It’s not merely height that makes a mountain difficult to climb. There are so many variables: the route you choose, and the weather. Some mountains have avalanche risks and others are nefarious for their impossible cliffs.

[Photo] Mount Eiger. Located in the Bernese Alps, the Eiger has earned the nickname of Mordwand, meaning “murderous wall”, a pun on its actual name, Nordwand (North Wall). It might look small and accessible when compared to huge mountains, but its smallness is deceptive.

The first ascent of the Eiger was made in 1858 by Swiss explorers, but only in 1938 was its north face climbed. The north face route continues to challenge climbers – it requires immense technical expertise in mountaineering. Look out for the increasing rock and ice falls, and keep 2-3 days in hand for the summit!

The challenge for B2B sellers, selling MarTech today

I don’t like to tar sellers with the same brush so this article is largely written based on 22 years experience selling MarTech (including AdTech & SalesTech) including the strategic, implementation and adoption services, and it spanning working with hundreds of different sales people over the years, reporting to, working alongside and leading teams, on two different occasions in different regions teams of 40+ people, successfully building a $22M ARR business from scratch and protecting a 90% retention rate, and transforming a product based sales approach to a value based customer centric approach, improving AOV by 4x within 12 months. 

Unless you’ve been living in the shadows you’ll be acutely aware of the fact buyer behaviour has changed significantly in the last 12 years, and continues to change with buyers no longer wanting to engage with sellers. Buyers no longer believe vendor created marketing content like blogs, articles and website content, making it very difficult for marketing automation, lead nurturing and lead scoring to work like it once did. 

Buyers are frustrated

Buyers of MarTech are tired of buying solutions that together (after several years of building) have created a much bigger problem than the one they set out to solve. They are left with a tech stack that only the best experts can configure and optimise. And now there’s a talent shortage. Or they have been burnt once or twice before having invested in a solution that doesn’t quite live up to expectations. And yes, we’ve seen the age of Marketing ops as the solution to this growing problem but then, stakeholders come and go and misalignment across team silo’s is prevalent. 

It takes a special kind of seller to sell MarTech solutions today, especially MarTech that spans multiple teams, Marketing, eCommerce, CRM, Content, Data, Security, Trading, Finance, the list goes on, making the purchase process complex. 

Only last week I was talking with a retailer who made a decision to leave their current MarTech provider, 18 months ago. 18 months ago and they are still working with the same vendor they don’t like and is preventing them from achieving their objectives. Why? …because the business sponsor hasn’t been able to build a compelling business case strong enough to obtain support from their own business to switch. Despite a long list of feature problems and technical roadblocks the tech team have presented to them. Even with this list, there has been no way to effectively quantify the cost of not changing, and more importantly l the differentiating value of switching to an alternative provider, at the same time fixing the long list of issues.  

That’s before we even get to the wish list of contact strategy improvements as a result of accessing additional data sources, and having significantly more time across the team as a result of driving >50% level of efficiency to make more resource hours available to configure the improvements. 

All this stakeholder needed for the last 18 months was someone to help quantify the following (and now they’ve left the business): 

  • the criteria they can use within their business to base a purchase decision on.
  • evaluate solution options that build confidence about the value that can be obtained based on full or partial support from the wider teams.
  • quantify the differentiating commercial value of solving the problems, implementing the new ideas and understanding the affect the level of resource they can secure, has on the outcome. 

How many of your sellers can do that effectively today, with a variety of stakeholder types and seniority levels?

How many of your sellers can align your sales assets to help your buyer do the things they need to do to mobilise change?

I find it frustrating to hear that sales leaders are still pushing their teams to do a demo, in the hope they can create an aha moment with a prospect. Problem is, a demo only shows the recipient how they can do what they know already know, but just a little differently. What about challenging the status quo. In a way that will move the needle in terms of performance, that requires a completely different thought process. Teach your buyer that new perspective, successfully, and enjoy the resulting uplift in sales performance. 

What about the pipeline problem?

As it’s become harder to generate new pipeline the discipline to which sellers once qualified new opportunities has declined, with more sellers accepting any old opportunity for something to work on. This having a negative affect on close rates as they drop down to all time industry lows. And with desperation to close a deal as quickly as possible short cuts are made that are counter initiative as they do not focus on coaching the buyer and often result in lengthening deal cycles. And then price is used as a negotiation tactic to close a deal not ready to be closed, as opposed to value outcomes and the speed in which value can be realised. Back to pipeline, I believe it is time to change our approach entirely. Read my recent article on: How to open new doors. Our people are our greatest asset, it’s time we empowered them to open new doors safely and effectively: 

Personal brands in B2B are everything in 2023.

It’s vital the sales organisation develops their personal brand and appears as the experts they are, with a personality, is in order to build rapport and an element of trust before the first conversation happens. Only then can you teach someone a new perspective, once you've earned their trust. And if you are constantly popping up on their timeline or trusted communities as a nice person who is an expert in their field, well, when you do meet, the potential buyer feels like they already know you. 

75% of people researching a brand do it on social media. They use other digital sources like groups and communities and if the expert isn't looking different or standing out from the crowd they remain invisible.

When a buyer or potential buyer is researching people within an organisation they are trying checking them out on socials. Like we all do before meeting someone new, and even more so if we’re deciding whether or not to hire this person or their company. 

Earning the right!

Without the value exchange why should a buyer spend time with a vendor?

After initial rapport building a decision has been made by the stakeholder about whether they like you, and at this point you’ve earned the right to talk about business topics, interests and explore potential business pains they want to solve, you may even feel it appropriate (if trust is forming quickly) to teach your potential buyer about how to overcome problems they didn’t know existed or highlight the commercial value of solving them. 

This phase of relationship building and the exploration of pain (discovery) and options to solve them (qualification) is a vital step to building a meaningful business relationship with your potential customer. Services organisations do this step well as the discussion tends to touch on a variety of ways to address the problem and explore alternative options to achieve different outcomes. Technology companies on the other hand, are always trying to push the square peg through the round hole, by leading the conversation towards the technology as opposed to exploring the problem and discussing different solution alternatives. 

Beyond the creation of your personal brand developing commercial insight as a tool to teach your buyer about new perspectives and different ways to tackle their problems will be the fastest way to building trust and aligning their problems to your unique and differentiating value, whether you're a Marketing Services or MarTech business. 

Ask yourself these four questions, take your time with it, so to better understand how to tap into a buyers mental model, and successfully teach them how you are uniquely placed to solve their problem.

  • What makes us uniquely different?

  • Of those unique strengths, which of those strengths do our customers under value, that we wish they would value     

  • What is it that customers fail to understand about their business, that leads them to under value those unique strengths. What is their mental model that leads them to think those services aren’t worth paying for. 

  • What do we have to teach our customer about their business in order to get them to value those capabilities more than they do now. 

Your answers to these questions not only inform how you teach your buyer but also inform how to position the value proposition and create effective insight led sales messaging. 

Combine that with your personal branding and relationship first approach, and creating qualified pipeline easier to develop at scale will be a reality this year.

If you would like to learn more and explore how I can support your objectives drop me a DM. Otherwise feel free to connect with me on my socials, below - looking forward to getting to know you!

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