Stop Selling. Start Listening.

Marketing and Sales, no matter how good, cannot make a buyer buy. This is especially true in a BtoB environment, where purchasing decisions are often made by committee, impulse buys are rare, and emotions – though not irrelevant – play a secondary role to rational considerations.

In today’s information-rich environment, buyers are in control of the sales process – so understanding what makes them tick is essential. However, as BtoB marketers, it seems we’ve lost sight of this critical point. It’s understandable. In recent years, we’ve been bombarded with the mandate to drive ever more leads through email marketing, overwhelmed by the social media du jour, and enthralled by the promise of marketing automation.

Simply put, we took our eyes off the ball. We know effective marketing starts and ends with the buyer. We always knew it – we just forgot it temporarily. It’s time to reorient ourselves, and our organizations. It’s time to stop selling and start listening to the buyer. It’s time to embrace buyer-driven marketing.

Stop Selling. Start Listening.

This is a way of thinking that places buyers and their needs at the center of all marketing priorities. Understanding what buyers care about, how they make their decisions, and how they want to receive information, makes marketing about them, not about us. 

Buying-cycle changes brought about by the Internet and social engagement are forcing BtoB marketers to retrench and place the buyer at the center of our world. And for most marketers, resources continue to be constrained, and our teams are being asked to do even more with even less – so focusing on what’s important is essential.

If the program, strategy or tactic does not clearly impact the buying decision of a customer or prospect, then it’s not relevant, and not deserving of execution. But, for a given tactic, how do you determine its relevance to the buyer? Well, one way is to ask them. If the last time your marketing team interviewed customers was when Mosaic was a popular web browser, you need to get out more! With buyer information and opinion in hand, you can then develop buyer personas to help the marketing team understand buyer motivation, and drive decisions that respond to their needs, desires and concerns.

-> more after the jump

BtoB Benchmark: Personas Take-Away

Does your BtoB organization have established buyer personas?

Source: Marketing Sherpa

Segment your buyers into groups of similar people within their organizations.

How? Nothing beats good old-fashioned research. Get on the phone with 10 to 20 people in each group and learn what makes them tick. Read more

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While the Stop Selling. Start Listening. approach certainly can use “big data,” behavior-based marketing, and deep customer and prospect segmentation, it doesn’t have to be that daunting. For example one can simply start by:

  • Interviewing 10-15 customers
  • Regularly joining sales for a day of calling on prospecs, or
  • Spending a few hours in your contact center listening to incoming customer calls.

The more you bring prospects and customers into your marketing efforts, the more success you’re going to experience. Testing messages and marketing campaign concepts with buyers, approaching PR from the buyers’ view, and ensuring your website speaks to buyers’ needs – not your greatness – all deliver big results.

Just as important as understanding what makes buyers buy is knowing what makes them not buy. This part can be both hard for us to hear – and hard for buyers to tell us. It’s not that buyers lie. It’s just that telling someone why you didn’t pick them is hard, as Jerry Seinfeld made clear when he exposed the truth behind “it’s not you, it’s me.”

Marketers win by initiating conversations with customers – would-be and current – then using that intelligence to craft campaigns and communications that speak to buyers in their terms, answer their questions, and meet their specific information needs.

-> more after the jump

Who Will Take Home the Title? What's In Store for Technology Marketing?

It’s March Madness for Marketers! Sixteen technology tweeters duke it out in the Technology Tweet Tournament. Watch the game, join the fun, and help your favorite tweeter prevail at!

Read The Outlook for Business-to-Business Technology Marketing in 2012 to see what your marketing peers at 60+ tech companies foresee for the year ahead.

Download here

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So consider, is that email holiday greeting truly an effective component of your lead-nurturing strategy? Is that what your prospective buyers want to receive? If the answer is “yes” and you can back that up with buyer-driven data then “Ho, Ho, Ho” and hit the send button.

If it’s “no,” print out a customer and prospect list and start making some calls. But don’t dial for dollars, dial for data. Remember, now is the time to stop selling and start listening.

Thanks for reading Core. We’d love to hear your thoughts on Stop Selling. Start Listening. – and on any other topic that’s top of mind today. Please send your comments, compliments and criticisms to us at

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