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An Ice Cold Bucket of Reality – The Challenge of Selling to Today’s Harried Buyer

Savo held their annual user group meeting in Chicago on October 26th and 27th. Two hundred people working on Sales Enablement (SE) attended and a number of very interesting keynotes and customer presentations were given.
Jill Konrath provided a very entertaining and sobering take on the challenge of marketing and selling to today’s harried (understatement of the year) buyers. The centerpiece of her talk was an improvised role playing exercise in which Jill played a sales executive that was a key target for a fictitious company. The point was to show what everyday life is like for our prospects before we ever try to contact them. It was the start of her day and she had to get a presentation ready for the quarterly board meeting that afternoon.
The CMO is the first to walk into her office to complain about sales not following up on marketing leads and they have the “marketing leads are crap” argument. “You were in our lead scoring meeting you have no excuse.” “You didn’t listen or take any of my ideas so the leads are still crap.” “Sounds like we need to go over the lead scoring again, do you have time today or tomorrow?” “No, I’m totally booked – wait a minute. OK, let’s do something late tomorrow.” “Fine, I’ll send an invite.”
Thirty seconds to restart on the board presentation.
In comes the CEO. “Hi Jill, do you have a few minutes?” “What? Sure.” “Congratulations it looks like the eastern region is doing well and the west is coming back nicely, great job.” “Thanks.” “But what’s going on in the Midwest, we’re really underperforming there.” “Yes, I know, we have some weak reps out there and I have a plan for addressing that.” “Oh great, let’s discuss it after the board meeting.” “Umm…” “Once you get the board presentation done, just write up your plan for the Midwest and we’ll get that situation fixed.” “OK, when is this?” “Right after the board meeting, in my office.”
Twenty seconds to restart on the board presentation.
The HR person comes in. “We have to get the first round interviews done this week if we want your new reps in the field for next quarter.” “I don’t have any time on my calendar for this.” “Well, you won’t be fully staffed next quarter if we don’t get these positions filled.” “OK, OK, I’ll see if I can juggle some stuff around.” “Great! Oh, did you see what the new girl in accounting was wearing today?” “Come on, I don’t have time for that.” “It’s a funny story…” “Honestly, here let me walk you out.”
Ten seconds to restart on the board presentation.
A phone call from her sister. “Hi Jill, I’m at the supermarket and I’m looking at turkeys for Thanksgiving. Do you remember if Mom likes the free range ones or was it something else last year?”
Harried. Distracted. Under-resourced. Over-pressured. Completely frazzled. And she hasn’t even checked email or voice mail. Work and life are constantly bombarding our key prospects, and we’re part of that bombardment. The chilling fact of the matter is that we have absolutely no chance of getting this person’s attention unless we have intimate and immediate insight into what’s going on around her. Is she going to respond to a generic email or phone pitch? No, never.
This is a crucial point for today’s marketing and sales professionals. IDC has seen this message come through in our surveys of CIOs. And we heard a less dramatic but equally poignant version from the CIO panel at our CMO and Sales Advisory board meetings a few weeks ago. The gist of which is summarized in the following figure.
Marketing and Sales Models Not Aligned
with Buyer’s Purchasing Models

Source: IDC, 2010
The message IDC is hearing from customers is loud and clear: Solve the business problem that’s killing me right now even if it doesn’t involve your solution and you’ll transform the nature of my relationship with you from sales rep to trusted adviser and your company from a seller to a strategic partner. If I have that relationship with you, I just might call you for help with my problem in the Midwest. But if your competitor is in that position, you are a snowball in a very hot place.
The Buyer’s world has changed dramatically with the economy. Approaches that proved themselves when times were good cannot be relied upon when such a radical shift has taken place. It takes managerial courage and organizational fortitude not only to admit we have a problem but to do something radically different to address the new set of challenges. As a result, IDC strongly recommends you consider the following fundamental questions as you embark on enabling your sales force.
  • How are you going to get your Sales People to become “Trusted Advisors” when they are being trained and compensated to sell?
  • Is that the difference between your top performers and rest that struggle to make quota?
  • Have you properly defined the act of “selling”?
  • Do you understand the full scope of the “buying” process?
How you answer these questions will profoundly affect your customer relationships and your approach to sales enablement. Customers are calling for radical change and your Sales Enablement implementation may be just the catalyst you need to get started down a new path.

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