Hello from Las Vegas! CEB is hosting our third annual Sales and Marketing Summit this week at the Cosmopolitan, and the official CEB portion of the conference got off to a great start this morning thanks to Brent Adamson. Brent reminded conference attendees of the central problem facing Sales and Marketing organizations today: how do you compete in a world where your customer is your competition?
Let’s break this down a bit. Your competition is your competition, right? How can your customers be threatening your position in the marketplace? Here’s why: the changing information consumption habits of your customers – in other words, what they’re doing in the 57% of the purchase process that is typically completed by the time your buyers contact Sales – are leading to commoditization and, ultimately, irrelevance. It’s like buying a car: no one shows up at the dealership anymore and asks to be shown some cars; rather, buyers go into dealer interactions knowing almost exactly what they want. How are they able to do this? The internet. Thanks to the web, most customers have a pretty good idea – if not an exact one – of what kind of car they want, and this is a process that has led to car dealers essentially becoming fulfillment agents. As Brent joked this morning, Marketing and Sales are on a similar “one-way freight train to RFP Station” if they can’t figure out how their customers learn and respond to it – and nothing threatens your company’s position in the marketplace more than this set of buyer dynamics.
The internet isn’t going away. Buyers will – from now on – be able to get information about their purchases before they make them. Marketing must begin to harness this information in a way that actively challenges customer assumptions about how their businesses work, and subsequently use this new understanding to point to unique supplier differentiators.
That’s the theme and central message of this year’s summit: how can the commercial organization – Sales AND Marketing – achieve this goal? Stay tuned to Wide Angle and our Twitter feed to learn how the best commercial organizations in the world are tackling the problem, and check out the following blog posts from perspectives form individual panels and presentations: