PowerPoint presentations and a good spiel, hot knocking for business. They no longer discuss products or their features and benefits or even solutions to problems. That information can be downloaded from a website. Today’s Challenger sales reps are business savvy individuals who aren’t afraid to push the customer into a different way of thinking. For B2B marcom professionals, Challenger Selling is influencing the content we produce. There’s a shift for B2B content to focus more on how the products and services influence the customer’s overall business and not simply a phase in a process or cost reduction. The content we produce must tell this story, and each piece of content builds upon the story.
Tell us how Challenger Selling has influenced the marketing communications you produce.
By Joan Damico
Additional Challenger Selling Resources:
Inbound Leads – a Critical Success Factor in The Challenger Sale by Mark Gibson for Business 2 Community
Trends In B2B Sales And Marketing From “The Challenger Sale” by Lisa Nirell for Fast Company
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