I was intrigued by a short article in the January 28 edition of The Wall Street Journal, page B3, which highlighted a discussion with Ram Charan, the well-known management consultant. A couple of Mr. Charan’s comments stood out as poignant in relation to our desire as marketers to help sales win deals and increase revenues.
When asked by reporter Phred Dvorak what was wrong with today’s sales function, Mr. Charan responded by saying, “It has become very hard to differentiate yourself in the eyes of the customer, for business-to-business sales. So salespeople should not sell the product any more. They should find out what the customer needs, which will be a combination of products and services and thought leadership.”
Understanding a prospect’s needs, and developing nurture programs specific to those needs is one of the core principals in demand generation. This makes me think of a client of ours, LeanLogistics, whose marketing approach includes leveraging an incredible base of thought leadership and knowledge capital to provide value to clients, both during the sales process, and after someone has become a LeanLogistics client. By striving to understand and deliver offerings that meet the needs of prospects rather than just selling them products, the company has shown that its marketing efforts can have a dramatic impact on the success of sales.
Mr. Charan was then asked how sales needs to adjust to this changing climate. He said, “the salesperson must build trust with the customers’ people that’s deeper than before and sustained over time. You cannot design a solution without information from the customer. And if the customer does not trust you, he or she will not give you information.”
We as marketers can do well by understanding how these sales changes impact our own efforts. Are we providing valuable content in our lead generation activities that is laying the foundation of trust with our prospects, or are we bombarding them with impersonal, irrelevant information that doesn’t match their needs? In this time where information is king, remember, you only get out what you put in. And, the more we “give” our prospects, the more useful information we “get” in return.