For the past five years, CEB has been studying the evolving roles of sales and marketing professionals, in the context of the changing B2B customer. In 2011, our book “The Challenger Sale” turned the idea of the high-performing sales rep on its head. Well, I’m thrilled to announce the release of our new book, “The Challenger Customer” – available Sept. 8, 2015. Along with my fellow CEB authors, Brent Adamson, Matt Dixon and Nick Toman, we’re genuinely excited to release this next chapter in the Challenger journey.
In many ways, this book picks up the story from “The Challenger Sale,” but with significantly more research on the relationship between Marketing and Sales, and with extra focus on B2B buyers.
The punchline: If marketing and selling solutions is hard, buying them is even harder! Consensus purchase dynamics are stalling deals, often before they even get to a stage where customers engage with your content, much less one of your sales reps. The number and diversity of stakeholders involved in purchases is increasing, and those parties are failing to arrive at the kind of consensus early on in the purchase to give suppliers any chance of winning high-quality deals.
The implications for Sales and Marketing are huge and we unpack all of this in the book. The upshot is, Challenger isn’t a sales methodology, it’s acommercial strategy. It affects what Marketing and Sales need to do individually and together.
With all of this in mind, I’d like to share some of our thinking on how Marketing organizations should change under a Challenger strategy. Just as sales reps need to change their behaviors to challenge customers, front line marketers need to change their approach as well.
Leading up to the launch of the book, we’re releasing a series of Challenger Marketing role guides for Product Marketers, Field Marketers, Demand Generation Managers and Channel Marketing Managers. So, I’d like to take the time to walk you through the first of the series, focused on Product Marketers, check out the role guide for additional details.
What Should Product Marketers Do Differently Under a Challenger Model?
A common refrain we hear in internal sales and marketing conversations—usually in response to conversion rates not being where marketing and sales leaders think they should—goes as follows:
“You know what? Our value proposition isn’t clear enough. It just isn’t resonating in the marketplace. We need to make our value prop more crisp.”
And in response, product marketers feverishly set about making that value prop even more crisp than it already was.
However, based on all of our research, we believe product marketers are overly fixated on crafting and sharpening the value propositions for the products they market.
That sounds like crazy talk, doesn’t it?
Well, one of the really fascinating buying trends we’ve picked up on in our research essentially disqualifies the argument of making value props more crisp. We found that customers will unapologetically recognize, to a supplier’s face, the incremental performance a supplier’s solution provides, but aren’t willing to pay for that performance! They’ll look the breathless sales rep—who has just masterfully laid out how his solution creates value for the customer—right in the eye and say, “We know. We get it. Your solution outperforms this other one because it has more uptime. But we don’t need all that incremental uptime. We just need X amount of uptime, and we’re only willing to pay Y for that.”
So, what do you do now? No amount of tweaking or clarifying the value prop will solve that problem. The customer already gets that your solutions provide incremental performance.
Based on our research, we believe the number one thing a product marketer needs to do differently under Challenger is to cut the time spent sharpening value props by 50 percent, and instead shift that energy to developing Commercial Insights.
A Commercial Insight teaches the customer something new that reframes how they think about their own business, and leads uniquely back to you as a supplier. When crafted well, Commercial Insights lead customers to value—and pay for—the incremental performance you provide. It gives customers asurprising rationale, in their own business terms, to value that incremental performance. That’s why Commercial Insights are at the heart of the Challenger approach.
Product marketers—with their knowledge of the marketplace, product vantage point and relationships across the marketing and sales organization—are in the best position to orchestrate Commercial Insight creation. And it really is orchestration—it takes a mix of characters from Product, Sales, Marketing and potentially other parts of the organization to create Commercial Insight. But if product marketers don’t take the lead here, no one else will. At least, not as effectively as a product marketer could.
You’ll find a brief example of a Commercial Insight from Xerox XRX +0.73% in theChallenger Role Guide for Product Marketers. And in “The Challenger Customer,” we’ll lay out a methodology for creating Commercial Insight, with plenty of practical guidance and frameworks to get you going.
You can find more details on the other areas where product marketers need to do things very differently in the role guide. Hint: They need to think about customer understanding and content creation very differently, as well.
Patrick Spenner is a Strategic Initiatives Leader in CEB’s Marketing practice, variously spending his time on research, new product development and thought leadership. Since joining CEB in 2005, Patrick has overseen membership programs serving the needs of CMOs, Corporate Communications executives and Marketing Communications executives. Prior to working at CEB, Patrick led a business line in Capital One’s marketing and analysis group. In that role, he managed all aspects of the marketing mix for the business, including marketing communications, pricing, segmentation, sales strategy and distribution, and analytics. In the distant past, Patrick worked in business research on initiatives supporting heads of strategy and human resources at Global 1000 corporations. Patrick holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Georgetown University and a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University.