Pulling a Thread

There’s an emerging theme in sales and marketing that I expect will be important for a while and could influence some of the messaging associated with upcoming events like Salesforce’s Dreamforce and Oracle’s OpenWorld.

Each company will have lots to say about security, analytics and machine learning, the Internet of Things, and blockchain, but what’s under the radar is the practical application of much of this to marketing and sales.

So far, smaller companies have been leading the charge in using analytics to identify prospects very early in the sales cycle, but it’s a crying need.

Both B2B and B2C vendors have been back on their heels for many years because of the improved access to information allowed by the Internet. Unfortunately, conventional marketing approaches tread the same rut marketing was in before automation.

The Need to Sell Value

For about two decades, vendors have been competing with themselves by posting information that eliminates the need to speak with sales people. They don’t really have a choice since their competition does the same, but it’s a commoditizing move.

With all that information available online, customers just need pricing to make decisions, and vendors find themselves competing on price alone rather than configuration expertise and service, which often can help justify slightly higher pricing.

Recent research proves the point.

Buyers would go almost anywhere else to get information to solve business problems than a vendor’s sales people, found the authors of “The Growing Buyer-Seller Gap,” a recent study by CSO Insights, part of the Miller Heiman Group.

Importantly, that was the case even though almost two thirds (61.8 percent) of the study participants said that sales people met their expectations. Less than a quarter (23 percent) of buyers selected vendor sales people as one of their top three resources to solve business problems.

That’s a very various problem for vendors, because if a customer won’t reach out to sales people, they can’t sell the value of their products. Absent that, they fall into the miasma of price competition.

Change the Dynamic

Lately a few companies, mostly startups, have entered the market with analytics tools designed to identify prospects very early in their purchase processes. That’s hard to do, and sales people have tried and tried over many years to be there at such moments.

Unfortunately, the signals can be so early that they either can be missed or can end up antagonizing potential prospects, proving again that being early can be as bad as being wrong. If vendors could get it right more often than not, using impersonal automation to do some of the work, the dynamic could change.

Today a long list of vendors can contribute to the upfront process using modified CPQ and more. They include Atlatl, Configit, Tacton, In Mind Cloud, Model N, Apttus and many others. Also, not to be overlooked, Versium, LiveRamp and LifeData have been contributing to getting inside the heads of buyers even before buyers get into the market.

Just recently, Salesforce became more active, announcing completion of its purchase of Datorama, a cloud-based artificial intelligence-powered marketing and analytics platform for enterprises, agencies and publishers.

It’s worth pointing out that there’s a big difference between catering to B2B segments and B2C. For instance, Datorama caters to global agencies and brands like PepsiCo, Ticketmaster, Unilever and more. It’s questionable how useful Dataroma is in its current state at helping nail a B2B deal for gears and sprockets.

Last Words

The point is, it’s a big marketplace, and there’s no clear leader from what I can tell.

Consequently, this is just the kind of thing that vendors will want to highlight in their big tent shows this fall, because these new wrinkles can help drive adoption of other components of these very large solution sets.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

Denis Pombriant

Denis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry analyst, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can't Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there. Email Denis.

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