“As a buyers’ marketplace takes hold in the 21st century, it is becoming increasing clear that the mindset of CEO’s and senior executives need to undergo some significant alterations. Some of the hard and fast rules of strategic planning are no longer true and figuring out what to do next is no easy task. CEO’s today faced the enormous challenge of disrupting the inertia of a seller-centric organization and adopting strategies and technologies that shift the balance of negotiation and navigation of a purchase in favor of the buyer.
At a time when CEO’s are trying to formulate growth strategies coming out of the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression, they are confronted with the inability to have complete control of the decision process as in years past. To succeed, organizations will need to adopt buyer enablement strategies that contribute to growth and solidifying customer retention. Let’s first start with a simple definition of buyer enablement:
“Enabling a transparent ability for buyers to research and interact that provides for the gathering of the right information to make an informed decision.”
This definition suggests three areas where a CEO will need to examine whether the organization is able to develop buyer enablement strategies.
For many CEO’s, the idea of opening the doors and perhaps opening the books for an inside view of their organization is a foreign concept. Since many may be byproducts of MBA programs pre-Internet era means this will be a tough one to accept with ease. Seller-focused organizations have had the ability for many years to orchestrate, construct, and organize the information flow to buyers. Tactical operations related to marketing communications and product information focused on what to tell buyers, what not to tell buyers, and who was the deliverer of the information. In today’s buyer-centric world, buyers are sourcing for information and decisions are being shaped by who is offering rich, detailed, and robust information that also provides a transparent view of the organization. A case in point: one CEO we worked with had prevented for several years exposure to R&D results. The buyer insight and buyer persona development efforts clearly showed that buyers were basing a good percentage of their decision-making on having access to the R&D progress as well as some of the key subject matter experts involved in R&D. This insight proved to be a correlation to declining revenues over a five year period. By creating transparency to the R&D group, the organization was able to alter its revenue decline and get buyers engaged in online discussions about the R&D results and how it could shape future innovation.
CEO’s, by the nature of their positions, are inclined to act. Even the language and terminology of organizations tends to create inertia to view buyer communications in the form of action. We target, we go-to, implement a marketing campaign, go on the offensive, beat back the competition, we blitz, we close deals, and the list of clichés can grow. The point is that the organizational language is geared towards that of one-directional communications to the buyer. If we think of communications in terms of gateways, the organizations that are on the extreme end of one-way communications to buyers will face a slow death. Why? These organizations will face buyers that are becoming adept at closing gateway access to them. What buyers want are gateways to interact with an organization at the moment they have a need and have a goal to fulfill. CEO’s must enable an organization with strategies that allow for buyers to not only initiate interaction but also allow the buyer the ability to control the interaction. As we have seen with social media, some buyers want permanent open access to gateways. Attaining deep buyer insight is critical to know how buyers wish to interact in specific marketplaces.
Buyers today are looking for the right information at the right critical moment to make an informed decision. Sometimes this decision is centered on “who to invite” in for a discussion whereby others have a goal to accomplish in short order and the need to decide is immediate. What has been ingrained in organizations is to “save the good stuff” for the sales call or the marketing campaign. This puts the buyer in the position of having to wait for the right information to make an informed decision. Mapping the right information at the right critical moment is done by acquiring a deep understanding of buying behaviors and buying processes. Today’s CEO’s will need to commit resources to uncovering this insight in order to provide the right information that is delivered instantaneously at the right time. For some, a very counter-intuitive notion when one comes up through the ranks with the rule of not showing your best hand until you get in front of the customer.
While today’s CEO’s and their executive teams are being asked to evaluate how Sales 2.0 and sales enablement can transform an organization by adopting technologies to enable the selling process, a CEO must lead the effort to have an organization evaluate its resources devoted to enabling buyers with transparency, gateways of interaction, and the ability to source as well as have the right information accessible to make an informed decision. An imbalance can have devastating effects that are not felt until it is too late in the game.”
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