3 Big Takeaways from SiriusDecisions Sales Leadership Exchange

I had the pleasure of attending SiriusDecisions Sales Leadership Exchange last week, an exclusive gathering of some 120 sales executives and sales enablement leaders.

The two-day conference featured top analysts and proven practitioners, discussing how to best achieve intelligent growth. Here are my three top takeaways:

#1:  Disrupt or Die

Technology is advancing quickly, and if you don’t leverage these advances to disrupt the way your sales reps and channel partners engage with customers, you yourself may be disrupted instead, this according to the futurist and author James Canton. (@futureguru). 

The key? Celebrate experimentation, as a Trend Setter (leading the way off the beaten path) and Adapter (someone who is always eager to learn something new), versus a Traditionalist or Maintainer, (clinging to and preserving the status-quo, to the detriment of the organizations long term health and viability).

One of the trends James Canton highlighted is the evolution of your buyers. They are now hyper connected and as a result, more empowered via online and social collaboration and information. As a result, they are demanding a more customized and streamlined purchase experience.

As a result, Mr. Canton pronounced that “Marketing as we know it is dead”.  Although the crowd reacted with some shock at his eulogy, if you think about it, he is spot on. The old way of marketing evolved from a world of mass production. Marketing’s job was to push mass-produced products to buyers who did not have many sources to spark and fuel the purchase decision.

Today, B2B marketing is world of noise: unfortunately bombarding prospects with more advertising, white paper download offers, emails and cold calls than ever before (32% more than 2 years ago according to SiriusDecisions). More is not more, and as a result, current mass marketing is becoming less and less effective every year.  Instead, marketing needs to realize the buyer is in control, migrating from pushing product pitches to offering value added content and resources instead.

With marketing less than effective, Mr. Canton indicated how it was vitally important for your organizations to begin experimenting with g a better way to sell: Predictive Sales. This involves leveraging analytics to better understand your prospects, and personalized content, social collaboration and better value articulation to improve customer engagement and elevate the buying experience.

#2:  Differentiate from Your Competition

In a brand new survey by SiriusDecisions, 100% of sales executives indicated that they expect sales to grow, with the majority targeting between 10% and 20%. However, only 38% are confident they can hit these forecasted growth targets

For the majority who are clearly unsure they will hit these growth goals, Competition is the executives biggest concern.  Almost 1/3rd of respondents indicated Competition challenges versus concerns over sales talent, products and buyer engagement.

So how can you address the Competition challenge, assuring that your sales reps can differentiate your solution from the competition?

An interview we did a couple of weeks ago with Jim Ninivaggi, the head of SiriusDecisions Sales Enablement practice and one of the key presenters at the event, reveals that in today’s competitive B2B market, it’s really difficult to distinguish yourself on the basis of your company, product, service or price any longer. The vendors who excel are those who transcend this, to sell and market better than the rest - to deliver a better customer experience.

However, most B2B sellers are missing the mark by pitching their products versus marketing and selling their value. They’re not meeting the minimum expectations of today’s prospects, much less delivering a superior experience.

Delivering a better experience begins and ends with the customer conversation – the precious time your sales reps and channel partners spend with prospects, or early in the buyer’s journey when your marketing content is doing the speaking for you. The key question to ask is, “Is my content marketing and are my sales reps effectively articulating and delivering value in each conversation?”

#3:  Improve Value Articulation

Unfortunately, most sales reps still can’t effectively articulate your unique value, making this challenge again the number one sales performance challenge – for the 4th year in a row, according to SiriusDecisions.

Most organizations realize they need to pivot from pitching products to selling value, however, the majority of sales reps and channel partners haven’t changed the way they engage.

And so the Value Gap persists, between the way sales reps continue to focus on your company, products, demo and price and buyers who would instead like Sales to more effectively diagnose their issues, provide best practice advice and communicate / quantify the value you can deliver.

Perhaps the Value Gap exists because the majority of training remains product centric? Perhaps we haven’t provided enough executive support and made a strong enough case for change, helping reps and partners to understand they have to evolve or they will be disrupted? Perhaps we haven’t armed reps and partners with the right value messaging, sales tools, training, coaching and support?

Regardless of the shortfalls, the sales organizations that can overcome this and the other challenges will achieve much higher quota success and indeed be the disruptor vs. the disrupted.


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