#CEBSummit Takeaways: Insights on B2B Buying & Ways Sales and Marketing Must Adapt

At the end of October our team attended the CEB Sales & Marketing Summit in Las Vegas. Over 1,200 sales and marketing leaders convened for, what we believe to be, the most valuable B2B sales and marketing event of the year. (If you are in this space, you need to get to this conference.)

The content was thought provoking, on-point with today’s challenges, and controversial by design. If you’ve read CEB’s The Challenger Sale or The Challenger Customer then you are well aware that the B2B buying process isn’t what it used to be, so we were delighted to return from Vegas with some actionable ideas and tactics to adapt our B2B marketing and sales to the new buyer.

But first, here’s a refresher (not a substitute) on the findings illustrated in CEB’s books:

  1. Customers are 57% of the way through the buying process before they engage a supplier. They are self-educating online, building decision making groups, and learning about their issues and solutions before they ever reach out to their supplier’s sales and marketing teams.
  2. There is an increasing number of decision makers within the buying process in complex sales.
    • On average, there are 5.4 stakeholders in the decision making group, each with different needs, expectations, and motivations.
    • This causes more decisions to end up with keeping the status quo and sales cycles that are 2x longer than they have been in the past.
  3. There is a selling profile that engages buyers and wins more deals. The Challenger sales rep teaches, tailors, and takes control and is 4x more likely to be a high performer in today’s environment.
  4. There is a customer profile that is more likely to be sought out by Challengers and to drive consensus buying groups. The Mobilizer is more likely to break through the status quo and drive change with customer organizations. And you can identify them in organizations that you are targeting.
  5. The way to engage the Mobilizers is by leading with insight, teaching content which re-frames the prospects view on unknown or underappreciated opportunities and risks in their business and which leads to (not with) the supplier’s products and services.

Across the three days, there was tremendous breadth and depth of content and insight – bringing many opportunities to implement these ideas.

Here are our top 3 takeaways from the summit:

Stop “enabling” your buyers

The conventional wisdom has always been to “enable” the buyer. Reps think they need to react quickly to their requests, provide more information (as much as they can), and consider every stakeholder’s motivation and perspective. This leads most reps to push more and more information to their customer (ironically, making the decision process harder and harder). The insight we took away is to be much more prescriptive with what you send prospects, when, and for what purpose. Send them what they need, not necessarily what they ask for. And teach them how to buy as you lead them through the buying process. There is huge potential impact around this insight with implications through the entire marketing and sales organization, from content strategy, to buyer journey, to sales enablement, and sales behavior. Also – huge opportunity for organizations to be prescriptive to their sales reps on what to do, when, and why as they engage customers.

Understand the buyer group, find the “Mobilizer” and empower them to sell for you

The insight uncovered by CEB is that tailoring your message too much for every stakeholder can do more harm than good. It can polarize the decision group and make competing priorities within that group more pronounced. The answer is to understand the buying group (through research, profiling, deal strategy, etc.), find the “Mobilizer,” and coach them (with the right positioning, content, etc.) to facilitate the internal decision process towards your solution. The implications for this are significant (in fact it may create a whole new category of content for marketing to develop around arming the Mobilizer to sell on your behalf). This raises interesting questions like “how do you identify the right buyers to engage” and “how can you ensure that sales uses the right content at the right time.”

Make it easier for customers to buy by reducing buyer options and degrees of freedom

This might not be such a new idea, but CEB’s insight here is valuable. In a world where sales and marketing teams attempt to pack in more reasons to buy (new features, long lists of benefits, multiple purchasing options – cover every need of a prospect), the best organizations and sellers are really whittling it down to a single value driver aligned to the biggest area of priority or impact for the organization. This does a couple things. First – it makes the decision easier to make (because it reduces the degree of difficulty for the buyer group to consider). Second – it makes it easier for the Mobilizer to push forward and sell on your behalf.

Interesting stuff…and important areas for B2B marketers and sellers to focus on.

Would love feedback on what you are doing in these areas, let us know!