Right around the corner, the laborious and angst filled process of planning for 2014 begins. 2014 will be different. While economic growth will remain sluggish (according to the Congressional Budget Office), businesses are starting to release the chains put around growth spending. A lot has changed since the meltdown of 2008. In these short five years, what we know about buying and selling has been turned upside down.
The Revolution Continues
What we have learned is a buyer revolution is in full swing with buyers now holding the cards. We are in the midst of it and the revolution shows no signs of slowing down. What buyers care about and how they resolve business issues has changed. Making the job of charting the course for sales strategies like riding the rapids of the Colorado River. Tumultuous and unpredictable.
Yet, business leaders and their colleagues of sales leaders are calling for more buyer predictability. Due to increasing high stakes, which accompany go-to-market strategies and forecasting revenue growth. Predicting how buyers are charting their own course for 2014 will be a supreme challenge.
The Missing Pieces
B2B Sales Leaders have been under assault these past five years as well. A multitude of predictions have been made each year about the ultimate demise of sales. Each year, this is unproven. For certain buyers are changing their expectations. However, as we enter 2014, it is a safe bet to say just as man cannot live by bread alone, B2B businesses cannot live by content alone.
Higher expectations calls for sales leaders to improve buyer predictability by doing the hard work of uncovering what is important to buyers and how they have change. Otherwise, strategy planning and forecasting will be very much like shooting darts in an English pub with the lights dimmed. What are the missing pieces needed to have a shot at predicting 2014? It is important to start with the basics of inquiry and information gathering:
What: The essence here, for 2014, is to move beyond conventional sales intelligence you already possess. You have been collecting intelligence on priorities, initiatives, buying criteria’s, and the likes. While these are important, buyers expect help in accomplishing these in the context of goals. Deeper insights into the goals of the organization and the buyer are needed.
Who: Flatter organizations now mean wider involvement in the path-to-purchase decisions. Pure hierarchal thinking could get you in trouble. The more complex, the more participants. A serious mistake to make today is to focus entirely on a single buyer. How much has this changed in your industry the past five years?
How: The means and processes used to make buying decisions are changing dramatically. Flatter organizations and advancing technologies has changed the how of buying – making the ability to predict harder than five years ago. Today’s sales leaders need insights well beyond conventional buying process views.
Why: Buyers have progressed beyond solution thinking. B2B marketers and sellers are behind in this area. Be careful with the current fad craze of insight selling. Not done with the right context, it will come back and bite you. Business reasoning and goals have been altered forever by the past five years. Tribulations and new opportunities mean the why is different. Do you understand the new level of business reasoning your buyers use to make decisions?
When: Timing is everything. It changes year to year. There are different timetables for different needs. An area of frustrations for buyers is the lack of awareness on timing as well as being too aggressive with timing. Many contracts are lost due to poor knowledge of timing.
Where: The world is flatter and business is more global. New channels have expanded during the past five years. And, more will be opening in the near future. Where businesses want to play and how you can help is becoming a difference maker. Do you know not only where your buyers are purchasing but also where they want to play?
New Thinking Required For 2014
As we begin to look out into the horizons of 2014, we must also look back and realize how much has changed. If you are lacking the information on the impact of these changes, your sales strategy planning for 2014 can be a futile exercise. New times and a new digital age require new thinking. Standing pat may get you going nowhere very fast.
For Sales Leaders today, gaining crucial buyer insights to inform 2014 sales strategies can make the difference between having a sound plan or a plan built around hope. The specific call to action is conducting buyer insight research. The gathering of the information and deep buyer insights you need to align sales strategies with the new empowered buyers of today.
It comes down to two choices as we look ahead to 2014: being informed or being clueless about the new empowered buyer of the digital age. Which choice will you make?
(Schedule time with me and a conversation to help you find out the information you need on your buyers. I am very interested in getting your thoughts and perspectives on how to fill in the missing pieces. Please share widely – your peers and colleagues are also searching for the missing pieces.)