As traditional sales and marketing techniques begin to flatline, vendors and solution providers need to relearn what their customers really want and re-imagine how to court them.
Buyer are more educated than ever before, and buying tickets to a sporting event won't seal the deal anymore, a panel of executives explained to a packed room at The Channel Company's Women of the Channel Leadership Summit West this week.
"Our buyers are probably better educated on certain solutions than I am. … A fair amount of humility is needed," said Chris Wolff, head of global OEM and Internet of Things partnerships for Dell Technologies.
Buyers armed with more information on technology solutions means that solution providers need to approach customers as advisers, ready to work alongside them to help connect the dots. At the same time, internal sales and marketing teams should be more tightly aligned, said Lorraine Battipede, channel director at Kaizen Technology Partners, a San Francisco-based MSP.
Sales and marketing strategies aren't changing in a vacuum, and the art of the meeting is evolving as well, said Britta Butler, vice president of sales and staffing at GTS Technology Solutions, a woman-owned solution provider with a focus on government and education customers.
"We used to spend a lot of time talking about who we are and what we can bring to the table, but now because most customers have done their own research we are spending our time listening and asking more qualified questions," she said. "What's really changed is that our salespeople are now connectors, and they are connecting research, best practices, and are actively listening."
Sales pitches have become more conversational, and by the same token, marketing strategies need to be re-imagined, said Margaret Dawson, global product marketing vice president for Red Hat.
"We’re still doing live events like it's 1985," she said. "We think we have to be at every event, but do we?"
Dell's Wolff encouraged the audience to think about new ways to engage current and prospective customers using sales and marketing funds.
"IT buyers don’t want tickets to games anymore. Take them to SoulCycle," she said.
But while customer engagement has changed, the channel is still about relationships, Dawson said.
"Customers want to have a trusted partnership, and they want to have conversations about overall goals and why they should partner with you," Dawson said.
Too often in the past, marketing efforts have been focused on the "what," said Battipede. Understanding the "why" -- the company's mission and where an individual's values as a sales or marketing professional align with it -- ultimately will help guide and evolve sales and marketing strategies, Battipede said.
It's a strategy that is working for GTS Technology Solutions, Butler said.
"This idea comes across in all of our marketing messaging, and customers are responding to purpose-driven businesses,"she said. "It you look at the best brands out there, they have shifted their focus to play up what they stand for and why they are in the communities they are in."