It’s All About the (Challenger) Customer

I was privileged to be part of a meeting last week with some of the folks from CEB and a handful of my colleagues in the B2B marketing and sales space. We were invited in to be part of a roundtable discussion on the trends we are seeing in the industry and also discuss the forthcoming book from CEB, The Challenger Customer.

CEB CustomerThe dialogue during the event was incredibly rich, as are the contents of the book that explores the concept that the buyers are driving today’s buying cycles and that these cycles are being driven by buying committees. In fact, the average committee is comprised of 5.4 individuals. As this is the new reality, the role of marketing and sales have changed dramatically.

While I could write much more than a blog post on the book and the conversation, I have boiled down the day into three words that I think capture the essence of both: Empathy, Change and Mobilizers.

Empathy:
There must be an understanding that the days of marketing and selling to one decision-maker in the organization are long gone. In an attempt to mitigate risk, B2B organizations have become consensus buyers and each member of the committee has their own biases and motivations for purchasing and at times, not purchasing. Understanding and empathizing with each of buying committee members is vital for B2B vendors to engage with potential buyers and a failure to do so can exclude them from consideration. This is no easy task, but in reality, the paradigm of today’s buying cycle leaves vendors little choice.

Change:
Throughout the course of the day and what I was able to infer from the book, the need for change was apparent. Today’s marketing and sales teams are lacking in their abilities to speak to buying committees and map to buyers buying cycles. The age of Consensus Buying necessitates vendors change their approach to demand generation and to sales. This is a book that can and should help spur on that needed change. It will also serve CMOs who need to make the case for change as they evangelize their sales counterparts, that buyers are now in control of the purchase process and the old ways of sales and marketing are forever changed.

Mobilizers:
In the book, CEB deftly defines the types of people that are on a typical buying committee. The standouts of this group are the mobilizers. Mobilizers are the ones within a buyer organization that will be the advocates for the purchase, which in reality is advocating for change within the buyers organization. Identifying this individual is paramount to success if vendors are going to secure the purchase. However, this is often not being done and again highlights the need for change in B2B marketing and sales organizations. This is demonstrated by what is written in the book:

“If we were to break down the reasons why core reps naturally gravitate to Talkers (and not Mobilizers), it’s largely because core reps aren’t thinking so much about driving customer change as they are about gaining customer access. For core-performing reps. Access equals action. Not surprisingly then, they take the very fact that a stakeholder is talking to them as an indication of that stakeholder’s ability to drive change. But the two aren’t the same thing.”

Identifying the mobilizers and engaging with them and their other committee members is needed to align content (marketing) and sales to the purchase process.

Overall, the book is one that every B2B marketing and sales professional should be required to read, no matter what their role or level in the organization. May the conversations continue, and may we as an industry begin to change and adapt to the Consensus Driven Buyers.

Author: Carlos Hidalgo @cahidalgo CEO/Principal ANNUITAS