Broad sweeping statements are always entirely without value. (Yes, inherent contradiction intended.) The same goes for a marketing or sales message cooked in a pot of homogeneity, without any spice of individualization. If I’m the recipient of this mediocre melange, I’m bored already. It is bland, banal, and bromidic and takes no account of my personal preference. It doesn’t work for my palate. (Enough food metaphors!)
I’m reminded of a scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. It goes like this …
Brian: Please, please, please listen! I’ve got one or two things to say.
Crowd: Tell us! Tell us both of them!
Brian: Look, you’ve got it all wrong! You don’t NEED to follow ME, You don’t NEED to follow ANYBODY! You’ve got to think for your selves! You’re ALL individuals!
Crowd: Yes! We’re all individuals!
Brian: You’re all different!
Crowd: Yes! We ARE all different!
Man in crowd: I’M not.
The Crowd: Shhhh
The truth of course is that we are all very different. We all have different tastes, predilection or penchants, wants and needs. The mass customization that we see taking place all around us is testament to that. Each one of us can decide how we order our coffee at Starbucks, what apps we use on our iPhones, how we set our personal music preferences on Pandora, what privacy settings we apply on Facebook (no oxymoron intended), who we choose to follow on Twitter, or even what color we want in our pack of M&Ms.
For the most part, these are all consumer based examples. But while all consumers are not our customers, all of our customers are consumers. History tells us that consumer behavior is always a predictor of B2B behavior. (Yes, there’s another broad sweeping statement.) Personalization demands are extreme – with few exceptions.
So, why do so many marketing consultants and practitioners espouse standard Value Propositions and ‘Sales Ready Messaging‘? Such messaging, born in market segmentation sessions, or focus groups, is anything but sales ready. Bereft of individualization, this cookie cutter approach reduces the salesperson’s role to that of a carrier pigeon, delivering the message, but not creating any value for the individual customer.
For the information starved customer, message or information delivery had its place – but that time is long past. When customers evolved to adopt the sophisticated, informed, and discerning profile that they have today, this approach stopped working. In fact, suppliers who adopted the Credo of the Sales Ready Messaging wallow in a misguided comfort that their marketing collateral and sales documents are on message and so their work is done.
But the customer species has moved on, and many mutations later, has evolved into a multitude of sub-species, each requiring different care and feeding. Each of us (suppliers) needs to focus on each of them (customers) and understand that the quantum of value that we can provide is directly proportional to the specificity of the Unique Business Value that we can bring to them. This is achieved by applying the specific attributes or sub-components of our solutions to the specific elements of the problem they are trying to solve. Anything else is (in most cases) an extreme disservice.
Trying to apply principles defined as credo in the Information Age to customers in the Intelligence Age (what I call the current stage of evolution) is as purposeless as applying principles of the Industrial Age to customers in the Information Age. It just doesn’t work. Our customers have access to all of the information they need. [Broad Sweeping Statement]. There is little value that we can provide by just being conduits of information, or the carrier pigeon delivering the message. Applying information heuristically in the context of the customer’s challenge, and appropriate to the nature of your interaction with them, is the essence of sustained differentiation and long-term customer relationships.
But it is not easy to do, and even harder to scale. Today’s generation of CRM systems do nothing to help. In most cases it would be generous to even use the term information to describe the data most CRM systems collect. To infer intelligent outcomes and recommend intelligent actions, data must be much more cleverly structured to deserve to be called information, and only then unless smart reasoning based on engineered knowledge can be applied, we fall short of intelligence.
The individual nature of our demands necessitates a smarter (read intelligently automated) approach from the sales person who comes to call. Predictive systems are getting better at this in the consumer world, where, for example, Amazon will make buying recommendations based on purchasing history and what other ‘people like me’ bought.
In a B2B sales world, what would it be like if when you were reviewing a sales opportunity, your intelligent sales system could look into the future and predict the vulnerabilities in the deal, based on the information you provided, and reasoned (not analyzed) through a smart knowledge base to recommend a winning way forward? Those of you who use Dealmaker Coach Me know how close we are to that today.
And what if when you are planning a sales call, you could click on your laptop or tap on your iPad, to learn what you should achieve on that call, what the plan should be, and how you might execute the plan?
Applying technology in this way is all about profitably scaling the confluence of supplier and buyer individuality – and this in my opinion, will become a baseline of sales performance.
As Brian said: “You’re all individuals. You’re all different.”
And your customers are too; – well most of them anyway.