Dreamforce ’16: What You Didn’t Miss

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Garin Hess

Last week thousands of shiny sales and marketing solutions were on display at Dreamforce ’16. I couldn’t be happier or more supportive of what technology is doing for B2B sales, and yet something is bothering me. Despite the endless opportunities to better our craft, we seem to have neglected something…

Here we stand, armed to the teeth with tools that help us sell and market more effectively. Perhaps you’ve mapped the purchase process, identified customer personas, and inked some content oozing with thought leadership. Maybe you invested in predictive analytics to help guide sellers to the appropriate opportunities, heck I’m notified when a prospect opens my email, from what device, and where!

What we’ve neglected isn’t our ability to sell and market more effectively, but rather our customer’s ability to buy more effectively.

If you attended, I hope you had the opportunity to see Brent Adamson‘s session, CEB: The End of Customer Empowerment. Recent research from CEB concludes that customers have shifted from being empowered with more options and more information, to actually being overwhelmed. Customers not only struggle to sift through too much information and too many solutions, but they then have a to win-over an ever growing list of internal decision-makers. So what’s the toll? According to B2B customers polled by CEB the average purchase decision takes 97% longer than anticipated. If the customer thought it would take 3 months it actually took them 6 months, a 6 month forecast took 1 year, and 1 year actually took 2 years! We see and feel this phenomena every day. How is this impacting sales and technical resource allocation for customers that are simply “educating” themselves? How valuable is this conversation for the seller, for your organization?

This is where all of our tools run into a brick wall. With so much variability its difficult to ensure our prospects get relevant information. Too many options and too much information impede our ability to support customers. The possibility matrix is just too much.

Personalization efforts are the first casualty. It’s difficult and costly to map the buyer journey, build content for each stage, and deliver it to a multitude of channels. We simply cannot account for every possible incarnation. This is also why personalization really only exists at the top of the funnel and shallowly. It can drive leads but not much else. For example, a personalized email or ad drives a prospect to a static webpage not relevant to their interest, and that opportunity is lost forever. We also find it difficult to balance the level of personalization across stakeholders with their own unique interests, responsibilities and KPIs. All too often personalization dilutes core business issues, and if a deal is reached, it’s for less scope than initially proposed.

What we need is a technology that allows customers to personalize the experience by choosing their own adventure. We need a platform that allows each stakeholder to see the message and content most relevant to them, in real-time, without ever speaking with you. We need a tool that helps us help our customers reach agreement by aligning their buying group around shared problems and understandings. That’s what we’re dreaming up at Consensus. Click here to see it in action. I look forward to reading your thoughts below.