Why Research Driven Sales and Marketing Teams Will Be The Most Successful
Modern sales and the B2B buyer journey have magnified the need for information, data, and insights. B2B buyers are demanding information, and are doing so long before they engage with any vendor. Because of this vendors must build a wealth of insight to not just satisfy the needs of buyers, but also increase the effectiveness of both sales and marketing.
The organizations that are able to provide the right insight at the right time will differentiate themselves and create a strong competitive advantage. Content is no longer king; anyone can produce content. It’s the context surrounding that content that ends up being impactful. And having context relies on more than subject matter expertise; it relies on research.
The research required to build a strong level of context and insight requires a lot of sweat equity and must be systematized. In order for a company to succeed with this initiative they must dedicate the necessary time and resources.
Where To Focus Research Efforts
1. Target market: The rise of account based sales and marketing has shed light on the importance of conducting thorough ongoing research of target market(s). This goes beyond collecting detailed firmographic data and developing an ideal customer profile, although those elements are also very important. It extends to addressing items such as:
Building target market segments and micro-segments.
Staying abreast of external factors that may affect your target market. FYI - external factors affecting a market often times present a great opportunity for timely outreach and the start of a conversation.
Understanding evolving organizational roles and responsibilities. For example, is your solution addressing an emerging need that is now causing many companies in your target market to create a role to address that business need?
2. Industry insights and trends: A strong correlation already exists between many marketing roles and market research activity. Market research, however, is a process that must be formalized. As markets and buyer needs evolve, companies must maintain a constant and consistent process for gathering relevant information and using that information. And in B2B companies selling into multiple industry verticals or across organizations of varying sizes, the demands and associated workload only increase.
3. Prospect challenges and risks: While this ties in closely to general market research and buyer personas, gathering this information requires far more digging. This means conducting interviews with both existing customers and non-customers.
Furthermore, the challenges, risks, and goals of a strategic buyer in the C-suite are going to be far different than those of a more tactical “below the line” buyer. A manufacturing company will have different business challenges and goals than a SaaS company, etc.
4. Buyer behavior: It’s very important for sales and marketing leaders to ask and find answers to questions like:
Why did our current customers buy our solution?
For those companies who evaluated our solution but decided not to buy, why did they make that decision?
What buyer perceived risks were present during the evaluation process?
Before engaging with any vendor, what information was helpful and/or influenced the buyer in any way?
When you have answers to these questions you can improve your content and messaging, address perceived risks, and more effectively influence buyer stakeholders at all stages of the evaluation process.
Connecting With The Buyer
In order to get these answers, you must facilitate open and candid conversations with both current customers and companies who never became customers. This process works in conjunction with research required to understand your prospect’s business challenges and goals; and it is no small undertaking. It requires the right approach to conducting stakeholder interviews that solicit candid responses and get to the heart of the matter.
When relevant, data is a very valuable component of the insight you can deliver from research efforts. The effects that data backed insight can have on your ability to influence and differentiate during the evaluation process are significant. When properly applied, data backed insights will:
Bring validity to the insights you are delivering.
Be a strong differentiator if you’re delivering data from research your organization ran.
Make the process of building a compelling business case easier for both you and your prospect.
De-risk the investment in a solution.
Show the prospect a clear risk in not addressing a specific issue; and often that’s an issue or a risk they never knew existed.
All of the research and data in the world means nothing if you’re unable to tie this information to business implications. At the end of the day technology solutions do one, or more, of three things for a prospect:
Provide security and protection from a perceived risk
You must be able to show through this insight how these findings impact your prospect and how your solution can help them. In addition, you must be delivering insights that they don’t already know and are unique. Otherwise you’re just like the other vendors they’ve shortlisted, and are headed towards a battle over features and price.
Who Owns Responsibility?
Is the onus on sales, marketing, or both, to carry the load of this work? There is no right or wrong answer here as it’s an organizational preference. The rise of sales enablement and the increased investments companies are making in that discipline, make it a logical place for a research role to reside. The fact is that the greater the complexity of the solutions you’re selling and the business problems you’re solving, the greater the time and resource investment in research should be.
The B2B technology landscape is becoming increasingly competitive. Not only are verticals like the SaaS space becoming extremely crowded, but we are also seeing a drastic increase in competition for buyers’ attention. There is a massive amount of content being produced and most of it is saying the same thing and leading everyone to the same place.
The B2B sales and marketing organizations who become research first organizations and come to the table with data and insights that others don’t have, will separate themselves from the pack, create more value for the buyer, and ultimately win more opportunities.