Forrester defines the Age of the Customer as a 20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve a more powerful set of customers. Voice of Value podcast host, Chad Quinn, sat down with Principal Analyst at Forrester, Mary Shea, to discuss the Age of the Customer and how to differentiate yourself during this transformational time in the market.
B2B buyers are more empowered than they ever have been before with information readily available online at their fingertips from their mobile devices. Customers can now access competitive information and pricing, all while interacting with different suppliers when evaluating their options just like they do in a B2C environment. We are currently living in a transformational period of how B2B buyers are engaging and educating themselves to navigate the buying process.
This means that B2B selling organizations need to adapt their engagement styles to meet customer expectations and the way customers want to engage. Buyers are doing 74% of their research online before they want to engage with a sales representative. In addition, only about 2% of B2B buyers will take a cold call.
In the Age of the Customer, the modern-day seller will have less access to buyers directly. At the same time, sellers will need to raise the bar with their customer interactions so that when they do have the opportunity to engage buyers directly, it will become a higher level of engagement. Sales professionals can raise the bar on their customer interactions by providing consultative value through thought leadership and insights.
How to Differentiate When Everyone Is Customer-Obsessed
How do you stand out against your competition when everyone is claiming to be customer-obsessed? If your team is able to execute flawlessly on your customer obsession, that will help differentiate your products and services. The companies that move their sales organizations away from product-centricity, and instead, towards customer-centricity will win in the long run.
Senior-level decision makers are uninspired by engagements with salespeople who lead with products and don’t understand or have empathy for the buyer’s specific role. B2B sales teams need to step up in adding value to their conversations with senior executive stakeholders who help make the buying decision. Get out of your comfort zone of positioning your product and talking about the industry.
The real differentiation will come to organizations that figure out how to train and develop their sales teams to engage with today’s buyer in a thought-provoking way. By teaching customers something new and elevating yourself to become a consultant and trusted partner to buyers, the execution will become the differentiator.
What can your B2B sales team do now to flawlessly execute on truly being customer-obsessed?
- Partner with your marketing team. Sales and marketing can partner up to review your demand generation, inbound and outbound marketing, and analyzing your current effectiveness and efficiency in your leads and pipeline. Think in your customer’s shoes and see if there is an untapped opportunity, an unsolved problem, or a gap you can help fill.
- Assess your sales team. Do they have all of the skills and characteristics they need to be successful in today’s B2B environment and to serve tomorrow’s customers?
- Re-evaluate the technologies you are using. Are your sales representatives using your current technology to the fullest? Ensure that your salesforce is as empowered as your customer in having the right information and content.
Hear Chad and Mary’s full conversation in this Voice of Value podcast episode on the Age of the Customer.